THE ADMAN

 

Elliott White Springs was by all accounts irascible and determined to defy convention. During the war he hated the platitudes with which most people discussed the war effort. He felt that the gap between what combatants actually experienced in war and what people back home imagined about the war was far too great ever to overcome. In War Birds and other literary works Springs showed himself to be iconoclastic and totally unwilling to toe the line of conventional morality or attitudes of patriotic duty.

 

When his father died in 1931, Springs bid his career as a writer adieu -- he had in any event never achieved the success of War Birds in his later novels and stories -- and took over the running of Springs Mills.

 

He had once proposed a risqué advertising campaign to his father, who was far too strait-laced to consider such a thing. The appearance of a snobbish magazine advertisement in which a Newport socialite talked about how she entertained her guests gave Springs a new idea. He designed an advertising campaign that mimicked the style of the Newport ad, but instead of a snobbish socialite Springs had famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee testify as to how her favorite 'nite spot' was a Springmaid sheet.

 

Lee became the official spokesperson for Springmaid sheets, a deft bit of advertising genius that enraged the conventional forces of Madison Avenue. But far racier ads were to come, the most famous being the tag line 'A Buck Well Spent on a Springmaid Sheet,' with artwork suggesting an exhausted Indian "buck" and a comely maiden stepping out of his hammock, made from a Springmaid sheet.

 

For some magazines, this was too much. They refused to carry ads with such overtly sexual overtones. Springs received a strong letter of reprimand from the Better Business Bureau. All of this led to more publicity for Springs and his company and more name recognition for his products. Springs was feted in New York by the likes of Dave Garroway and Garry Moore, who invited Springs on the show "I've Got a Secret" (his unguessed secret: I shot down 12 planes in World War I).

 

Meanwhile, the face of advertising had changed forever -- for better or for worse.

 

 

 

 

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