N. W. Ayer & Son
You may think that the diamond engagement ring is a timeless symbol of love, but it turns out, it’s not.
It’s just a huge advertising campaign and today we are going to meet it’s creator.
Let’s start by quoting Beyonce “If you like it put a ring on it”. But have you ever wondered why we put diamond ring on things we like?
You may think that the diamond engagement ring is a timeless symbol of love, but it turns out, this so-called ancient tradition it was actually an advertising campaign created less than a century ago for the De Beers Diamond Corporation.
In order to understand how an advertising campaign can make something intrinsic worthless worth millions, we have to meet the team who created this jewel of a campaign. No pun intended.
Ayer and Son was an advertising agency established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1869. It called itself the oldest agency in the United States. Named after Francis Ayer’s father N. W. Ayer, it ventured into advertising in 1884. This advertising agency made a lot of breakthroughs that shaped the advertising as we know it today. For example, the “open contract” method of billing became the industry standard through its revolutionary nature.
This is basically a contract the terms of which do not describe the entire agreement between the two parties involved, with clauses or provisions that can be modified without mutual consent (usually by the vendor). They are also the first advertising agency to have a copywriting department and have a full-time copywriter.
Over the years, they created some of the most famous slogans for big companies like Camel, AT&T, and of course, De Beers.
They also worked with the U.S. army and they created the well-known “I want you for the U.S. army” poster. The war poster shows Uncle Sam pointing his finger at the viewer in order to recruit soldiers for the American Army during World War. The poster helped Americans understand their relationship to the wartime government.
Some other slogans N. W. Ayer & Son created was the “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” advertising, of course, Camel, the “Reach out and touch someone” promoting long-distance telephone service for AT&T and the famous a diamond is forever.
Let’s talk a little bit about that campaign.
Before the 1930’s nobody exchanged diamond rings when they’ve got engaged. But in 1938, the De Beer Diamond Corporation launched a massive ad campaign claiming that the only way for a real man to show his love, is with an expensive piece of crystallized carbon, and boy we bought it.
In fact, every element of traditional American engagement was designed to make more money for De Beers.
Now you might say, still, the diamonds are worth something. I’m sorry to break it to you, but diamonds are basically worthless. If you don’t believe me, believe Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers Chairman who said, and I quote “Diamonds are intrinsically worthless.”
The only reason why diamonds are expensive is because De Beers has a global monopoly on diamond mining and they artificially restrict the supply to increase the prices.
This prove us how a century of good advertising can embed an idea so deeply in our culture that even knowing the truth, still won’t make you not buy an engagement ring.
The agency didn’t last very long. Soon enough, after an army scandal and losing contracts with Burger King, AT&T and a few others, the agency’s influence started to diminish. In 1996, Ayer became part of MacManus Group after merging with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.
In 2002, after multiple mergers, Ayer offices were closed by the Publicis Groupe in Paris who bought their assets.
That’s all for today, guys.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
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