The Golden Age of RadioCategory: Ad House Gallery
The Golden Age of Radio Bathroom
There were few mediums more patriotic and soothing as radio in the 1920’s through 1950’s. Even through The Great Depression and two World Wars, radio served as a universal medium that captured audiences across the country. Between every soap opera, comedy hour, or musical station, there was a flood of advertisements that the majority of Americans heard every day.
In the 1930s, radio hit the public by storm and ad agencies totally by surprise. Radio’s growth was fueled by advertising, just like magazines at the turn of the century. Similar to the bubble in tech stocks in the 1990’s, radio stocks also exploded. RCA went from $5 a share to over $500, and then back down to $5 by the time it was over.
The ad agency Blackett-Sample-Hummert had the idea for detergent companies to sponsor the radio theatre shows every afternoon. BSH rode these soap operas to the #1 position for radio agencies.
They brought to radio the newspaper practice of daily serial installments: new segments of a long-running show. There was Just Plain Bill, the barber who had married out of his social class. Ma Perkins was Just Plain Bill with skirts. Jack Armstrong, the All-American boy, hocked Wheaties to kids.
BSH hired writers to churn out soap opera scripts. They paid $25/script and often sequestered writers in hotel rooms until the work was done. At their height, they had 14 writers penning 50 scripts a week. Hummert paid himself well, too. His $132,000 salary, plus bonuses and share of the soaps, made him the best-paid man in advertising.
Brands generally produced and sponsored the radio shows directly. The A&P Gypsies, Fleischmann Yeast Hour (with Rudy Vallee) and Kraft Music Hall are just three examples. They were the show sponsors. This branding is more powerful than just buying ad time.
The Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra was popular and their advertising effective. The tagline Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco evolved intoLS/MFT. The acronym was well leveraged, especially as a radio pneumonic. The catch phrase was so widely known that it entered the public lexicon, which is a brand’s often dreamt but rarely achieved goal.
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