Friday, June 24, 2011

The Man in the Hathaway Shirt - by David Ogilvy

A tribute to David Ogilvy from my end, on his 100th Birth Anniversary.

The idea of 'Style' is so dichotomous that it's almost an eternal buzzword. Cutting the faff short, when it comes to men's apparels, style is commensurate to being chic, suave and elegant. Therefore, ten out of ten ads on men's apparels will have charismatic men standing in a 'stylish' pose flaunting their fine clothing. But if that defines the scope of style , how does an apparel marketer break through the clutter? Probably they can learn a lesson or two from the legendary King of Madison Avenue, Mr David Ogivy himself. The man did something phenomenal for a humble shirt manufacturing company, C.F. Hathaway, that brought the sales of Hathaway Shirts from rock bottom to hill-top.
It was early 1951. No next door Tom, Dick or Harry knew about the existence of a shirt brand namely Hathaway Shirts. The destiny of this Waterville, Maine based small company changed overnight when its President Ellerton Jette proposed David Ogilvy to create a marketing campaign for its shirt brand. Right from the beginning, Jette made it evident that the campaign might not involve aplenty dollars but he assured there won't be any intervention on the creative front, which, till date, means a huge thing for any creative agency. That's how Hathaway Shirts' first ever advertising campaign came into picture.
So what was so extraordinary about this print commercial? A handsome Russian aristocrat, Baron George Wrangell, doned the fabric on his stout built body and an effervescently radiant face added brownie points to the charm factor. And a tag-line in bold that read, 'The Man in the Hathaway Shirt'. But that's not what did the magic. The magic was created by a conspicuous black eye patch on the aristocrat's right eye. The eye patch was so catchy it made people think how could he have possibly injured himself to get one. There were tales of people building their own interpretation of the eye patch. And that triggered their imagination, and a curiosity for the brand as well. Soon, the eye patch became a cult and one could see people wearing them during Broadway Plays and TV Shows. There were incidents wherein people would walk-in a store to buy Hathaway Shirts and walk-out with a black patch on their right eye. Achieving iconic status with an eye patch was the catch indeed.
And the numbers never belied the success rate of the campaign. The first ad appeared in The New Yorker for $3, 176. Within a week of the release, Hathaway shirts' entire stock was sold out. The next week, the ad was reprinted in Life, Time and Fortune.

Ogilvy had always believed in acquiring immense knowledge about the craft from reading about the discipline. In one of the books written by another advertiser, Harold Rudolph, Ogilvy learnt about story appeal and how the elements of a photograph enhanced the story appeal. The iconic eye-patch was just a by product of that priceless lesson. Consider this, a black eye patch did away with the rough patch in Hathaway shirts' fate, without leaving any creases, smoothly, and how!