World’s First Woman Copywriter

by buildingpharmabrands

Helen Landsdowne Resor (1886 - 1964)

Helen Landsdowne Resor (1886 – 1964)

The world’s first woman copywriter was also a senior vice-president of the world’s first advertising agency that crossed the coveted $100-million mark in billing.

Helen Lansdowne Resor was not only the world’s first woman copy writer but also was the greatest copywriter of her generation as described by the New York Herald Tribune. Furthermore, she will be remembered for her work as vice president of the J. Walter Thompson Company, the first advertising agency that crossed $100-million in billing.

She produced such famed ads as the Woodbury Soap campaign (1910), A Skin You Love to Touch, which is regarded and referenced as the first ad to use sex appeal in an advertisement. The Woodbury Soap campaign established Helen’s distinct style expressing softness, romance and poetry. The Woodbury facial soap, which had been marketed for years for its medicinal properties, turned its attention on the user. The ads also offered free product samples along with a host of skin care regimen tips for the housewife to the high society lady. Sales increased by 1,000 per cent in eight years!

Helen focused on women as her target studying their buying habits and what worked for them. She also understood the power of testimonials and celebrity endorsements.  This is evident in the manner in which she revolutionized endorsement advertising by persuading celebrities such as society leaders and even royalty to appear in her famous Pond’s Cold Cream ads, changing the tone of the medium.

Business and Economic History On-line wrote in article on Uplifting Makeup: Actresses’ Testimonials and the Cosmetic Industry (1910-18),  that the newly established Pond’s Extract Company stopped advertising its signature product and launched two a campaign to promote its lesser-known products, Ponds Cold Cream, and Pond’s Vanishing Cream. Helen, as a copywriter at the J. Walter Thompson Company launched a national campaign to encourage women to incorporate both creams into their daily beauty regimen. She ran ads bearing the slogan, Every normal skin needs these two creams in major newspapers and magazines throughout the country including the number one women’s magazine, The Ladies Home Journal and high-class fashion magazine, Vogue. The campaign was an undisputed success achieving a growth rate of 27 per cent for Pond’s Cold Cream and with Pond’s Vanishing Cream growing at 60 per cent between 1914 and 1916. By 1920, sales for both creams had tripled, firmly establishing Pond’s as one of the leading beauty businesses in the United States.The Pond’s advertising campaign of 1916 was one of the first coordinated attempts by a cosmetics company to reach a broad, middle-class market.

Ponds ad

Lux is one of the most enduring advertising campaigns in history, which made a bar of soap glamorous and luxurious. Helen used the screen stars for endorsing Lux soap in the early nineties that continues world over even today. Lux sold fame, glamour, luxury, and sex appeal then. It sells fame, glamour, luxury and sex appeal even now!

Helen was also known for her innovative style, which is distinctly different from all other advertising at that time. She developed the editorial style of advertising that imitated the layouts of the Ladies’ Home Journals & Evening Posts. It had a newsworthy look, which projected good reputation and credibility, the much-needed attributes to build any brand.

Helen Resor was also the first woman to be successful in writing and planning national advertising, as opposed to retail advertising and ensured that her advertising reflected the feminine point of view. Helen was the first woman to present an advertising campaign to Proctor & Gamble’s board of directors. She was also among the first to use photography in her ads. She was very creative and dynamic. She was always full of ideas and it was said that she had a dozen ideas to the minute. At one point of time, she was supervising about two-thirds of the business handled by J. Walter Thompson’s New York and Boston offices.

She was instrumental in the advancement of women in advertising and encouraged talented young writers. A very active member of the New York suffragist movement, she and her female employees marched in the celebration parade after President Woodrow Wilson signed into law a woman’s right to vote.

Very progressive in her outlook, Helen Resor had significantly contributed to public service. She was a president of the Traveller’s Aid Society, which gave shelter to homeless women during the Depression, and supported institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Radcliffe College, and Planned Parenthood.

Helen Lansdowne Resor was ranked fourteenth on the list of 100 Advertising people of the Twentieth century by Advertising Age. She was inducted posthumously into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1967.