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Don't Mention It

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Jan 04, 2007

MODESS Because Ad

One of the most famous Johnson & Johnson ad campaigns didn't even talk about the product. The ad campaign was for MODESS® sanitary napkins. In the early part of the 20th century, women's sanitary protection was a notoriously tricky product category to advertise, and the brand had not been doing well. Here's what an older ad looked like:


General Robert Wood Johnson, the son of Company founder Robert Wood Johnson, was chairman of Johnson & Johnson at that time. General Johnson liked to attend advertising strategy meetings, and he suggested the Company link its new ad campaign to high fashion, and make it completely different than anything seen before. So the product director and the agency hired the top fashion houses to design gowns to be used exclusively for the ads, and used top fashion photographers to take pictures of famous models wearing the gowns in exotic locations, such as palaces and art museums. But the Company still was confronted with the fact that women just didn't like reading ads about sanitary protection. When it came time to write the advertising copy, the story goes that General Johnson said to use as few words as possible, like a sentence, or a phrase...or maybe just two words, and he suggested "MODESS®...because." (Most ads of the era tended to be pretty wordy, so the MODESS® ads really stood out.) The ad campaign was a huge hit and sales soared. It was later recognized as one of the hundred all-time great advertisements. Why did it work so well? Probably because it spoke to the readers' aspirations, and they could fill in their own reasons for buying a product they didn't want to read about.

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