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As interest in the NASA space program declined, I was working in New York City and we needed to find other ways to sell Tang in our television commercials. NASA was an authority that endorsed Tang, so we went looking for other authorities that could provide Tang with credibility.

We had been using two campaigns, one targeting mothers and one for kids.  The NASA/space association continued to work for kids in our animated moon men creative.  It was a lot of fun working on those, coming up with ideas and making the commercials work on many levels for younger and older kids.  One of my favourites – Tang Darkside.

One idea for a replacement campaign for mothers that had considerable campaign mileage was focusing on successful mothers, especially those with a life sciences background, to endorse the product.  Women who knew about nutrition and therefore could vouch for the value of the Vitamin C in Tang.

In that era, finding successful mothers was not as easy as it is today.  Women have come a long way and perhaps in some small way this advertising paved the path by showing them in normal everyday situations.

We showed successful, educated women with doctorates in life sciences and presented them not just as role models – but also as moms.  I recently came across a blog article by one of the women we featured and recalled that she  did have a New York accent.  We designed the copy around it to avoid any regional biases.

We did commercials with marine biologists, famous diver Sylvia Earle (for some reason amongst her Wikipedia accomplishments: degrees, publications, etc. there is no mention of the Tang commercial.  We even used a major airline pilot and did one in Spanish with a teacher.

Increasing the awareness of the achievements of all these women must have had some positive effect on young girls watching TV in that era because Tang was quite a significant advertiser.

Recall that this was the 70s – we had one PhD mom who was a very nice looking blonde.  When we pretested the commercial, the feedback from women was that this PhD mom was unbelievable because she was too good looking.  Old stereotypes die hard.  We still put it on air.

Times change, and I like to think that advertising helps smooth the way by showing what can be, as well as what it.  Although advertising rarely leads the way, it allows trends to continue by portraying them as normal.  When products show women in positions of authority, they help pave the way for social change.

The same thing is happening now showing many people, even couples, of diverse ethnic backgrounds.  Hey folks, it’s okay and not scary.  Advertising looks to be provocative to catch attention and memorable, so lightly breaking social norms is a good role for advertising.

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