October 27, 2014

Was the whip inflation now button designed by the person who designed the smiley face?

A question I'm asking now because I'm reading the book review that's the first thing that comes up in a Google search when you ask that question.
Leave it to [Rick Perlstein, author of "The Invisible Bridge"] to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ”
I'm not believing that. What guy are we talking about? I thought the origins of the smiley face were shrouded in mystery. Speaking of "shrouded,"  I think the origins of the smiley face are as shrouded in mystery as the Shroud of Turin.

Here's the relevant passage from Perlstein's book:
The White House had approached a Madison Avenue advertising agency...
Would it kill him to name the ad agency?
... which came up with the slogan: Whip Inflation Now. WIN. Forty-two minutes into the address Ford explained how "a very simple enlistment form" would appear in the next day's newspapers. At that, the president pointed out in his lapel, next to his red-white-and-blue tie, the snazzy little button designed by the same guy who invented the yellow "smiley face." 
What guy?

I think Perlstein picked up the vestiges of some anti-Ford political joke, and now that NYT book review is laundering it into a permanent fact. According to this article in Advertising Age, the WIN button was designed through The Ad Council:
My old friend Dean Fritchen, who was a VP at the Ad Council in charge of media and public relations, remembers Ad Council President Bob Keim stopping by his office the day after a conference where the WIN campaign was put forth to say that the ads were given urgent status. "He and Ad Council volunteers were less than excited, but a request from the president, as long as it was not political, was priority and almost always honored," Dean told me. He added that Bob sounded "frustrated [and] did not like the concept."
The Ad Council is not properly described as "a Madison Avenue advertising agency," though it does work with volunteers from ad agencies. It's been around since 1941, and was originally called the War Advertising Council for reasons that you can easily infer. It's responsible for such public service classics as the "We Can Do It!" poster, the crying Indian, and "Just Say No." If there's some Ad-Council-connected ad-agency designer who did the WIN button and also has some claim to the smiley face, I'd like to see his name.

A 2001 obituary for Harvey R. Ball called him "the strongest claimant to having invented the smiley face":
As Mr. Ball told it, in 1963 he was running an advertising and public relations agency in Worcester [Massachusetts] when a client, the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America -- now Allmerica Financial Corporation -- asked him to help soothe the ruffled feelings of workers when it merged with another company. Mr. Ball came up with the smiley face. Mr. Ball later told interviewers that he was paid $45 for his artwork and never applied for a trademark or copyright....

Some have disputed Mr. Ball's claim to originality. In 1989, Charlie Alzamora, then program director for the radio station WMCA in New York, told The New York Times that the design had been created by his station in 1962 -- a year earlier than Mr. Ball's smiley face -- as a promotion for its disc jockeys.
But the WMCA face wasn't the iconic smiley face. It looked like this:

The smiley face is too generic to have any one true creator. But somebody did design the much-mocked WIN button. Lots of people want to claim the smiley face, but it seems that no one steps forward to say I did the WIN button.

It's a perfect example of the old saying: Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

Ironically, no one seems to know who wrote that.

BONUS: Here's a great old (1982) William Safire column examining, among other things, what seemed to him to be a strange over-usage of the intransitive form of the verb "obtain," which means to prevail:
''On the international front,'' wrote my colleague in columny Joseph Kraft, ''the same benign political results obtain.''...

Mr. Kraft's usage is solidly grounded in English, from 1618 (''Their opinions have now obtained for a hundred years'') to Gore Vidal's 1963 use: ''All the arguments used against his candidacy in 1960 will still obtain.'' But that meaning has a bookish quality: ''Krapp's Guide to Good English'' in 1927 called it ''literary,'' and Nicholson's A Dictionary of American-English Usage in 1957 called it ''right - but for learned contexts only - prevailed will usually do.''

Why, then, did Mr. Kraft use the almost archaic construction in a newspaper column? One reason may be that prevail has been seized by the Reaganauts (a Richard Allen coinage, along with Reagoons, the storm troops of Reaganism, and Reaganinnies, the more timid among them). Evidently the word win is taken to be simplistic in current White House use (Gerald Ford's WIN button, for ''Whip Inflation Now,'' also casts a shadow on win), and the word prevail is used to describe what we shall do vis-a-vis Communism. It has a Churchillian sound with Faulknerian overtones, and is less stentorian than oldtime prizefight announcer Harry Balogh's ''emerge victorious.''
I've added the boldface. Hey... boldface. I need to design and become the strongest claimant to the design of — in the manner of the smiley face — the bold face. No, I need to strengthen my writing by studying the columny (cf. calumny) of William Safire. What greatness! Fuck Awful Writing Now.

Buy the button and join my effort.


MadisonMan said...

No Immediate Miracles.

Every time I hear about the WIN buttons, the inverted NIM is what I remember. But I don't recall the politician who said that first.

Lash LaRue said...

Nixon's Inflation Machine.

Original Mike said...

I liked Carter's plan to whip inflation. Everybody take 10% out of their bank account and burn it. (OK, OK. It was an SNL skit, but it was a good plan.)

Mark O said...

That man was the estimable Al Gore.

Birkel said...

Forrest Gump?

madAsHell said...

Would it kill him to name the ad agency?

I'm not sure it would kill him, but verification would kill the story.

rhhardin said...

I'd like to complain about X-class solar flares, which we've had one of for each of the last four days.

The morse code bands are absolutely DEAD after one, and I have nothing to space out in on my bicycle commutes.

The xrays ionize the lower ionosphere where collisions happen, and everything gets absorbed instead of reflected.

On WIN, The Lazlo Letters covered it, search inside for whip.

Original Mike said...

"I'd like to complain about X-class solar flares, which we've had one of for each of the last four days."

Fantastic sunspot group now.

Brando said...

"I trust in our president, Gerald T Ford, to solve this inflation problem."

"Oh how, by getting everyone to wear those WIN buttons?"


"Geez, Arch, that's one of the biggest who gives a damn of all time."

"Oh yeah? Well I give a damn...and I'm gonna wear one....cuz I WANNA WIN!"

lgv said...

Anyone remember Lazlo's Letters? Lazlo Toth (Don Novello of Father Guido Sarducci fame) wrote to Gerald Ford and received a WIN button as part of his response. IIRC.

Whirred Whacks said...

I just finished "The Invisible Bridge" and heartily recommend it.

I lived through that era (I think I'm a year older than Ann), and it was interesting to look at it from a perspective of 40 years hindsight.

I cheered Nixon's downfall (he was neither impeached nor convicted), but he comes across as strong compared to the current POTUS.

The years 1973-74 were an incredibly strange time: meat shortages, Yom Kippur War, oil embargo, gas lines, Patty Hearst abduction, SLA, etc.

chillblaine said...

"The years 1973-74 were an incredibly strange time..."

I remember a dreadful paper shortage. My stepfather tried to institute a voluntary toilet paper self-ration. Three sheets at a sitting. What if we needed to go number two? Turn the sheets inside out. He wasn't kidding. The hue and cry from my sisters doomed the plan.

Rick Perlstein said...

Would it kill you to consult the source notes? http://books.google.com/books?id=qpfzsnHAzZAC&pg=PA138&dq=%22It’s+not+a+joke.+I+put+it+on+because%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qCRHU_HCIeiqsQSxioGYCw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22It’s%20not%20a%20joke.%20I%20put%20it%20on%20because%22&f=false

David said...

Hey Rick that's the most convoluted link I've seen in years.

Would it have killed you to name the agency so we did not have to chase down your link?

virgil xenophon said...


That "dreadful paper shortage" spotlights the propensity of the general public to a) badly misinterpret public statements and b) be easily panicked by said public statements. IIRC it all began with a monologue joke by Johnny Carson about their being a shortage of industrial grade toilet paper. The public, obviously only half listening or getting a second-hand distortion, panicked and swept toilet-paper off grocery-store shelves nation-wide. It eventually took a PA announcement by Carson himself to quell the panic buying..

Birkel said...

The Nixon years were terrible because of the economic policies of Nixon. Price controls lead to shortages. Always and in every place without fail. He was a progressive and therefore a terrible president beyond his illegal actions that led to the resignation.

Carter, for as absolutely shitty as he was as president, had impulses to reduce regulation. Carter undid many of the things Nixon fucked up. He put Volcker in at the Fed and that was a major win for the country, eventually.

Nixon was the worst of all worlds.

Paco Wové said...

Would it kill him to name the ad agency?

Benton and Bowles, fwiw. The name is more-or-less accessible via Perlstein's link, though not on the page he links to.

Anonymous said...

The Seventies button I most fondly remember was the black button with "NUKE THE KNACK" in white letters. Now, I had nothing against The Knack at the time -- skinny ties and all -- but the girl cashier at the comic shop continually wore one on the bosom of her tight T-shirts. Tight, tight bra-less T-shirts.

A year or so later she and a group of friends hopped into my green 1972 Javelin to go to a drive-in.

Brief interruption: Drive-ins were a great thing back in the day -- late California summer nights waiting for dusk while sneaking beers out of the trunk -- and the 1972 AMC Javelin was THE BEST CAR EVER.

Anyway, comic store girl decided she wanted to change shirts while in the back of the car as we drove to the drive-in. So she changed shirts. As I stated before, she did not wear a bra. That kind of spirit, she. Thank you, rear-view mirror, you were a true friend. Don't remember the movie.

Brando said...

"Carter, for as absolutely shitty as he was as president, had impulses to reduce regulation. Carter undid many of the things Nixon fucked up. He put Volcker in at the Fed and that was a major win for the country, eventually."

Carter's foreign policy was a bit of a mess (demonstrating impotence with the Soviets and undermining alliances with the Shah and Samoza that enabled the revolutions there) but on domestic policy I don't think he was really that bad considering the circumstances. He began the deregulatory push, and only continued the price controls under Nixon and Ford. While taxes were high, he didn't actually raise them.

He largely lost in 1980 because the economy was in the dumps in part due to Volcker raising the interest rates (which was necessary, and ultimately did finally crush inflation, though not in time to help Carter) as well as broader economic developments outside of his own control, and his mishandling of the Iran hostage crisis. Had the rescue operation been better planned and executed, he might even have been reelected.

I think one of the reasons so many people are negative on Carter is he's been a boorish windbag and possible traitor as an ex-president.

Brando said...

I'm sort of eager to read this and "Nixonland" though--that era was a little before I was born but Nixon has always fascinated me. The idea that someone so uncomfortable around people could get elected president and reelected in a landslide is fascinating.

Paco Wové said...

This is cool. The link that Perlstein provided seems to invalidate the "WIN button and Smiley button had same designer" theory.

That link again, in usable form:

Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s

On page 135, the origin of the WIN button design:
A New York City advertising agency, Benton and Bowles, developed a new name that both Hartmann and Theis liked: "WIN", for "Whip Inflation Now". [...] Theis asked the ad agency to develop a WIN button that the president could wear when he annouched the program to Congress.

On page 138, the reference to the Smiley Face button:
Of all the WIN products, the button became the trendiest. Within a month after Ford introduced it to a national audience, order for the button soared to fifteen million. Robert Slater, sales manager for a company that manufactrued WIN buttons and designer of the "Smile" button inseperably associated with the 1970s, reported receiving more than eight million orders.

WIN button = Benton & Bowles agency
Smile button = some guy named Robert Slater.

Drago said...

Birkel: "Carter, for as absolutely shitty as he was as president, had impulses to reduce regulation. Carter undid many of the things Nixon fucked up. He put Volcker in at the Fed and that was a major win for the country, eventually"

Carter, to his credit, was also an advocate for Zero-based budgeting.

Needless to say the dems in Congress didn't want anything to do with that.

Drago said...

Brando: "He largely lost in 1980 because the economy was in the dumps in part due to Volcker raising the interest rates (which was necessary, and ultimately did finally crush inflation, though not in time to help Carter) as well as broader economic developments outside of his own control, and his mishandling of the Iran hostage crisis."

Volckers (and the Feds) raising of the interest rates (which did crush inflation and helped navigate us out of stagflation) really happened to a large extent as Reagan entered office in 1981.

This of course led to the recession in 82 and 83 that the dems hoped would crush republican hopes in 84.

Of course, by 84 Reagans fiscal policies along with Volckers monetary policies helped lead us to record growth and job creation.

And, of course, the dems in congress (who promised $3 in budgetary cuts for every $1 in tax revenue cuts resulting from Reagans across the board (all quintiles) tax cuts) didn't live up to their promise.

Shocking, no?

tim in vermont said...

Us old people are stupid and out of touch because we remember what inflation was like.

I know I could buy and ice cream bar for a nickel, and remember when it went up by 20%, to six cents. What was Ford's solution? For me to report it to the price control authority, or something like that, or was that Nixon? See what a joke I am as a person and how little one should value my perspective!

Paco Wové said...

"The idea that someone so uncomfortable around people could get ... reelected in a landslide is fascinating."

I think that says more about McGovern than about Nixon.

tim in vermont said...

Carter was a boorish windbag and possible traitor as President too.

Who exactly was it that made the Soviets confident that they could march into Afghanistan and destroy a genuine civil government there? Who put the hard liners in charge in Iran?

Carter is one of the founding fathers of Islamic terror attacks on the West. You won't hear this from lefties because they kind of liked the Soviet enabler that was Carter and they refuse to admit that it was the Soviets who destroyed a modernizing civil government in Afghanistan as part of their attempt to build a world wide empire. Because, you know, if the Soviets were building an empire by rolling over neighbors with their armies, then perhaps armed resistance to that empire in the form of regional wars, and strategic defense were justified.


Jim A said...

According to this wikipedia entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smiley,
Slater did not design even his smiley buttons -- that was done by the Spains. So what Perlstein should have written was: "the WIN buttons were manufactured by the same company that manufactured smiley buttons." But that, while factual, would have been uninteresting -- it would not have suggested the connection that Perlstein wanted.

lgv said...

"I think one of the reasons so many people are negative on Carter is he's been a boorish windbag and possible traitor as an ex-president."

Not really. I've been negative on him since he was in office. I regret voting for him. After Nixon, everyone wanted someone different. The bumbling Ford had no real policy positions. Carter was a fresh air. He was the anti-Nixon. Like Obama was the anti-Bush. At least I didn't make the same mistake.

Ann Althouse said...

Rick Perlstein comments: "Would it kill you to consult the source notes? http://books.google.com/books?id=qpfzsnHAzZAC&pg=PA138&dq=%22It’s+not+a+joke.+I+put+it+on+because%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qCRHU_HCIeiqsQSxioGYCw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22It’s%20not%20a%20joke.%20I%20put%20it%20on%20because%22&f=false"

That refers to whether the WIN button itself was a joke, but my question is about whether the information about the designer of the button and the smiley face was sound or whether it originated in a joke.

I bought the Kindle version, and the Kindle version doesn't have notes:

"That is why my publishers and I have decided to put the source notes for the book online, with clickable URLs whenever possible. Perhaps 80 percent of the newspaper articles quoted herein were found, and remain findable, via Google’s project of scanning dozens of newspapers and making them fully searchable and browsable— try it yourself: go to http:// news.google.com/ newspapers and type in, say, “Children in one school joked about shooting a few”; and while you’re there, hell, type in the name of your grandfather the opera singer and see what kind of reviews he got for his 1947 debut in La Traviata. Those with access to a university library with Proquest Historical Newspapers."

Perlstein, Rick (2014-08-05). The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (Kindle Locations 16477-16483). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

I did spend a lot of time googling looking for the designer of the button and the smiley face and only got as far as this post indicates.

Ann Althouse said...

Also there is no clickable URL for the name of the designer.

Carol said...

I am so sick of the multitude of Ad Council/partnership spots on talk radio (at least in my market). Ads telling you how to save money! lose weight! talk to your kids! start exercising! just back-to-back especially in the early morning hours when no one is listening except people like me on long drives home. Do people really go to these web sites because they heard some dogooder ad on the radio?

I shouldn't complain, I guess, since these may be the only ads some talk shows can get, but are we paying for this shit?

Birkel said...

Nixon was terrible on foreign policy too. But, yes, Carter was worse.

At least Nixon had the grace to fully retreat from public life. Carter has no grace and is - based on personal information - an arrogant ass.

Obama and Nixon have been parallels. Neither seems to like people, imo.

Big Mike said...

My first thought was that I don't give a d*mn.

My second is that made-up facts are the hallmarks of 21st century lefties.

rhhardin said...

I picked up a weak 5R8M in Madagascar in spite of the solar flares (21010 kHz), pretty good for a portable radio on a bicycle, working about a station every 15 seconds for an hour or so.

Last week it was TX7M in the Marquesas Islands, much louder though.

Apparently web-advertised expediditions are now a way to milk money out of hams who want a paper confirmation of a rare country contact so they can send it in for various number-of-countries certificates.

Rare stations are easy to find. There's a huge, huge pileup of stations all starting to call at once, like baby birds when the parent lands on the nest. 1 kHz lower in frequency is a rare station that's just begun listening for the next caller.

I can't describe how nice it is to listen to morse code on a bicycle.

rhhardin said...

TX7G not M

Whirred Whacks said...

I read the iBooks version of "The Invisible Bridge." Plenty of great photos in the back.

Overlooked in this discussion about the WIN button is that the book is essentially about the rise of Ronald Reagan -- especially his activities from the beginning of Watergate until the 1976 Kansas City Republican convention.

The only thing, Mr. Perlstein, that would've made your book even better is a link to
Ronald Reagan's Impromptu Speech at the 1976 Republican KC Convention

Absolutely stunning. If you haven't watched it lately, check it out.

Anonymous said...

In mathematics, one says that a result or a theorem "obtains" if it's been proven soundly. It's sort of an intransitive twin of the more everyday "We obtain the result," I guess.

Bob Ellison said...

We can choose.

Bob Ellison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Ellison said...

"There is a price we will not pay."

The American military seems to adhere to that philosophy.

Most of the rest of America seems to have given up on it.

Bob Ellison said...

BTW, Jimmy Carter is a big deal on Habitat for Humanity, which has spent now, oh, about two years re-building a half-million-dollar (at a guess) shore house right near my condo on a barrier island in New Jersey.

Such a guy.

Wilbur said...

I had high hopes for Carter as a deregulator and "outsider" to the Federal Behemoth.

Then he gave us the U.S. Department of Education, possibly the most destructive domestic entity to the country over the last 35 years.

Then he rolled over to the Iranians when he should have scared the shit out of them and gotten our hostages back immediately.

David said...

Tim in Vermont sez:

Who exactly was it that made the Soviets confident that they could march into Afghanistan and destroy a genuine civil government there? Who put the hard liners in charge in Iran?

Carter is one of the founding fathers of Islamic terror attacks on the West.

I am no fan of Carter as President but you seem to think that because the 1979 Revolution occurred while Carter was President he gets the blame. Unfortunately by that time Iran was pretty much a lost cause. If you want to blame Americans, you might begin with John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Eisenhower. They hatched the coup that brought the Shaw to power in 1953. You might also look to a series of American officials after that, none having much of a clue about the Middle East and Persia except in reference to the Cold War tussle with the Soviets. And of course to blame any American President you have to ignore the strong forces rising up in the Muslim world to counteract the semi-secular modernism that the Shaw and the 1970's government of Afghanistan represented.

As you might have observed in the last couple of decades, the power of America to determine events in the Middle East is quite limited.

Birkel said...

The Shah, perhaps?

chillblaine said...

"Nixon was terrible on foreign policy..."

I would respectfully disagree. While embroiled in Watergate, and reportedly drinking, he made the decision to re-supply Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Perhaps I am giving that deed outsized merit with regard to shortcomings that you are aware of, that I am not.

RecChief said...

Bob Ellison said...
BTW, Jimmy Carter is a big deal on Habitat for Humanity,

That's actually one of his redeeming qualities. I spent part of the summer a couple of years ago working ona habitat for humanity house in our townm and the family that moved in was very appreciative. Maybe it's a midwest thing. It's also the best kept yard in their neighborhood.

William said...

From Johnson through Nixon and on to Ford and Carter, the common thread to all those Presidencies was that they left the nation in worse shape than they found it. It was not very heaven to be young in those years. I had the sense that America was circling the drain. The twentieth century had a happy ending. It took me by surprise........The people of Iran and the media in the west disapproved of the Shah because of his decadent, luxurious lifestyle. I wonder how much his gold dinnerware and silk pavilions cost versus Iran's nuclear development program. They certainly cost less than the Iran-Iraq war which was a direct sequlae of his overthrow.

furious_a said...

I have a "Free Angela Davis" button, does that count?

Bad Lieutenant said...

OMG a ME king type has fancy housewares. Alert the media. David, so Iran would have been better off under Mossadegh, that is, as a communist satrapy? Lots of ME countries were westernized or westernizing at the time. You prefer hanging gays from cranes? What are you talking about? 1953 was a big fat favor to Iran. Read a book.

tim in vermont said...

" Unfortunately by that time Iran was pretty much a lost cause."

From the book of self fulfilling prophecies. Along the lines of Obama's and ARM's position on Iraq. No need to try it, it won't work, so those town by town genocides going on there? Not our fault!

southcentralpa said...

They are able to say "Climate Change" and command belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. You will simply believe him and most importantly, shut up.