Marketing is not just a business tactic. It’s a lifestyle. Time and time again, we have witnessed people go to extreme measures to bring in publicity and worldwide attention to themselves, or to whatever they are trying to promote. The most standout commercials go viral and are shared at a rapid rate around the Internet. Some have become so infamous, they have firmly established themselves into history as some of the best marketing stunts of all time. Check in to our blog every Friday when Benchmark lists some well-known marketing; all the good, bad, and the marvelous.
There is no more compelling image in American film history than of Marilyn Monroe in her billowing and up-blown dress for the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. We all know what it looks like … a curvaceous and flirty blonde accompanying her middle-aged and over-imaginative neighbor Richard (Tom Ewell) to the movies when she spots a subway grate, and she just had to stand over it to feel the breeze from a passing subway. There it goes. As the rush of the train flews by, the skirts shoot up and she giggles in a girl-ish “whoopsie daisies” way.
That can be a quite a scandalous move these days so you can only imagine the uproar this caused back in the 50s. Producers saw the chance to milk this scene for all its worth by bringing as much attention to it as they can.
On the morning of September 15, 1954, on the corner of Lexington Avenue and Fifty-second Street in New York, the cast and crew gathered to shoot the famous scene. The publicity department did something that anyone else in their position would do. Leak the time and place to numerous photographers and publications about the scene. It probably took less than ten words to reel them all in: “Marilyn Monroe, white dress, wind blowing up!”
The pandemonium was so outrageous with the noise level and people jostling for a good viewing position that the scene shooting was compromised. They actually had to forgo the shot and refilm it again on the 20th Century Fox lot. Obviously, with the publicity it brought to the film, it was all worth it! The scene was so widespread that it was even put as the official movie poster.The studio even commissioned for a 52-feet high cut-out of Marilyn, in all her dress billowing glory, to be placed right above Loew’s State Theater.
People back then and even now just can’t get enough of that iconic shot. In fact, Premiere Magazine selected that as one of the best movie posters of all time. Wherever you see her, whether on biography book covers, impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard, or memorabilia items, it’s a 90% percent chance she is wearing that silky white halter dress.
The scene itself could have generated a good amount of publicity if audiences watched in for the first time in theaters, but it wouldn’t have gained the iconic status and notoriety that would last decades to come if it wasn’t for the quick thinking, and teasing, of the publicity department.