The McCann Time Capsule: Being ‘Sure’. . . and More with Westinghouse
There are probably few brand names with as complicated a history and brand identity as that of Westinghouse, as illustrated by the recent bankrupty of Westinghouse Electric Company. That’s Toshiba’s American nuclear power subsidiary, which is not connected to Westinghouse Electric Corporation, according to a letter to customers on the latter’s website. On that website, the non-nuclear Westinghouse, a CBS licensing subsidiary for products in areas such as electronics and lighting stemming from Westinghouse’s 1995 acquisition of CBS, also retains a connection to this venerable brand’s heritage with the theme line “Innovation you can be sure of.”
It’s a tag line reworking the famous one McCann introduced in 1954 for the brand when the name Westinghouse was more clearly identified with a range of consumer products: “You can be sure. . . if it’s Westinghouse.”
McCann first won Westinghouse as a New York client in 1945, added the consumer appliance business later when TV advertising became more important, and then provided not only distinctive advertising but involvement in Westinghouse’s prominent sponsored televised drama “Studio One” in the so-called “Golden Age of Television” in the 1950s. For many years, it was also one of McCann’s major clients, and in 1963 the agency even opened a Columbus, Ohio office to serve the major appliances division.
“Studio One” was originally launched by CBS TV in 1948 with Westinghouse taking it over as the sponsor a year later. Running weekly, it was an Emmy winner over a number of years, including in 1954 for the production of “Twelve Angry Men.” The actress Betty Furness, who appeared in one of the early episodes (and later ones as well), became the brand’s spokesperson in the long-running “You can be sure. . . if it’s Westinghouse” campaign up until 1960, and in subsequent years became known as a consumer advocate, including serving in this role in the federal government.
Betty Furness and “Studio One” also introduced an innovation in TV advertising, according to a November 1957 issue of Billboard magazine. It had to do with a live demonstration in which two cups of sand were dumped into a washing machine to demonstrate that white towels could come out clean of mud and grit. According to the publication:
· “Westinghouse Electric and its agency, McCann-Erickson, have planned a TV ‘first’ for its ‘Studio One’ program on November 4. The dramatic show, which ordinarily does not have a studio audience, has invited viewers to write for tickets to witness just the commercial portion of the show. And the reason for this unusual invitation is that Betty Furness will present her famous ‘sand test’ demonstration again from a separate studio in Manhattan which has facilities for some 150 guests. According to Gallup-Robinson, research organization , the ‘sand test’ is among the four top commercials ever seen on TV, with respect to audience recall.”