"There's no such thing as bad publicity..." This remark, attributed to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, sums up the advertising philosophy of noted textile executive Elliott White Springs of Springs Mills, Inc. "Colonel" Springs was nothing if not flamboyant. From the late 1940's until his death in 1959, he spearheaded an innovative ad campaign that made "Springmaid" sheets a household word and changed the landscape of the American advertising industry.
Springs was the son of a textile man, Leroy Springs, who inherited his wealth from a rich family of cotton merchants.
Young Elliott was a firebrand—blazing his way through Culver Military School, Princeton University, and buzzing over France in an open cockpit fighting Germans during World War One.
Springs was decorated as a flying ace and authored a memoir, War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator, based on the life of a fallen comrade.
Elliott became an author, spending the twenties in New York City writing for the posh literary magazines of the Jazz Age.
Throughout his early life, he had a tempestuous relationship with his father, which served to motivate him toward success, in his own way and on his own terms!
In the 1930's Elliott Springs inherited his father's textile "empire" and restored Springs Mills to incredible prosperity during the Depression years and World War Two.
After the war, Springs determined he would make a name for himself and his company, seeking a new approach in his magazine advertisements. He began acquiring and commissioning artwork depicting attractive young women as "Springmaids," and he employed sexual innuendo in the ad copy he wrote. These efforts quickly captured the public's imagination.
Some were outraged, but within a year there was convincing proof that "sex sells." Springmaid sheets were being sold as fast as they could make them, and sales increased steadily until Springs' death in 1959. Initially, the advertising industry called his ads "degrading," but today Springs' potpourri of risqué images, puns, and double-ententres are studied at major universities and hailed as the beginning of Madison Avenue's hold on the nation's sexual consciousness.