One of the most iconic pieces of advertising that came out of the 1950s was the Coppertone Girl. She was born when the suntan lotion company needed to rebrand itself.
Since hitting the market in the years following World War II, Coppertone had used the profile of an Indian chief as its logo. The accompanying slogan was “Don’t Be A Paleface.”
Even during the more politically incorrect days of the 50s, this type of imagery wasn’t received well. Native Americans complained the logo and slogan were offensive.
The company turned to an advertising agency to develop a new marketing campaign and logo. Artists came up with the concept of a little blonde girl in pigtails and a mischievous puppy. The dog pulls down the girl’s swimsuit bottoms exposing her buttocks and tan line.
Work on the advertising campaign was dealt a setback when the original drawings were destroyed in a fire.
That’s when Joyce Ballantyne (Brand) was brought in. She had established herself during the post-war years as a painter of pin-up art. One of her seductive calendars released in 1955 was so popular it had to be reprinted several times.
Ballantyne recreated the the original ad concept with few modifications. She used her 3-year-old daughter Cheri as the model.
The pigtailed Coppertone Girl started appearing on mechanical billboards across the country. Thousands of times a day, the girl’s swimsuit bottoms moved up and down in unison with the mechanical dog.
Nearly all of the original Coppertone Girl advertising billboards have disappeared. But one still survives in Miami.
On the north side of a building at 7300 Biscayne Boulevard is the surprised Coppertone Girl with the dog exposing her butt cheeks. Top to bottom, the sign is 33 feet high. The girl stands 27 feet with her head rising four feet above the building’s roof line.
Originally attached to a building downtown, the sign has been moved many times over the years and is always in the need of maintenance.
But six decades after the Coppertone Girl was conceived, she continues to symbolize America’s golden age of advertising and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the state of Florida.