Targeting Young Girls

The custom of the diamond ring took root in the early twentieth century when diamond giant DeBeers experienced languishing sales. The company contracted with an American advertising firm, N. W. Ayer, which unleashed one of the most effective media campaigns the world has ever seen. They gave diamonds to movie icons and had magazines run glamorous stories and photographs linking diamonds to romance and high society. In a 1948 strategy paper, N. W. Ayer wrote, “We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.'” In a memo to DeBeers, the agency described targeting young girls through lectures at high schools: “All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions.” After twenty years of effort, N. W. Ayer declared victory in the late 1950s. They reported to DeBeers, “Since 1939 an entirely new generation of young people has grown to marriageable age…To this new generation a diamond ring is considered a necessity to engagements by virtually everyone.” The firm would next take aim at Japan and introduce the diamond engagement ring as a posh Western custom. The firm succeeded: from 1967 to 1981 the percentage of Japanese brides wearing diamond rings went from less than 5% to about 60%.

Finny Kuruvilla, King Jesus Claims His Church

It’s Mammon’s world—we just live in it.

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