One of the best things about writing on the web is hearing back from readers. Sure, sometimes I hear from the readers’ lawyers instead, but I’m learning how close I can come to the line without stumbling across it and into the courtroom.
My periodic pokes at Ricardo Montalban and Chrysler’s “Corinthian Leather” ad campaign, the first of which dates back to October, 2001, finally reached the person responsible, more or less anyway. I received this anonymous message via the website’s feedback form:
I was forwarded your site by my sister after a recent lengthy family email conversation about “Fine Corinthian Leather”. My father and a coworker are mainly responsible for the campaign and term “corinthian leather”. I thought you might like to know as ad men working for Young and Rubicam in the 60’s-70’s, they were faced with the age long dilemma of making something look like a must have desirable item… much like everything in America. They needed a tie-in name to go with their “Spanish” Cordoba, and so, Corinthian sounded like a name that would conjure up something exotic, timeless and elegant. It’s hilarious that it has held on as one of the most remembered catch phrases in media history. I don’t see it as being any different than JCrew using names like “light pacific” or “bright butternut” to depict colors such as blue or yellow…and I certainly wouldn’t refer to it as a 25 year old deceit!
I wish the writer had provided some contact information, for I’d love to hear more about the Corinthian Leather campaign.
I’m not sure I agree that inventing a type of leather is the same as inventing a new name for a color; the Corinthian Leather campaign suggested that the leather had qualities differentiating it from lesser, non-Corinthian leathers, when in fact no such qualities existed. Maybe a better comparison is the Folgers “Mountain Grown” campaign, or Claude Hopkins’ famous Schlitz beer campaign. But even there, claiming differentiation where none exists falls short of actually naming the thing.