Hockaday, Margaret (1907–1992)
Hockaday, Margaret (1907–1992)
American advertiser who launched her own firm. Name variations: Maggie or Mig; Margaret Hockaday La Farge. Pronunciation: HOCK-a-day. Born Margaret Elizabeth Hockaday on January 8, 1907, in Wichita, Kansas; died in New York City on December 18, 1992, in her Greenwich Village apartment; daughter of Bird Pixlee (Bohart) Hockaday (a publisher's representative) and Isaac Newton Hockaday (ran a hardware store and manufactured paint); attended Oak Park, Illinois, public schools; graduated Vassar College, 1929; married Reinhardt Bischoff (a German architect), in the late 1940s (divorced mid-1950s); married Louis Bancel La Farge (an architect), in 1962; no children; aunt of artist Susan Hockaday Jones.
Family moved from Kansas to Illinois when she was a child; started career as a copywriter for Marshall Field department store in Chicago; moved to New York and spent two years as fashion editor at Vogue; moved to Harper's Bazaar (1936); worked briefly at J. Walter Thompson; worked for Montgomery Ward (1941); taught social studies at Columbia University's Lincoln School (1942–45); earned master's in education (1947); returned to publishing; became fashion editor for Curtis' Holiday travel magazine; opened advertising agency (1949); retired (1970); moved to Nantucket; moved to Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pennsylvania; returned to Manhattan (1989).
What to Wear Where (1949); WAF—A Handbook for Air Force Women (1954); The Dunbar Book of Contemporary Furniture (1956); The Copywriter's Guide (Harper & Brothers, 1958, 1959).
In 1953, Margaret Hockaday, along with her art director and a photographer, transported a Dunbar sofa from New York City to New Milford, Connecticut, then hauled it across a pasture and up a hill, to shoot an advertisement. Never before had Madison Avenue seen so surreal an image: a sofa outside, alone, in the great outdoors. The copy read, "The long green hill of our desire." The unorthodox manner of photographing the sofa, of making advertising an art, broke a century-old tradition that furniture must be photographed in a meticulously arranged room. The concept made headlines and began a trend that became commonplace. Ads in The New Yorker, The New York Times, House Beautiful and House & Garden, featured Dunbar chairs in trees, on unfinished skyscrapers, in a game of musical chairs, even on the witness stand.
The creative force behind the ads was Margaret Hockaday, a pioneer in the last wave of print advertising. She had a lifelong affair with words, images, packaging, poetry, architecture and design, and her style was described as "calculated whimsy" or "studied conspicuousness." The Dunbar Furniture campaign was such a success that art directors began abandoning their studios for Central Park.
Margaret Hockaday, a perfectionist, was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1907. She was a descendant of Abraham Lincoln and grew up in a family that believed in education and hard work. Her grandfather was a college professor; her uncle Woody conceived the idea of the yellow line that bisects highways. He shared his idea with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who instituted it in the early 1930s.
As a child, Margaret lived just outside of Chicago in Oak Park which she later dubbed the "non-chic western suburb." With all the books and magazines in the home—her mother worked as a publisher's representative—she grew up in an atmosphere of print and was fascinated with catalogues and merchandising through the mail. "To me, one of the greatest American inventions is mail order," she said. "Everything is left to the printed catalog page and the imagination of the reader to fill in the reality." While she loved literature, music and design, her early ambition was to become an architect like her brother Lincoln. (She would end up marrying two architects: Reinhardt Bischoff, in the late 1940s, and Louis Bancel La Farge, in 1962.)
Margaret's father, Isaac Newton Hockaday, was an inventive man who had run a large Wichita hardware store and manufactured paint. Following the move to Chicago, he abandoned the family for California, leaving Margaret's mother, Bird Pixlee Bohart , to raise Margaret and her brothers, Willard and Lincoln. By some accounts, Bird Bohart was a driven woman who made large demands on her children. Hockaday would later idealize families in her work.
At Vassar College, Margaret majored in English and history. After graduation, she worked as a retailing copywriter at Marshall Field in Chicago. Five years later, she moved to New York to work on the fashion staff of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She also wrote for the Montgomery Ward catalogue. Hockaday remained fascinated with advertising because everything ultimately relied on the customer's imagination. During World War II, however, she felt compelled to take a teaching post at Columbia University's Lincoln School. "I applied advertising techniques to teaching—worked very well," she said. Afterward, she was a fashion editor for Holiday, a new venture from Curtis Publishing. While there, she designed and wrote a small book, What to Wear Where. The book was later published by Bantam Books.
After WWII, there were increased opportunities for women in advertising agencies. Hockaday started hers in 1949, in a one-chair barber shop on the East Side. She planted red geraniums in the large storefront window and set to work. Her first client was Capezio, Inc., "the dancer's cobbler since 1887." Ad copy ran: "Hail Capezio! With liberty from conformity for all," or "Some people can't—Capezio people can," or "Are you mad enough to wear Capezio stemwear?" The art director was sent to finger-painting school for children and came up with a poster-style ad picturing a strange red, orange and yellow animal called a Polka-Dotta. No shoes were pictured, since Hockaday advertising relied on creating a state of mind.
It was the Dunbar furniture series that first captured attention for Hockaday. In a send up, James Thurber's unicorn in the garden was seen eating roses in a Dunbar bed. And when the Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit conference was making headlines, a Dunbar furniture ad showed photographers, reporters, and military brass waiting near four empty chairs. The copy read:
They sit at the summit. These four take their place with dignity and command at the top. Each a symbol of design authority in the age of the follower. Each the best of two worlds. The honored skill of the craftsman is powered in technological advance. Dunbar builds a rich and enduring inheritance. Edward Wormly designs it.
The Dunbar Book of Contemporary Furniture, now regarded as a textbook for decorators and architects, started as a catalogue which Hockaday edited and produced for Dunbar. She also authored the WAF handbook on fashion, grooming, and morale at the request of the Air Force.
Hockaday Associates created the "Just wear a smile and a Jantzen" campaign, zeroing in on a model's lips. They also developed a portable package for the bathing suits with the instructions, "Just add water."
Into the staid world of Scotch advertising—which usually emphasized proof, price, flavor, color and age—Hockaday introduced mood and fashion. An attractive young man says to an unseen woman: "As long as you're up, get me a Grant's." The words became such a catchphrase that some women complained. Hockaday then created an ad in which the woman makes the demand and the man does the fetching. "You know if you've arrived in America," said Hockaday, "when millions of people shout your words back to you." Cartoonists often made reference to her ads in their work. A 1963 New Yorker cartoon shows a woman reading in bed, a Civil War general nearby. "As long as you're Grant, get me a 7-Up," she says.
Hockaday regarded the hard sell as the easy sell, but the most expensive and desperate. She also avoided advertising by intimidation. She told an interviewer for the February 1959 issue of Madison Avenue:
I don't believe in fear advertising, in advertising that makes people uneasy, uncomfortable, or insecure. I think advertising can be fun, gay, amusing, and still do a good selling job. I agree that our kind of advertising can—in the wrong hands—illustrate the old adage that "Humor does not sell." We have a saying among us—"It's fine but where do you go after the first laugh." We feel we go straight to the point. And a good ad must always make its point in relation to the climate we live in.
Her agency worked on the senses, the attitudes of the consumer, and sales rose.
Hockaday's clients in the $500,000–$1,000,000 range, included Adler Co. ("Clean White Sock"), Andrew Arkin ("Arkin Girls" comic strip), French Boot Shop, International Shoe, Royal Worcester Porcelain, Frank Smith Silversmiths, Standard Romper, Health-Tex ("Pecks of Children"), Scarves by Vera, Wayne Knitting Mills, and Belle-Sharmeer. Other clients included the American Cancer Society (the athletes "I Don't Smoke" campaign against cancer, 1960s), Crane stationery ("Complain on Crane's," "Cajole on Crane's," "Gloat on Crane's," etc.), Fuller fabrics ("The Richest Fabric in Town") and Tycora yarn ("Miss Theodora"). For Reed & Barton, the copy warned: "Don't let Daddy give you away till he gives you your sterling." Hockaday also produced television spots, cautioning: "It's like a one-act show—it has to make it in the first minute." Success to Hockaday meant "being on the edge of change and willing to grab it."
Eventually Hockaday's offices were moved to 575 Madison Avenue. Far from office-like, there were walls of windows, poppies, a ceiling-high laurel tree, and a round table for a desk. Her agency had an intimate, creative atmosphere where copywriters were assigned specific accounts, but everyone worked on every problem. "You have to have at least three talents when you're here," she said.
Hockaday was the board chair, Alvin Chereskin, the president, and Joe Giordano, the creative director. For new accounts, she noted:
We start, obviously, with the product and what we know about the climate—who is buying it, who should be buying it, who is relating to it now. Where does the client want to go with it? More places deeper? Get it upstairs if it's in the basement?
Then we go out and look at it sitting there. How the stores place it, how they sell it.… Then we sit down with the copywriters.
In 1962, Hockaday married Louis Bancel La Farge, an architect and grandson of painter John La Farge. The elegant and debonair La Farge was president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects from 1958 to 1960 and a founding member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. During World War II, he had served on Dwight D. Eisenhower's general staff as chief of the monuments, fine arts and archives section. After the war, Major La Farge was decorated for supervising the return of art stolen by the Nazis.
Hockaday and her husband lived in a renovated brownstone on East 69th Street in Manhattan. They took long walks in the city, often visiting art galleries on the East Side. She loved to cook and had the opportunity on weekends in New Milford, Connecticut, in their 17th-century restored saltbox farmhouse.
Her friends, who were in the forefront of the fashion and design worlds, included Diana Vreeland of Vogue and Hans and Florence Schust Knoll of Knoll Furniture. Hockaday was fascinated with clothes, always dressing with style, wearing the designers of the day, such as Bonnie Cashin . Later, she developed an interest in Japanese aesthetics which included contemporary designers such as Issey Miyake. She loved Matisse and Picasso, traveling with her husband to Europe to see their work, and greatly admired the architects Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
In 1970, when her husband retired from his architectural practice, Hockaday retired as well, selling her agency to J. Walter Thompson. The couple moved to Nantucket where, during the ten years they lived there, Hockaday designed her home and gardens. She and her husband also visited the La Farge family property on Tuckernuck Island off the western tip of Nantucket, devoid of cars or electricity.
In 1980, her husband's failing health prompted their move to the Quaker retirement community, Pennswood Village, in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Bancel La Farge died in July of 1989. That September, at age 82, Hockaday moved back to Manhattan. There, though hampered by osteoporosis, she took advantage of the city's films and exhibits, walking or taking the bus. She went gallery hopping in her dramatic straw hats and many-colored scarves. "Mig had the time of her life 'til the end," said her niece, artist Susan Hockaday Jones . Margaret Hockaday died in her Greenwich Village apartment on December 18, 1992. One of Hockaday's copywriters once said, "Margaret is a copywriter extraordinaire. She begins a copy block at a point most of us never reach."
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