THE FIRST 100 YEARS OF JWT & UNILEVER 1902-2002: Private View 1930s

This was the heyday of testimonial advertising on both sides of the Atlantic, always supported by a strong reason why. Value was especially important during the Great Depression and the world economic crisis which lasted until 1933. Lux Toilet Soap in the US continued to feature stage celebrities but acknowledged the times. "In good times or bad, the Broadway stars keep complexions alluring this easy way ... Just like the most costly French soaps ... 10cent ." In 1931, "605 of the 613 important Hollywood actresses use this lovely, white, fragrant soap"; by the next year "686 of the 694 important actresses in Hollywood, including all stars, use it regularly". Sponsored radio programmes reinforced the associations.

Pond's in the US reversed the ratio of reason to recommendation and invented the problem as well as the solution. Claiming that skin faults start in the underlayers, it explains "How to wake up a Slowing Underskin" with a regime which, for the first time, promoted Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream together. Donna Degna Marconi says: "I've never had a blemish since I started to use it."

In the UK, society beauties relegated the underskin to a passing reference.

A testimonial from Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark was voluntarily withdrawn when it was announced that she would become the King's daughter-in-law in 1934. Hunting enthusiast Lady Helena Fitzwilliam's was not withdrawn:"Six days a week in the saddle but a skin any film star would envy," thanks to her healthy underskin.

By today's (or any?) standards, the US scientific approach went too far in 1937, graphically illustrating three years of laboratory tests on rats. Ugh!

Rinso in the UK combined testimonials with the then innovative continuity (strip cartoon) technique. For authenticity, this says "Sketches from photographs taken during the interview with Mrs Leech" and gives Mrs Leech's full address. The latter practice was dropped by JWT after an advertisement for a different product featured a Mrs O'Brien explaining how she managed on a very tight budget. Hostile neighbours left crusts of bread and leftovers on her doorstep with cuttings of the advertisement.

In 1934, Rinso was recommended for grease-free dish washing, showing a British husband washing up. In the US, it was Lux Flakes, emphasising hand care. "Wives often envy the business girls who look so dainty and charming ... with no housework to do, of course they can have smooth, lily white hands." A survey of girls in New York's largest office building found 75 per cent said they washed dishes at home and eight out of ten of "these clever young things" used Lux Flakes for dishes - for only 1cent a day.

Business girls were also encouraged to use Lux Flakes to enhance their business success, by removing "undie odour". Six years later, odour from underthings was identified as a passion-killer that blights marriage chances; although in this particular case a new hairstyle might have helped more.

Finally, Lux Toilet Soap testimonials came to their natural home, the cinema. Valerie Hobson (later Mrs John Profumo) was just back from a Hollywood stint that included leading roles in eight films in a single year for Universal and was going on to even greater things. The mutual benefit of the film star testimonials was well understood by the studios, the stars, and JWT and Unilever.

- Patricia Mann joined JWT London in 1959 and was a copywriter on Unilever brands including Persil and Elida-Gibbs hair products for nearly 20 years. Subsequently, both as JWT's director of public affairs and as a vice-president international, she continued a close association with Unilever. She is currently a director of JWT Trustees Ltd.