Revlon's Fire & Ice campaign was revolutionary because it was one of the first print ads that tied makeup to sexuality — and even better, it narrowed in on the idea that it's fun to be sexy for yourself, and not just your husband or beau.
It took that same lipstick that wives took to church with them in their purses, and linked it to women that seldom stayed well behaved. According to Madeleine Marsh, author of Compacts and Cosmetics: Beauty from Victorian Times to the Present Day, it was to bring about images of "Park Avenue whores — elegant but with the sexual thing underneath."
The copy read, "What is the American girl made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice? Not since the days of the Gibson Girl! There's a new American beauty...she's tease and temptress, siren and gamin, dynamic and demure." The idea was that women had multitudes to them, where they were both hot and cold, passionate and cool. "Men find her slightly, delightfully baffling. Sometimes a little maddening. Yet they admit she's easily the most exciting woman in all the world!"
The ad featured It Girl and model Dorian Leigh, done up in a slinky silver number and wrapped glamorously in a red cape. Her lips and nails were scarlet, and she looked like she glinted and smoldered all at the same time. She was Fire and Ice — and so were, apparently, the women staring at the ad.
On the opposite page of the photo was a quiz that was meant to split women into two categories — naughty or nice. Questions were put forth like, "would you streak your hair with platinum without consulting your husband," "do you ever wish on a new moon," and "do you close your eyes when you're kissed." As Revlon executives explained, the aim of the ad was to show "There's a little bit of bad in every good woman," and lipstick would help you unleash that.
"The questions were calculated to make every woman who read them want to answer yes, because doing so would make her feel sexy, adventurous, and just a wee bit dangerous," Nancy MacDonell Smith, author of The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites, shared in her book. Women loved it, and the color quickly became Revlon's top shade — and still sells steadily today!
What made this ad truly revolutionary (and why it struck such a chord with women,) was how it single-mindedly focused on the woman wearing the lipstick. "There was no man in sight, and no romance was alluded to. Instead, the ad suggested that applying lipstick was something a woman did for her own pleasure and gratification," MacDonell Smith explained.