Find the PiBB Girl and Win!
Have you seen her? Do you know or have you seen the girl who most closely resembles this picture of the composite features of some of America's most prominent beauties?
If so, and if the year was 1980, you may have been eligible to win $5000.00 from the Coca Cola Company.
It was in this year when Coke launched one of the most fascinating and controversial brand promotions in the history of soft drink marketing. The short-lived "Find the PiBB Girl" contest began in April 1980 and urged its participants to search their communities for the girl whose facial features appeared most similar to the "PiBB Girl."
Who was the "PiBB Girl?" Well, it wasn't just one woman. It was actually a composite of five of Hollywood's prettiest, with each woman contributing their best feature to form what was believed to be the ideal portrait of feminine beauty.
Pam Dawber, of "Mork & Mindy," contributed her hair. Grammy Award winning vocalist Debby Boone donated her mouth. The eyes of actress Susan Anton and the nose of actress/singer Kristy McNichol were also used. Finally, each feature was then placed on the face shape of "Little House on the Prairie" star Melissa Sue Anderson.
To introduce and promote the contest, display materials were mailed by Coca Cola with a letter to all high schools, college fraternities and college sororities in Mr. PiBB markets for placement on bulletin boards and other high traffic areas around the schools. Sheet posters were displayed in Mr. PiBB point of sale locations -- supermarkets, convenience stores, and fast-food outlets. T-shirts were also distributed to enhance trademark exposure; "I'm a PiBB Girl" given to ladies, and "I'm a PiBB Girl Watcher" given to the guys. Here is a picture of a button that was distributed.
Five thousand dollars in cash was to be awarded to the girl selected "PiBB Girl" and an additional $5000.00 was to be given to the first person or organization that submitted her picture. The selection of the ten contest finalists was to be made by an independent judging organization from the photographs submitted based on the likeness of their features (hair, mouth, eyes, nose, and face shape), as well as overall resemblance, to those of the "PiBB Girl."
The top ten finalists were to be flown to New Orleans where a distinguished panel of judges, including representatives independent bottlers of Mr. PiBB, the Coca Cola Company, and a celebrity panel, would select the winner -- and officially crown the "PiBB Girl."
However, the "PiBB Girl" was never publicly crowned. The promotion was halted when the obvious was pointed out to Coke marketing executives -- the composite model was made up of solely white features -- all five of the stars used were of European descent.
Rev. Christian Reuter, principal of an all-black, all-boy Roman Catholic high school, began a one-man crusade to scuttle the promotion, calling the advertising campaign "blatantly racist, unenlightened and demeaning to all women." He sent letters to Coca-Cola, the U.S. Department of Education, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and others.
Within days, Coke notified Reuter that it would attempt to retrieve the materials and "will review all future promotional activities to see that a situation of this type does not happen again."
"Because the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requires us to honor our commitment once the contest is offered, we will finish it. But the promotion from here on out will definitely be toned down," promised a company spokesman.
For a company that depends on customer loyalty from all demographic groups, running a contest that automatically disqualified a great portion of American women on the basis of ethnicity was not only insensitive and discriminatory but also a poor marketing maneuver. Making matters more serious was the fact that this contest was designed to take place in public schools -- the majority of which were situated in large urban cities that contained a high percentage of non-whites. Needless to say, Coke's assertion that the most beautiful woman in the world would have to be white was offensive to many.
In Mr. PiBB's 35-year history, this promotion stands out as the most extraordinary, partly due to the originality of the contest but also because of its shameful demise. For a full catalog of memorabilia related to this promotion, click here.