A Word from Our Sponsor
As Baby Boomers, we were the first generation not only to grow up with television as part of our daily lives (and, yes, there were some families that either didn’t get a tv in the 1950s or limited the amount of tv their kids could watch) but also to be subjected to an incessant barrage of commercials. Remember, my friends, television --- a medium that could have been the greatest educational tool in the world --- exists to sell commodities and services, the “entertainment” is simply there to put asses in the seats, as they say. As the generation that watched television evolve from a tiny-screen black-and-white phenomena into our present humongous-screen (Plasma/LED/etc.) color cable, satellite, or streaming medium, we have also watched as commercials have developed along the way. In looking back, what I can see and hear (indelibly imprinted in my memory) are a vast variety of icons and jingles/phrases that bombarded me as a youngster, right through my adolescence. While younger readers might not recognize some of these references (it’s hard to gauge what people are familiar with nowadays, given Facebook, YouTube, etc.) it’s worth taking a look at just how pervasive television advertising was --- and how effective it proved to be.
While television was introducing young consumers to entertainment icons (Mickey Mouse Club, The Lone Ranger, Robin Hood, Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers, et al) it was also deluging us with commercial icons. Here’s a short list of Icons that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s --- some of whom have survived right through the 21st Century!
Bucky Beaver (Ipana toothpaste) Cap’n Crunch
The White Tornado (Ajax) The Frito Bandito
Mr. Clean The Pillsbury Doughboy
The Cheerios Kid The Marlboro Man
It should be noted that Bucky Beaver was developed by Disney Studios ( Bucky was voiced by Head Mousketeer “Jimmy”) and Cap’n Crunch was created by Jay Ward, of the wildly popular Rocky and Bullwinkle, and then Bullwinkle, cartoon shows. A melding of the artistic and the commercial, indeed. Just as significant --- and possibly more powerful regarding long-term impact --- were jingles and phrases developed to sell products. Here are some, listed randomly, that “people of a certain age” will surely remember.
Jingles and Phrases
“You’ll wonder where the yellow went ….when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”
“In the Valley of the --- ho-ho-ho ---Green Giant…”
“Betcha can’t eat just one!” (Lays potato chips)
“How about a nice Hawaiian Punch?”
“Double your pleasure, double your fun, with Doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint gum.”
“Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven . . . “ (Pillsbury)
“A little dab’ll do you . . .” (Brylcreem hair tonic)
“See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet” (Dinah Shore!)
“Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should…”
“And away go troubles, down the drain . . . .Roto-Rooter”
Alka Seltzer had several classics. “Pop-pop, fizz-fizz, oh, what a relief it is…”
“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing….”
“No matter what shape your stomach is in ….”
And so on . . . too many to list here (remember Johnson Wax’s “Filmy, waxy build-up?”). The point is, we still live with commercials and, during this period of sheltering-in-place, I’ve been paying careful attention to the ads (for whatever reason,)leading to certain observations.
Early in my teaching career I tried to instill in my students the need to be Critical Media Viewers/Listeners. Assuming media as pervasive by the early 1970s, when I began teaching, I believed it was important to produce, at the very least, educated consumers. Having read Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders and then Wilson Bryan Key’s Subliminal Seduction, I thought it was crucial to make sure my students were watching television and listening to radio (the Old Days)with critical eyes and ears. One assignment, which I’ll share --- and ask you to indulge in over the next few weeks --- was this:
Keep a nightly journal. Please record the television shows you watch
and particularly take note of the Commercials that sponsor the program.
At the end of the week, analyze each show based on the sponsors and
You can do this at home. Back in the 1970s, when I was coaching basketball --- and watching a lot of hoops on tv --- I noted, and shared with my students, that “wasn’t it interesting that when you watch an NBA game on tv the McDonald’s commercials feature Black actors but not so during baseball or football games. What do you make of that?”
This is a constant that really hasn’t changed and, if you want to make your viewing more fun --- rather than just sitting passively and letting programming wash over you --- start to really watch the commercials and speculate as to who the Advertisers think are watching their show. The last few weeks, as we’ve been isolating, I’ve gone “back to my roots,” as it were, and started watching television/cable/streaming more critically, particularly regarding commercials --- and that’s where the BLAST will go tomorrow.
Stay tuned . . . . and stay safe . . . and wash your hands!