Back in the days when there were only three TV channels to choose from and no way to fast-forward through the commercials, advertising slogans stuck with us and were regularly repeated in daily conversation (just like those mad men on Madison Avenue hoped). Today’s rapid-fire special effects-laden spots don’t seem to have the memorability factor of yesteryear’s Clio winners. See how many of these phrases you’ve uttered yourself, even when you no longer remembered the context or product.
1. Try It! You’ll Like It!
This 1971 Alka-Seltzer was one of the first created by the then-new Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency. The tag phrase soon took on a life of its own (how many mothers used it to convince their picky eaters to eat their broccoli?) and helped to get the commercial elected to the Clio Awards Classic Hall of Fame.
2. I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing
A year after their “Try it, you’ll like it” triumph, Wells, Rich, Greene came up with another memorable phrase to promote Alka-Seltzer: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” The line, moaned in the TV spot by poor, miserable Ralph to his sleepy wife, came to copywriter Howie Cohen after overindulging at a dinner party.
3. Ancient Chinese Secret
Many folks remember the tag line but not the product from this long-running ad that debuted in 1972. The “secret” being hawked was Calgon, a water softening powder that allegedly helped get laundry 30 percent whiter when added to your regular detergent.
4. Calgon, Take Me Away!
Softer bath water apparently was the key to washing away the daily stress of traffic, screaming kids, barking dogs, and cranky husbands. The original Calgon bath powder was just a slightly different version of the softening agent sold for laundry use (the product name is a portmanteau of Calcium Gone), but later the line was expanded to include foaming milk baths and scented salts.
5. You’re Soaking In It
“Dishpan hands” were the bane of every homemaker’s life before automatic dishwashers became standard kitchen equipment (according to the 2010 Census, 65 percent of American kitchens were equipped with a dishwasher). Rubber gloves provide a solid protective barrier between hot water, detergent, and human flesh, but apparently that was just too utilitarian a solution for the manufacturers of dishwashing liquid. Many brands, such as Vel and Ivory Liquid, boasted that their lack of “harsh chemicals” was gentler on hands than other soaps, but Palmolive took it a step further and positioned their dish soap on the same level as pricey moisturizers. Take it from Madge, the all-knowing manicurist: That pretty green stuff softens your hands while you scrub pots and pans.
6. Don’t Leave Home Without It
This catchy phrase was coined in 1975 by the Ogilvy and Mather agency as “Don’t leave home without them.” “Them,” in this case, referred to American Express Traveler’s Checks, and the somber warning was delivered by actor Karl Malden, who was co-starring as a hard-boiled homicide detective on The Streets of San Francisco at the time. Eventually American Express altered the phrase to promote their credit card (using the successful “Do you know me?” campaign).
7. It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature
Stuffing or potatoes? Tastes great/less filling? When it comes to culinary feuds, one of the longest-running and still enduring has to be butter versus margarine. Today, the argument mainly breaks down into a nutritional trans-fat, polyunsaturated technical-type debate. But back in the early 1970s, consumers cared more that their margarine-of-choice tasted like the butter it was 33 percent less expensive than.
8. How Do You Spell Relief?
This tag line was a gold mine for stand-up comedians of the era, who spelled relief from L-I-Q-U-O-R to things we can’t mention here. However, the “relief” sought in this case was for acid indigestion, and Rolaids was the remedy. The minty antacids lost a lot of market share after H2 blockers (such as Pepcid AC) began selling over the counter, so the company recently resurrected their catchiest slogan in a series of commercials featuring Food Network chef Guy Fieri.
9. Does She or Doesn’t She?
This somewhat titillating tease was used for years to sell Miss Clairol hair coloring. (The answer, by the way, was “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”) It was preferable that laymen (and catty girlfriends) could not tell at a glance that you were touching up the ol’ grey a bit via artificial means.
10. Where’s The Beef?
Retired manicurist-turned-character actress Clara Peller was hard of hearing, which is why she happened to bellow her famous line like a foghorn. A year after filming her first Wendy’s commercial, Peller filmed an ad for Prego pasta sauce, wherein she announced she’d “finally found it” (i.e. the beef). The hamburger chain terminated her contract, leaving Peller (who apparently didn’t thoroughly understand the “non compete” clause she’d signed) to gripe, “I’ve made them millions, and they don’t appreciate me.”
11. Often a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
The phrase that has entered the lexicon to describe someone who is a perpetual also-ran was actually coined back in 1925 to sell Listerine Mouthwash. There’s an important lesson here: Having camel breath might prevent you from landing a husband, but it won’t prevent your newly-engaged friends from asking you to spend hundreds of dollars on a pink polyester puffy-sleeved dress you’ll only wear once.