11 Advertising Slogans That Became Famous Catchphrases

How many of these famous ad slogans do you remember—and how many have you actually used in conversation?
Antacids have a surprisingly rich history of catchy ad slogans.
Antacids have a surprisingly rich history of catchy ad slogans. / Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Back when there were only three TV channels and no way to fast-forward through the commercials, advertising slogans stuck with us. Some ad slogans became so famous that people used them in daily conversation (just like those mad men on Madison Avenue hoped). See how many of these popular advertising phrases you’ve uttered, even when you didn’t remember the context or product.

1. Try It! You’ll Like It! // Alka-Seltzer

This 1971 Alka-Seltzer ad was one of the first created by the Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency. The catchphrase soon took on a life of its own (how many parents used it to convince their picky kids to eat their broccoli?).

2. I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing // Alka-Seltzer

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 // Calgon

Many folks remember the tagline but not the product from this long-running ad that debuted in 1972. The “secret” 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! // Calgon

Softer bath water apparently was the key to washing away daily stress in the 1970s and ’80s. 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 and gone), but the product line was later expanded to include foaming milk baths and scented salts.

5. You’re Soaking In It // Palmolive

“Dishpan hands” were the bane of every homemaker’s life before automatic dishwashers became standard kitchen equipment. Yes, rubber gloves provide a solid protective barrier between hot water, detergent, and human flesh, but apparently that was just too pedestrian for the manufacturers of dishwashing liquid. Many brands, such as Vel and Ivory Liquid, boasted that their lack of “harsh chemicals” made the products gentler on hands, but Palmolive took it a step further and positioned its 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 // American Express

This catchy phrase was coined in 1975 by the Ogilvy and Mather agency as “Don’t leave home without them.” Them 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 TV series The Streets of San Francisco at the time. Eventually American Express altered the phrase to promote its credit card.

7. It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature // Chiffon Margarine

Stuffing or potatoes? Tastes great or less filling? When it comes to foodie feuds, one of the longest-running has to be butter versus margarine (or “plant-based butter,” to use a modern euphemism). In the early 1970s, consumers cared more that their margarine tasted like the butter, as this spot for Chiffon margarine demonstrated.

8. How Do You Spell Relief? // Rolaids

This tagline 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 had plenty of actors in its commercial spelling “relief” R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

9. Does She or Doesn’t She? // Miss Clairol

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 the public (and catty girlfriends) could not tell at a glance that you were touching up your roots with artificial means.

10. Where’s The Beef? // Wendy’s

Retired manicurist-turned-character actress Clara Peller was hard of hearing, which is why she happened to bellow her famous line. 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 // Listerine

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. The brand eventually dropped its judgy ad slogan for scenarios suggesting that the key to a happy marriage is fresh breath.

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A version of this story was published in 2014; it has been updated for 2024.