Sunday, March 1, 2009

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor



In the very earliest days of commercial radio broadcasting, which began in about 1922 and ran to about 1930, direct advertising wasn't allowed. 


Commercials as we know them today simply didn't exist.  

Shows were sponsored by companies with products to sell, of course, and so radio listeners were reminded of the sponsor's product in various, often clever, ways.


The first advertising success came from General Mills, the makers of Wheaties cereal, who were seeing sagging sales, and considering discontinuing the product after two lackluster years of promoting the product.




On Christmas Eve, 1926 they ran a soon-to-be famous jingle on the radio; "Have You Tried Wheaties?" sung by the Wheaties Quartet.


The jingle wasn't trying to `sell' the product, it was merely asking if you'd tried it.  A clever way around the ban on direct selling.


Sales in the markets where the jingle played soared.  Wheaties soon became one of the most popular breakfast cereals in the nation.  And radio advertising had proven it's worth.


For the next few years, sponsors would incorporate their product's names into the radio shows they sponsored, in lieu of direct advertising.


Shows such as  The Ipana Troubadours and the A&P Gypsies managed to get around the advertising ban.  


The Palmolive Soap company pushed the envelope the most, perhaps, with their musical variety program  The Palmolive Radio Hour which featured the singing duo of  "Paul Oliver" and "Olive Palmer".

Radio shows were owned, and often written by the sponsor. 


By the 1930's direct advertising was allowed on the radio.  Many shows found clever ways to incorporate the sponsor into the show.


Jack Benny would open his show with "JELL-O Everybody", since his sponsor was . . . Jello.  Fibber McGee would make fun of `Waxy', their announcer, who would pitch Johnson's wax at the halfway point of the show. 


A website with well over 100 Old Time Radio Commercials you can listen to or download  is Old Time Radio Fans.


And so when television came around in the late 1940's, it was pretty standard that each show would have their own sponsor. 


Lucky Strike sponsored Your Hit Parade,  Texaco (and later Buick) Sponsored Milton Berle,  Dinah Shore was sponsored by Chevrolet.  Practically every major show was `owned' by a sponsor. 


Some shows had two sponsors, and rotated every other week.


Eventually the cost of producing shows grew too great for a single sponsor to carry, and so the number of commercial minutes in each hour was increased to allow shows to sell enough advertising time to be profitable.


We've got three (roughly) 10 minute collections of commercials from the 1950's to watch or download.    Click on the images below to go to each one.




Part 1 features Clark Kent, Perry White, and Jimmy Olson selling Sugar Smacks,  Buster Keaton as a Mountie after . . Buster Keaton, who needs some Alka Seltzer,  Bosco Syrup, Tootsie Roll Pops, Mike Wallace hawking Fluffo Shortening (no kidding), the Old Gold Dancing Cigarette boxes (a classic!), Captain Midnight pushing Ovaltine (and a secret decoder ring),  Tang, and mint Life Buoy Soap.


Part II includes Turkish Taffy,  Jello (very un-pc by todays standard), Maypo Oatmeal, RAID, Ajax (Bum Bum . . .the foaming cleanser . . .), Yodels cakes, QT Tanning lotion, and the Doublemint Twins.


Part III brings us Maxwell House's percolator song, Hertz (with the couple flying into the car), Bucky Beaver for Ipana toothpaste, Vel Dish Soap, Ajax Laundry Detergent, Coca Cola, and Brylcream.



What these commercials may lack in production value or subtlety, they make up for with nostalgia.   If you are of a certain age, say over 45 or 50, you will probably remember most of these.

Younger people may simply marvel at how simplistic things were in the 1950's.


Either way, I'm betting you'll enjoy them.

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