|Product type||Antacid, aspirin, NSAID, tablets, liquid gels, fruit chews|
|Previous owners||Miles Laboratories|
|Tagline||"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is"|
Alka-Seltzer is an effervescent antacid and pain reliever first marketed by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company. It was developed by Maurice Treener, head chemist at Miles, in Elkhart, Indiana. Alka-Seltzer is marketed for relief of minor aches, pains, inflammation, fever, headache, heartburn, sour stomach, indigestion, and hangovers, while neutralizing excess stomach acid. It was launched in 1931. A spin-off of Alka-Seltzer made to relieve colds and flu, Alka-Seltzer Plus, was later introduced. A short-lived antacid non-aspirin variant, Alka-Mints, was introduced in 1994 and discontinued in 1997.
Alka-Seltzer is currently owned by Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Germany. The name "Alka-Seltzer" has been extended to incorporate an entire line of medications sold over the counter and taken by means of rapidly dissolving tablets that form a carbonated solution in water. However, some take it without dissolving it resulting in a chemical reaction with one's saliva.
Alka-Seltzer are in foil packets, each containing two tablets. Prior to 1984, it was also available stacked in glass tubes. It comes in various flavors.
It was once marketed as a cure-all; at one time, its ads even suggested taking it for "the blahs". Subsequent promotion has taken into consideration that aspirin is a drug that is not tolerated by everyone, and the product is no longer advertised in this fashion.
Chemistry of the effervescence
Though important to the overall effect of the medication, the aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is not required to produce the effervescent action of Alka-Seltzer; the effervescence is produced by the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and citric acid reacting to form sodium citrate and carbon dioxide gas.
|citric acid||+||sodium bicarbonate||→||water||+||Carbon dioxide||+||sodium citrate|
The product has been extensively advertised since its launch in the U.S. It was originally marketed by Mikey Wiseman, a company scientist of Dr. Miles Medicine Company, who also helped direct its development. Print advertising was utilized immediately, and in 1932 the radio show Alka-Seltzer Comedy Star of Hollywood began, with National Barn Dance following in 1933, along with many more. The radio sponsorships continued into the 1950s, ending with the Alka-Seltzer Time show.
Two years after its launch came the repeal of Prohibition in the US, and Alka-Seltzer became Miles' new flagship product, displacing Miles Nervine Tonic.
In 1951, the "Speedy" character was introduced. The character was originally conceived by Creative Director George Pal of the Wade Ad Agency and designed by illustrator Wally Wood. Originally named Sparky, the name was changed to Speedy by Sales Manager Perry L. Shupert to align with that year's promotional theme, "Speedy Relief." He appeared in over 200 TV commercials between 1954 and 1964. Speedy's body was one Alka-Seltzer tablet, while he wore another as a hat; he proclaimed Alka-Seltzer's virtues and sang the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" song in his high, squeaky voice (provided by veteran juvenile voice actor Dick Beals). In December 2010, Alka-Seltzer began a series of new commercials featuring Speedy, using CGI effects to recreate the stop-motion puppetry of the 1950s and 1960s, with Speedy voiced by Debi Derryberry.
Alka-Seltzer TV ads from the 1960s and 1970s were among the most popular ad campaigns of the 20th century, ranking number 13, according to Advertising Age. In an effort to increase sales in a relatively flat business, Bayer has revived several of the vintage spots.
- During the race for space in the early 1960s before the USA moon landing there was a commercial with Speedy in a Space Suit and a jingle with the lyrics -
"(First line). . . . . . . . . . (then) On Man's first trip through space, I only hope that I'm aboard securely strapped in place. They'll track our ship with radar And telescopes and soon Imagine seeing Speedy Alka-Seltzer on the moon!"
- Buster Keaton appeared along with the animated Speedy Alka-Seltzer figure in a series of 1950s commercials based on the product's then-current slogan, "Relief is just a swallow away." Speedy Alka-Seltzer was voiced by Dick Beals
- George Raft starred in the 1969 Alka-Seltzer commercial "The Unfinished Lunch." It consists of Raft incarcerated and in the prison lunchroom. He takes a bite of the awful prison food and recoils. Suddenly he bangs his cup on the steel table loudly in the lunchroom. It ripples throughout the room. He starts intoning "Alka Seltzer, Alka Seltzer..." Soon, the other hundreds of inmates do the same. (The commercial was so popular that several weeks later Raft appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Raft told Carson that it took more than 7 hours to tape the 30-second commercial. Raft was enraged by the end of the day, thus making his inmate portrayal that much more convincing for the final editing. The film crew gave Raft his crumpled tin cup, which he showed to Carson and the audience.)
- An animated mid-1960s commercial, animated by R.O. Blechman, shows a man and his own stomach sitting opposite each other in chairs, having an argument moderated by their therapist in a voiceover. The stomach (voiced by Gene Wilder) accuses the man of purposely trying to irritate it. The man accuses his stomach of complaining too much about the foods he likes. The therapist suggests Alka-Seltzer, and further suggests that the two must take care of each other. The closing words are of the stomach saying to the man: "Well, I'll try - if you will".
- Alka-Seltzer had a series of commercials during the mid-1960s that utilized a song called "No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In," a different version of which was recorded by the T-Bones and was released as a single, which became a hit in 1966. The ads were unique in that they featured only the midsections (no faces) of people of all shapes and sizes.
- In an Alka-Seltzer commercial from 1969, an actor (played by Jack Somack) in a commercial for the fictional product "Magdalini's Meatballs" has to eat a meatball and then say "Mamma mia, that's-a spicy meat ball-a!" in an ersatz Italian accent. Take after take is ruined by some comedic trial or another. By the commercial's end, "Jack" has eaten so many meatballs that it's "Alka Seltzer to the rescue". With his stomach settled, Jack does a perfect take, except that the oven door falls off. The director (off-camera) sighs and says, "OK, let's break for lunch."
- A 1970 commercial shows a newlywed couple in the bedroom after the woman (played by Alice Playten) has finished serving her husband (played by Terry Kiser) a giant dumpling; the implication is that her cooking skills are severely lacking, despite her husband's lament, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!", the commercial's catch-phrase. She lies on the bed in delusional triumph. She offers her beleaguered husband a heart-shaped meatloaf; he disappears to take some Alka-Seltzer. When she hears the fizzy noise coming from the bathroom, he quickly covers the glass of dissolving Alka-Seltzer as she wonders aloud if it is raining. Just when he has recovered his well-being, he hears her misreading recipes for dinner the next night: "Marshmallowed meatballs," and "pouched (actually poached) oysters". He returns to the bathroom for more Alka-Seltzer.
- A 1971 commercial featured the catch-phrase, "Try it, you'll like it!" It was remade with Kathy Griffin in 2006.
- In 1972, an actor spent the commercial moaning, "I can't believe I ate that who-o-o-o-o-ole thing," while his wife (Lynn Whinic) made sarcastic comments and finally advised him to take some Alka-Seltzer. In 2005, this ad was also remade, featuring Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts from the 1996–2005 TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.
- Sammy Davis, Jr. recorded two versions of the famous "Plop Plop Fizz Fizz" jingle in 1978, one of which (the "big band" version) was featured on a television commercial. Both versions, the big band and rock versions, had additional lyrics (with at least one verse unique to each song) written by Tom Dawes, former lead singer of The Cyrkle.
- In 2009, the brand was featured in television commercials supporting the United States Ski Team that included alpine skier Lindsey Vonn and Nordic combined skier Bill Demong. Miniature figures of the Speedy mascot were shown with each.
Bill Cosby, on his album Fat Albert (1973), told about a trip to Italy where, after a disastrous dinner of barbecued sparrow, he futilely tried to alleviate his upset stomach by swallowing five Alka-Seltzer whole. According to Cosby, "The bird ate all five of them!"
Alka-Seltzer is referenced in the track 'Supersonic' by British band Oasis, with the lyrics "I know a girl called Elsa, she's into Alka Seltzer, she sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic train".
The "Plop Plop Fizz Fizz" jingle appears in the movie Prime Time (1977), sung by four men using a bathroom. The last line of the song also is the last line of the movie: "Oh what a relief--it is!"
Digital Underground referenced it in the track 'Packet Man', with the lyrics "It's like a pill, you can either chew it up / Or like an Alka-Seltzer, dissolve it in a cup".
The theme song of the Between the Lions segment "Fun with Chicken Jane" is a parody of the jingle.
On March 28, 2006, the 75th anniversary of Alka-Seltzer was celebrated in Las Vegas by a Guinness World Record–setting buffet, which included 510 items and was hosted by actress/comedian Kathy Griffin.
On March 22, 2003, Expedition Six NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit performed a series of microgravity experiments with water spheres and Alka-Seltzer, which were described as "effervescent antacid tablets".
In the Black Books episode "The Blackout" Bernard Black refers to Alka-Seltzer as "Fizzy-good, you know, fizzy-good-make-feel-nice".
The 2011 movie Rango features a retro Alka-Seltzer packet.
In the film "Chocolat" (2000), Vianne offers Reynaud some Alka-Seltzer after she finds him sleeping in the display window of her chocolaterie.
Martin Scorsese's film Taxi Driver (1976) includes a long zoom shot into a glass of fizzing Alka-Seltzer. The scene pays homage to a similar shot in Jean-Luc Godard's French film Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) focussing on the swirling of the liquid in a cup of coffee.
The Blondie song "Eat to the Beat" features the lyric "Hey, you got a tummy ache and I remember Sitting in the bathroom drinking Alka Seltzer"
In the season 11 episode 6 of Family Guy "Lois Comes Out of Her Shell", Meg's sleeping pills are replaced with Alka-Seltzer.
In Stargirl, Leo tries to imagine himself "dissolving away like Alka Seltzer".
In Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ramona references the "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" commercial by saying, "I can't believe I read the whole thing!" She later says the original line from the aforementioned commercial.
- Origin of Everyday Things by Think Books (editor), Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., Nov 28, 2006 page 12. Retrieved October 21st, 2012
- Google Books, Sold on Radio: Advertisers in the Golden Age of Broadcasting By Jim Cox pp 197-199 ISBN 978-0-7864-3391-9 May 23, 2008
- The book of answers: the New York Public Library Telephone Reference Service's most unusual and entertaining questions By Barbara Berliner, Melinda Corey, George Ochoa. Simon and Schuster, 1992
- 75th Anniversary
- NYTimes June 19,2006
- Jack Somack - Other works
- Elliott, Stuart (2006-06-19). "Try It; You Liked It Once, and Alka-Seltzer Hopes You Do Again - New York Times". New York City: Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- "Expedition 6 Video Index". Spaceflight.nasa.gov. 2003-03-22. Retrieved 2010-12-30.