|Product type||Antacid, aspirin, NSAID, tablets, liquid gels, fruit chews|
|Previous owners||Miles Laboratories|
|Tagline||"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz"|
Alka-Seltzer is an effervescent antacid and pain reliever first marketed by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company of Elkhart, Indiana, United States. It was developed by head chemist Maurice Treneer. Alka-Seltzer is marketed for relief of minor aches, pains, inflammation, fever, headache, heartburn, stomachache, 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. Another non-aspirin-based variant, Alka-Seltzer Gold, was later released.
Since 1978 Alka-Seltzer has been 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.
The brand is sold in North and Central America (and the Caribbean), as well in Asia-Pacific. In the 1980s and 1990s Bayer attempted to introduce the brand in Europe and South America with little success, withdrawing them after a few years.
Alka-Seltzer contains three active ingredients; aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) (ASA), sodium bicarbonate, and anhydrous citric acid. The aspirin is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, and the sodium hydrogen carbonate and citric acid form an antacid by their effervescent reaction with water.
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 used 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 commercial artist Bob Watkins. 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." Speedy appeared in over 200 TV commercials between 1954 and 1964. His body was one Alka-Seltzer tablet, while he wore another as a hat. In his original spots he sang "Relief is just a swallow away"; in his 1978 revival he proclaimed Alka-Seltzer's virtues and sang the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is" song in his high, squeaky voice (provided by veteran juvenile voice actor Dick Beals). In the early 1960s a commercial showing two tablets dropping into a glass of water instead of the usual one caused sales to double. 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.
US TV commercials
Alka-Seltzer TV ads from the 1960s and 1970s in the US were among the most popular of the 20th century, ranking number 13, according to Advertising Age. 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
"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. Speedy was revived for one of the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" song spots in 1978.
- 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 prison food and recoils. Suddenly he bangs his cup on the steel table. 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 used a song called "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)." A different version 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. A version of this ad can be seen briefly in the 1988 motion picture The In Crowd, immediately before the movie's first live broadcast of the fictitious "Perry Parker's Dance Party."
- 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-a ball-a!" in an ersatz Italian accent. Take after take is ruined by some comedic trial or another (comedian Ronny Graham dropping the clapperboard). 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 that 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," ,"medium salad snails and "pouched (actually poached) oysters". He returns to the bathroom for more Alka-Seltzer. The catch-phrase, Howie Cohen told The Los Angeles Times, was inspired when he ate too much of the food at a London commercial shoot because "I am a nice Jewish kid from the Bronx, so I ate everything," and when he told his wife "I can't believe I ate the whole thing", she said, "There's your next Alka-Seltzer commercial."
- A 1971 commercial featured another catch-phrase from Cohen (along with Bob Pasqualina), "Try it, you'll like it!" It was remade with Kathy Griffin in 2006.
- In 1972, an actor (Milt Moss) 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 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 who wrote the original jingle.
- 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.
- 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
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- Peterson, Alison J (2 November 2007). "Thomas Dawes, Musician and Jingle Writer, Dies at 64". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
- ALKA-SELTZER VINTAGE TELEVISION COMMERCIAL "Pop Pop Fizz Fizz". YouTube. 3 February 2012.
- "Jack Somack - Other works". IMDb.
- "Commercials: Alka Seltzer and Spicy Meatballs". triviafrog.com.
- Crain, Rance (2015-03-02). "For This Industry Veteran, The Past Was Great, But The Future's More Exciting". Advertising Age. 86 (4).
- 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.