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Ipana // was the name of a popular toothpaste product manufactured by Bristol-Myers Company. The wintergreen flavored toothpaste (0.243% sodium fluoride was its active ingredient) reached its peak market penetration during the 1950s in North America. Marketing of Ipana used a Disney-created mascot named Bucky Beaver in the 1950s.
Introduction and early popularity
Ipana was first introduced in 1901 by the Bristol-Myers Company of New York. Ipana was an early and large sponsor on United States radio broadcasts starting in 1923 with the program The Ipana Troubadors. There was a series of popular records issued on Columbia as Ipana Troubadours from 1925 through 1931. Sam Lanin was the leader and contractor of the studio group. In the 1950s, Bristol-Myers saturated women's periodicals with a broad-based monthly ad placement campaign for Ipana.
Magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, True Stories, and McCall's were targeted to cover the broad range of women's interests; however, the campaign all but ignored men's magazines, and this weakened the brand by leaning perceptions that Ipana was a product for women and children.
Brand decline and withdrawal
Sales of Ipana declined throughout the 1960s. By the early 1970s, due to:
- increased marketing efforts from Bristol-Myers competitors Procter & Gamble, Colgate, and others,
- the increase in the popularity of color television, in whose programming Bristol-Myers was uninterested in investing,
- and the company's discovery that manufacturing pharmaceuticals was more lucrative than such an investment,
Bristol-Myers withdrew many of its basic care products, including Ipana, from the market. By the late 1970s, Ipana had been discontinued entirely in the United States, but it was still being sold elsewhere in the world.
Ipana was never submitted to the American Dental Association's Council on Dental Therapeutics for possible acceptance by the ADA as an effective decay-fighting dentifrice.
In 1986, a new gel version of Ipana containing two fluorides was introduced in Turkey. In 2005, River West Brands, a Chicago-based brand revitalization company, re-introduced Ipana into the U.S. marketplace. At present, the Ipana brand is a leading toothpaste in Turkey.
River West Brands divested itself of Ipana in October 2009. River West sold the Ipana brand and related IP to Maxill Inc. of Canada. Maxill, one of the top three selling toothbrush makers in Canada, brought Ipana back to life in early 2011 as a "retro brand" in the professional dental market, where Maxill had come to dominate the oral hygiene category.
Bucky Beaver (voiced by Jimmie Dodd) was the marketing icon and mascot of Ipana commercials from the 1950s. Bucky Beaver's slogan was "Brusha... Brusha... Brusha. Get the New Ipana - it's dandy for your teeth!" Mr. Decay Germ was the villain in the Ipana Toothpaste commercials. In the commercials, Bucky Beaver told him, "Mr. Decay Germ, stay away from me. I'm sick and tired of cavities. Go bother someone else now."
In popular culture
Under the name Frances Westcott, Frances Bergen, wife of the famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and mother of actress Candice Bergen, worked for the influential Powers Modelling Agency and her face appeared as "the Ipana Girl" in toothpaste ads in magazines.
Before becoming a revolutionary beat poet and counterculture icon, Allen Ginsberg worked on the "Brusha, brusha, brusha" campaign as a market researcher. The jingle is referenced in a scene in the 1978 film version of the musical Grease, and subsequently appeared in a live televised version, for which the production acquired the performance rights.
- European New Product Report. (November 21, 1986) "Gel formulation of Ipana toothpaste introduced in Turkey."
- Globe and Mail (October 18, 2006) Frances Bergen, Actress and Homemaker: 1922-2006. Section: Obituaries; Page S9.
- Watson, Steven, "The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-1960," Pantheon Books, 1995, p.119.
- Rich, Katey (January 29, 2016). "What Grease: Live Will Do That No Live TV Musical Has Done Before". Vanity fair. Condé Nast.
- LeBrun, Fred. (January 14, 1987) Times Union Name that Beaver. Section: Local; Page B1.
- Hartill, Lane. (January 14, 1999) K. Smith of Malden, Mass. Asks, Whatever happened to Ipana Toothpaste? Section: The Home Forum. Page 23.
- Cadenhead, Rogers. (March 31, 1999) New Jersey Record In search of Ipana toothpaste. Section: Your time; Page 5.
- Wallace, David. (August 6, 2004) Delta Farm Press. Industrious beavers have friends and detractors. Volume 61; Issue 32; Page 16.
- Stein, Betty E. (February 14, 2005) The News-Sentinel Uncovering the fates of never-forgotten brands. Section: A; Page A8