Communal Language: Ads

There’s a toy I remember from when I was very small, with a ad that sometimes resurfaces from the depths and starts ear-worming me. The toy, Odd Ogg, was… well, kind of stupid. You bowled plastic balls at Odd Ogg and he would spit them out.

What’s memorable to me was the jingle. I have roamed the internet trying to find a video of the ad itself, to no avail. But it started out something like “Odd Ogg, Odd Ogg, half turtle and half frog…” I’m sure there were more lyrics, but I don’t remember ’em and I can’t find them, so you’ll just have to trust me on this. Unless, of course, you remember this was muddily as I do.

Think of the ads that insinuated themselves into your brain, like a commercial version of an ear worm.For some of us of a certain age, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” (irate housewife responding to her aged mother peering into a pot and asking “don’t you think it needs a little more salt?”–the product was Anacin, the problem it solved was a headache that made our heroine snap at her intrusive parent) rings a bell. For others, “Where’s the beef,” immortalized by Walter Mondale during a presidential debate (some of you may remember Walter Mondale, too). Advertisements are meant to be remembered, so that when you go to the store you reach, as if unstoppably, for the Anacin or the weird toy that looks like a demented reptile.

I gave up eating sugared cereal a couple of decades ago, but I still superstitiously believe that Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are “Grrrreat!” After all, a cartoon tiger told me so. I usually get my Chinese food fix at Alice’s on Sanchez Street, but I cannot quite forget that “La Choy makes Chinese food swing American.” Whatever that means. And I’m delighted that we no longer have to sit through tobacco commercials, if only because it means that no one is exhorting the public to “show us you Lark!” or explaining that “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

Not all of those made it into my everyday language. “Mother, please,” did, as did “You’re soaking in it!*” “Ring around the collar,” and “The white tornado” did too. It’s really impressive, for someone as lackadaisical regarding household chores as I am, how many of the phrases that stuck with me are about cleaning. For my husband, for some reason, “Harriet, the Ajax turned blue!” is what he says whenever he encounters some household occurrence that is more in my sphere than his.  And there are the beauty products (“Does she or doesn’t she?” To which the answer is always “Only her hairdresser knows for sure,” regardless of whether the underlying question is “does she intend to come downstairs?” or “does she have the screwdriver?”). And miscellaneous slogans like “We try harder,” in which Avis confronted their number two status right behind Hertz in the rental car market. I use that one a lot.

Now, of course, my children occasionally echo these slogans from ads they’ve never seen, for products they’ve never heard of. I did the same thing with a few of the radio and magazine slogans my parents used. I’m not sure if any of them have made it into the next generation, and probably they don’t need to do so. But I sometimes think that this is the stuff of which real culture is made: the lingua franca of everyday conversations, as famous as “Castoria, babies cry for it.”

Only one question: is there a way to back them off my internal hard drive? How about you: what commercial revenants find their way into your daily conversations?

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About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books

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Communal Language: Ads — 9 Comments

  1. I have no memory at all of Odd Ogg, but I can tell you that the Burger Chef jingle about what 15 cents can buy you at Burger Chef will be with me until the end. They played it to death in our radio market.

    The “You deserve a break today” sticks, too–Barry Manilow was a master jingle writer before he took pop music by storm. I remember the elderly “Where’s the Beef?” woman with her distinctive voice. But was that Wendy’s or another chain? And yes–cartoon tigers and Singing Raisins who became holiday jazz sensations may linger!

    • Wendy’s. That commercial gave that woman a monetary bonus she was able to use! And her name was Clara.

      • Clara Peller. She made a young fortune. (We have a friend who said “Hefty Hefty Hefty” once, thirty years ago, and was able to buy a NYC co-op apartment and put his kids through college. Residuals are not to be mocked.

        • I am so glad to hear that. I know a neighbor two blocks down did some cheerleading in a dog food commercial, and put herself through college on it. So residuals are a Real Thing.

          Clara. That was it. And her handmaidens peering around her. An awesome commercial and she deserved every cent she was paid. (So did the deep voice of Hefty. Distinctive voices that make a commercial stand out deserve note and $$$. Tom Bodett remains Motel 6 although not sure they deserve him.)

  2. Bucky Beaver! Robin Hound! The SOS pad rabbit!

    Ask VJ to do something, and if he’s busy, he says, “After this . . .” as if he were a commercial. They get’em young these days.

  3. I still look at myself in the mirror and say, “Who am I? Where am I? Why did I cut my hair, I look like a squirrel!”

    Extra points if you know what the commercial was for.