CLASSIC ANIMATED ADVERTISING
January 4, 2014 posted by Mike Kazaleh

“Plop-Plop Fizz-Fizz”: Animated Alka-Seltzer Ads

blechman-stomach

Seldom has there been a product that had the kind of savvy marketing that Alka-Seltzer has had. So many of their slogans have entered the American lexicon, like “Try it you’ll like it!”, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” – and the ever popular “Mama mia! ‘Atsa some spicy meatball!

I can’t say that I’ve ever taken Alka-Seltzer before so I couldn’t tell you if the stuff actually works or not. As a kid though, Alka-Seltzer was always useful for playing stupid pranks. Putting a couple of tablets onto your tongue and then drinking a glass of water was always good for a few laughs (Just remember to go outside before trying that one, gang.)

Alka-Seltzer ads are often live-action, but they’ve successfully used animation as well, notably those with their famous stop-motion mascot, Speedy Alka-Seltzer. Let’s look at a few memorable spots…

Speedy and Buster

What better way to usher in the new year than with a spot featuring Buster Keaton?

Buster and Speedy also did a print campaign as well…

Buster-speedy-600

Australian Speedy

For discomfort down under, Australia had Alka-Seltzer too. They even had their own Speedy, although he was done in cel animation rather that stop-motion.



Robot

Interesting combination of stop-motion and cel animation here. This ad cleverly spoofs the commercials for the many over the counter head and stomach drugs that were filling the airwaves at the time. (Sorry, but the very beginning of this spot has gone missing somehow.)



The Blahs

Produced by Elektra Films and designed by illustrator William Steig. Gene Wilder narrates. A bona fide classic!



Man Arguing with Stomach

One of the most famous TV spots of all time – also featuring the voice Gene Wilder. This time designed by Bob Blechman.



P.S. “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz”, even Little Audrey and Melvin got into the act!

AudreyMelvin-Meatballs

11 Comments

  • I always loved those stop-motion ads when I was a kid, and have wondered who was responsible for them. The voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer is familiar, but I can’t place it.

    Alka-Seltzer, by the way, tastes like club soda with an aspirin in it.

  • The thing about the Steig version of the ad: it’s very soft-sell, but at the same time quite effective. I would agree with your assessment of it as a classic. While the Blechman ad has gotten much more press (and it is quite witty), in some ways, I prefer the Steig ad.

    It was happy that at some level, Keaton re-achieved success late in his career. The gag with the old boy marching in a morning suit to produce a box of A-S under his topper is a good sight gag.

    One of the later Bugs-Tasmanian Devil shorts also spoofed the same kind of over-the-counter drug ads; this was at the point where Bugs wheels in a TV and places it in front of the greedyguts. Good writing on the robot commercial; it spoofs, without jabbing hard.

  • Didn’t Cayard’s studio do the last two ads?

  • Not only did Alka-Seltzer score with their animated ads, they also ended up with a Top 40 hit from another, with the music from the 60-second spot “No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In“. The T-Bones did the song, and it’s available for download on iTunes and elsewhere.

    Not all their ads were boffo, though — they tried to recapture the success of the “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” ad of the early 1970s by trying to put the catch-phase “Do yourself a favor (take some Alka-Seltzer)” into the American lexicon right after that. It was forced and far less successful, but they would bounce back with the “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ad campaign right after that.

  • Love this! Forgot about the Steig – excellent work.
    Australian Speedy is only partly animated: his head and arms are cel, but the rest of him is a photo, perhaps part of the live-action film. Animation would have been drawn onto the live stills.
    The Robot spot uses similar techniques – I remember this as a swipe against Pepto Bismol ads, which used a diagram of the stomach being “coated” for relief.
    Alka-Seltzer always made me throw up – immediately – I suppose that’s one way to get “relief”!

    • Australian Speedy is only partly animated: his head and arms are cel, but the rest of him is a photo, perhaps part of the live-action film. Animation would have been drawn onto the live stills.

      Wouldn’t surprise me if it was more a matter of trying to re-purpose what the American guys did back home while being on a tight budget as it was. It was nice Speedy got elsewhere in the world then. Some familiar products of yesteryear like Pepsodent had a popular jingle that was also heard in places like the UK and Australia.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FpF-DU0Iew (USA, 1958)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EfVYvHT84c (Austraila, 1964)

  • Remembering another celebrity commercial, this would’ve been around the same time as the “spicy meatball” spot…a spoof of prison movies with George Raft and other Hollywood thug types leading a riot in the mess hall by slamming their tin cups on the table in rhythm while chanting “ALKA-SELTZER!! ALKA-SELTZER!! ALKA-SELTZER!!”, which spread thru the entire hall.

  • Take a look at Buster Keaton’s walk. Just the right amount of studied ‘natural’ bounce, to visually put over not only that he’s ambulatory but to rivet the audience’s attention to his every move, right up until he delivers his gag payoff. This is the sort of thing that the first generation of cartoon animators studied until they appropriated the basics of silent comedy into the burgeoning technique of animated film. Like all cinematic geniuses, Buster makes it look so easy.

  • Another neat bit of Alka-Seltzer marketing genius, only this one’s non-animated:

    Up ’til the 1960s, the instructions on a box of Alka-Seltzer said to use ONE table. But when the company’s sales flat-lined, the folks in marketing had an idea: Tell customers to use TWO tablets — whether they needed to or not! After all, two tablets wasn’t dangerous, just wholly unnecessary. Unfortunately, Alka-Seltzer’s ads had never said anything about taking two tablets, and the company didn’t think they could get away with simply telling people to double their dosage. But, wait — what if they SANG it, instead? Enter: “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

    The rest — as you’ve pointed out — is advertising history!

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