Fizzy Pain Reliever
Provides Own Sound Effects
your tablets get down to 4…..
that’s the time to buy some more.”
-- Gene Baker
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
Saturday, September 30, 1933, listeners who tuned into the network radio
debut of NBC(Blue’s) ALKA-SELTZER NATIONAL BARN
DANCE heard some good things about the program’s sponsor, an
unusual and strange product called Alka-Seltzer.
The listeners who used it found out this product wasn’t your everyday pain
reliever. Instead of taking 1or 2
tablets and washing them down with a glass of water, 2 Alka-Seltzer
tablets were plopped directly INTO the glass of water.
Once the tablets were dissolved, a typical human who was suffering from
minor aches and pains could drink it. Although
it took some getting used to, the people took announcer Jack Holden’s advice
and tried Alka-Seltzer for any minor ailment they may have.
To make a long story short, the network debut of both program and sponsor
were both successful--- and the era of Alka-Seltzer advertising
Unlike other radio sponsors, Alka-Seltzer
provided its own sound effects. Instead
of using fancy gadgets to make noise, all the sound effects man had to do was to
hold a glass of water next to the microphone; drop 2 Alka-Seltzer
tablets into that glass of water; and the listeners heard a refreshing fizzing
sound. The announcer said that
fizzing sound meant Alka-Seltzer was ready to go to work.
its introduction to network radio, Alka-Seltzer sales increased
dramatically, and the product became a leading brand of pain reliever.
It was also a sought after radio sponsor. With the popularity of the ALKA-SELTZER NATIONAL BARN
DANCE, a spin off program was created featuring one of the program’s
regular characters. The program, UNCLE
EZRA’S RADIO STATION, starred Pat Barrett as Uncle Ezra, the operator
of E-Z-R-A, a “powerful 5 watter” radio station in the town of
Rosedale. The program was
originally heard on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings at 7:15 PM on NBC’s
Red Network. Of course, since
it was an ALKA-SELTZER NATIONAL BARN DANCE spin off,
Alka-Seltzer was the sponsor.
The program, in this format, enjoyed a 4+ year run on the air.
As you might have already
noticed, the 2 programs I’ve mentioned had a rural touch to them--- and
successfully at that! To keep the
hot streak going, Alka-Seltzer sponsored a third radio program
with a rural background. The only
difference, this program was already established on network radio.
On Monday, September 29, 1941, Alka-Seltzer began
sponsorship of the popular serial LUM & ABNER over
NBC’s Blue Network. The
adventures of Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody enjoyed a 7 year run on the air
over NBC(Blue), Blue (renamed ABC), and finally CBS.
had a knack of sponsoring popular radio programs during the golden age.
It was also the sponsor of THE QUIZ KIDS.
Although this program doesn’t have a rural theme as the others I have
already mentioned, there is a connection from the ALKA-SELTZER NATIONAL
BARN DANCE. Joe
Kelly, who was the M.C. of the ASNBD, was also the M.C. of THE
QUIZ KIDS. For
music lovers (and maybe for music haters), Alka-Seltzer sponsored
ALEC TEMPLETON TIME on NBC(Red). On this entertaining program, Alec Templeton combined
classical music with his own unique brand of humor.
During the daytime and early
evening, Alka-Seltzer sponsored QUEEN FOR A DAY on
the Mutual Network; the second version of HILLTOP HOUSE on
and ONE MAN’S FAMILY on NBC.
All had respectful runs on the air.
all know of the classic and clever advertising for Alka-Seltzer on
television. Although the
commercials weren’t necessarily humorous during radio’s golden age, Alka-Seltzer
had an array of popular slogans--- and of course, the sound of it fizzing in a
glass of water.
Over the span of
radio’s golden age, listeners heard slogans like, “Listen To The Fizz”,
”There’s Nothing Quite Like Alka-Seltzer”, “Favorite Of So Many
For Relief That Does So Much”, and “Be Wise, Alkalize With Alka-Seltzer.”
On the ALKA-SELTZER NATIONAL BARN DANCE, the program
opened with “Alka-Seltzer For Headache, Alka-Seltzer For Acid
Indigestion, Alka-Seltzer For Colds….. Ask Your Druggist For Alka-Seltzer.”
This introduction informed the listeners that Alka-Seltzer
was an all-purpose pain reliever. Not
only could Alka-Seltzer be used for relieving a headache, it was
also effective for easing the aches and pains of a cold or flu, and to soothe
excess acidity in the stomach after the sufferer went a little overboard with
eating or drinking. For those
people who had a blah feeling in the morning, a sparkling glass of Alka-Seltzer
instantly picked up their spirits.
There were also friendly
reminders for the radio listeners on when to buy more Alka-Seltzer.
Gene Baker, LUM & ABNER’s announcer, said it this
way: “When Your Tablets Get Down To 4, That’s The Time To Buy Some
More.” The main objective
here was to remind the listeners never to run out of Alka-Seltzer.
Considering that human beings were (are) human, it was too easy to put it
off until the bottle was empty--- but it also had the potential of someone who
needed Alka-Seltzer desperately at that very moment--- and there
was nothing but an empty bottle! The
empty bottle may say Alka-Seltzer on the label, but it will not
fizz when placed in a glass of water. What
you end up with is a bottle in a glass of water--- and nothing more!!
To avoid this problem, Alka-Seltzer launched another
reminder to the listeners when it had to be purchased, buy 2 packages instead of
1. The second package was like a
spare tire for a car--- it wasn’t needed at that moment, but it was nice to
know it was there. With this method
of keeping an extra package on hand, the chances were slim to none of running
out of Alka-Seltzer--- especially when it was needed the most.
was such a popular product, other Miles Laboratories products
also shared in on that success. As
an added sponsor, the listeners heard about One A Day B Complex Vitamin
Capsules and One A Day Multiple Vitamins,
the potent vitamins that when taken once a day and provided the minimum daily
requirement of vitamins. Nervine
was a product that helped calm down nerves.
It was made in liquid form and effervescent tablets--- the same type of
effervescence Alka-Seltzer made famous. When anti-histamines became popular, the people were seeing
red--- the red boxes of Tabcin, that is!
Tabcin was the “Bright Red Tablets In The Bright Red
Box” for easing the discomforts of colds.
Rounding out this list was Bactine, an antiseptic
liquid/germicide that was used for first aid and disinfecting.
was an instant success story. When television became the dominant means of communication,
the torch was passed from the slogans on radio to television, where a character
named “Speedy Alka-Seltzer” became the commercial spokesman.
Speedy continued the tradition of selling a popular product that
people in 1933 thought was a little unusual.