The Alka-Seltzer Oral History and Documentation Project is a result of a one year effort supported, in part, by Miles Laboratories, Incorporated. Twenty-four oral history interviews and a variety of related materials were gathered to document Alka- Seltzer advertising, primarily from the mid-1950s to the 1980s. The project covers "Speedy" Alka-Seltzer, "Oh what a relief it is," "The Blahs," "Alka Seltzer on the rocks," and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" campaigns
Scope and Contents:
Oral histories with individuals associated with Alka-Seltzer and its advertising campaigns are at the core of the Alka-Seltzer Documenation and Oral History Project. Conducted by Smithsonian Institution staff, the oral histories primarily examine Alka-Seltzer's innovative and memorable print and television commercials. Abstracts exist for each interview.The collection also includes background information, archival materials from Miles Laboratories, Inc., television commercials, storyboards, and company publications.
The collection is arranged in 8 series.
Series 1: Research Files, circa 1930-1986
Series 2: Interviewee Files, 1986-1987
Series 3: Oral Histories, 1986-1987
Subseries 3.1: Original Interviews
Subseries 3.2: Reference Cassettes
Subseries 3.3: Master Audio Tapes
Series 4: Miles Archives Materials, 1931-1980
Subseries 4.1: Marketing Research and Sales Data
Subseries 4.2: Alka-Seltzer Storyboards and History (Photocopies)
Subseries 4:3: Miles Advertising History and Oral History Program(photocopies)
Series 5: Company Publications, 1960-1986
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1950-1985
Series 7: Alka-Seltzer Posters, 1967-1986
Series 8: Audiovisual Materials
Subseries 8.1: Original Masters
Subseries 8.2: Reference Videos
Biographical / Historical:
The Alka-Seltzer Oral History and Documentation Project is a result of a one year effort supported, in part, by Miles Laboratories, Incorporated Twenty-four oral history interviews and a variety of related materials were gathered to document Alka- Seltzer advertising, primarily from the mid-1950s to the 1980s. The project covers "Speedy" Alka-Seltzer, "Oh what a relief it is," "The Blahs," "Alka Seltzer on the rocks," and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" campaigns.
Miles Laboratories, Incorporated, the maker of Alka-Seltzer, and Wade Advertising of Chicago established a light-hearted advertising approach with the iconic puppet "Speedy", which had a tablet for a body and a smaller one for a hat. Speedy came to life through stop motion animation, a technique in which each of the puppet's movements was captured on a separate frame of film. The voice of Richard Beals made "Speedy" a distinctive character.
"Speedy" was a mainstay of Alka Seltzer advertising until 1964, when Miles,Incorporated took the account to Jack Tinker & Partners in New York. The agency's work for Alka-Seltzer embodied what came to be called advertising's "creative revolution," replacing the "talking heads" and "hard sell" of earlier advertising with humor, wit, and engaging storylines, even within the limits of a 30 second television spot. In 1969, the Alka Seltzer account went to Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, an agency which changed the look of print advertising during the early years of the "creative revolution." In 1970, Alka-Seltzer moved agencies to Wells, Rich, Greene, where the product's advertising came under the direction of Mary Wells Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence had worked on the Alka Seltzer account while at Tinker and continued Alka Seltzer's reputation for innovative and captivating work. In 1984 they shifted to McCann Erickson.
Collection donated by Miles Laboratories in 1988 and created by the Smithsonian Institution in 1986 and 1987.
Researchers may use reference copies only. The interview with Charles Chaplin is restricted and may not be copied or quoted until his death.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.