The history of Alka Seltzer begins in Elkhart, IN, where the formula was developed in Miles Laboratories in 1931. The advertising campaign for the "new health drink" was successful and "before World War II, Miles was spending $1 million to $1.5 million a year on network radio, most of it on Alka Seltzer. In 1939, the company was No. 16 among radio advertisers. But the 1950s, Alka-Seltzer was contributing [to] the majority of Miles' earnings and received in turn the majority of its growing advertising budget" (AdAge, Sept. 2003). During this time, in 1954, Alka Seltzer introduced its mascot, Speedy, and "using a six-inch high puppet and stop-motion animation, the TV ads bring Speedy to life, making him sing and dance 'Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is'" (HealthCentral, Feb. 2013).
The ads in the IULMIA collections do not contain any of Speedy-- though Miles did commission several sock puppet and stop motion reels from Frink Studios-- however, classic 1950s gendered social guidance is represented in these ads. Girls fretting about their first dates, secretaries feeling fatigued after a day of typing, housewives, women clothes shopping, men wolf whistling at their dates, and masculine executives-- Alka Seltzer employed all of these tropes in their ads, which by the 1970s were losing more money than they were making.
[Click images to watch film]