Puppet Pitchman

19XX Alka-Seltzer advertisement

The Dr. Miles Medical Company faced tough competition when it introduced its pain-relieving antacid, Alka-Seltzer, in 1931. The market leader was a product called Bromo-Seltzer, which had been on the market since the 1890s. For years, both Alka-Seltzer and Bromo-Seltzer ads appeared in the Post, using a dry, factual approach to tell how their product offered relief for colds, indigestion, headaches, or, as was delicately hinted, hangovers.

Then, in 1951, Alka-Seltzer introduced a new spokesman: a puppet character named Speedy, named for the product’s new “speedy relief” campaign slogan. The puppet had an Alka-Seltzer tablet for its body and wore another tablet as a hat. Not long after appearing in magazines, an animated version of Speedy started showing up in television ads. For years, Americans heard his high, nasal voice singing, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is!”

The original Speedy puppet was lost en route to the Philippines in 1971 and discovered five years later in an Australian warehouse. For a while, the popular puppet was insured for $100,000; today, it is stored in a vault in a Beverly Hills bank.