Intercontinental Discourse on Cheery 1960s Commercials

After two walls of text I owe you some light entertainment.

I have learned from the comments on this post that the song has been ingrained in the minds of American children in the 1960s and 1970s. True, I hear it in my dreams now, too. It’s Slinky, It’s Slinky! For fun it’s the best of the toys …

This is a service to my non-US and non-CA readers. Go indulge in this very retro black and white version.

Mind the delayed motions of the animals’ hindquarters (and their funny voices). I believe they give prove of the slinky’s secret as discussed in these comments: The bottom of the falling slinky needs some time to notice that the top had been released. In a similar way, the rear parts need time to notice that the animal has been pushed.

When walking down a stair, the segment of slinky that touches the next step of the staircase first needs to wait quite a while until it starts moving up again – in contrast to jumping compression spring or a rubber ball.

But the most important question to me was:

Which 1970s ad has influenced us over here in middle Europe?

The first one that came to my mind was hard to find although many people seem to search the internet  – posting heartbreaking requests: Does somebody have this video? I would pay any price!

So this is it: In German, very short, probably recorded by filming the TV version on a phone. It is an ad for detergents – I believe you get the message, the language barrier notwithstanding. It is about people being very happy with their clean and soft laundry, but – and this was maybe revolutionary: No Happy Housewife in this commercial, but little cartoon characters inhabiting your laundry.

These creatures have a legendary name – a literal translation would be: The Fabric Charmers. This name and this jingle has been ingrained to the brains of German speaking children. I have found websites featuring the large version fluffy plush version of those – and owners still proud of them.

Though these are talking creatures, just as the slinky animals, their voices are more cartoon-y. The average frequency (pitch) have been increased – most likely by using a higher play back rate than recording rate, not by letting the singers inhale helium.

Today little creatures cannot be found in the microstructure of the laundry anymore. Instead, we see ads of tiny monsters living in toilets on TV, especially under the brim. These monsters seem to have been created from material found in Pixar Studios’ dustbin.

Similar creatures do live in Australian toilets.

What can we learn from this intergalactical and intertemporal comparison?

Did the economic crisis kill the cute, fluffy pre-oil-crisis Fabric Charmers and replace them by Mutant Toilet Germs?

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Matthew Rave says:

    Now that the Slinky song is stuck in your head, it’s time for a classic parody: the “Log” song from Ren & Stimpy:

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks Matthew! A booster for log sales, I guess! They even have a Facebook page:

  2. M. Hatzel says:

    I liked the slinky ad line, “will entertain the bravest engineer.” I don’t think I’ve seen the toilet duck ad before, although my husband recognized it immediately. The cool theme music in the background speaks to my inner spy.

    1. elkement says:

      Are there probably different versions of the lyrics? Of course I noticed the bravest engineer, but this line is never quoted in the online version of the lyrics.
      I enjoyed this:
      “I decided to bring them into the classroom and incorporate them with identifying prepositional phrases.” ;-)
      Wow, what a multi-faceted topic! :-)

      1. M. Hatzel says:

        That’s a good link. The blogger is right about songs getting stuck. Isn’t it contagious! I wonder how many slinky songs are being hummed in car rides and in walks down hall ways today after readers encountered your post? :)

  3. One of my kids discovered Slinky in his early teens. He always said that if you had a Slinky and an escalator it meant you were entertained forever. ;-)

    1. elkement says:

      These very simple toys were the best of all!! No electronics needed :-)

      1. I saw that folks thought you need perfect stairs, but we made Slinky obstacle courses with blocks and boards and bricks and such.
        Always a fan of encouraging kids to understand the laws of physics through simple experimentation and play.

        1. elkement says:

          Right now another physics toy video seems to go viral on Facebook: An awesome demo of the dependence of the frequency of the oscillation of the pendulum of the length of the string.

  4. Leave it to you Elke for coming up with this historical review and insight into pop-culture as it has been expressed in animated ads. What it says about recent trends in our cultural evolution – I’m not sure. Certainly a move from the innocent to the not-so-innocent, wouldn’t you say? A move from the care-free to the not-so-care-free. A world from from worry to one concerned with war and decline and terror! Yikes! I gotta get back to work! D

    1. Oh … and by the way … the Slinky add brought that part of my brain responsible for (very) long-term memory to hightened level of activity. I remembered it in a second … but could never have brought it to mind if you had asked me about it. Isn’t it interesting that the stimulation of memory only goes one way … if you remind me I can recall … but without the prompt, I’m lost. D

      1. elkement says:

        Thanks, Dave! I have always been inclined to pop-culture and clichés – probably I am fascinated by important trends and philosophies in an era being reflected in something as mundane as advertisements. It would really be fun to do more research on that. But I am interested in too many things… yes, I also need to get back to work ;-)
        I can relate to your slinky-triggering-hidden-memories experience: If you would have asked me about ads I remember I would not have been able to name one. However, the slinky song also brought up my hidden passion for the cartoon Fabric Charmers.

  5. The toy aside (the slinky never actually performed as advertised for my gang), maybe the loss of charming to be replaced by grim ads represents the liberation of women from archetypes who need fairy tale creatures to believe in while scrubbing toilets. The new liberated female can do laundry and scrub toilets with a more sober outlook, perhaps teaching her daughter the female science of it while her husband and sons play vid games in the living room.

    1. elkement says:

      I’ve learned from a comment on one of the slinky videos on Youtube that the stairs were built specifically for slinkys and much too narrow to meet standard building codes even in the 1960s. I wonder how and if coping with that deceit and disappointment had impacted a whole generation of North American children.
      I made a very hand waving connection between creatures in fabric and in toilets, but your explanation is great, thanks :-)
      I have always been baffled about how time-invariant your typical commercials about detergents have been since 40 years – same for commercials about cleaning supplies for toilets and bathroom. Those had always tried to appeal to the female counterparts of Mr. Monk, the neurotic detective. I cannot say for sure if alien-like beings lived in toilets 40 years ago but I remember women petrified of hardly visible smears and streaks on mirrors in bathrooms and (invisible) bacteria in toilets.

      1. As to the Slinky stairs, I am not surprised. There was a law passed in the States that said the toy actually had to be able to do the things depicted in the ad because there were so many commercials of toys walking and talking which were ostensibly speaking to the child’s imagination but were ultimately only traps of disappointment.

        As to smears and stains, Mad Ave execs are past masters at playing on the female neurosis over being judged by society. It is pervasive and destructive.

        Great seeing your thought processes.

        1. elkement says:

          Thanks again for your interesting comments, postmoderndonkey!!

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