Monday, July 25, 2022


Selling It: Li'l Abner Cleans Up His Act


A lot of comic character marketing tie-ins make no sense to me (like our recently featured Dick Tracy ad for caramels...), but here we have a marriage made in heaven. If anyone needs a good laundry detergent, and will put it through a torture test, it's gotta be the denizens of Dogpatch.  

In June 1952, the good folks with Surf detergent paired up with Al Capp's characters for a $100,000 contest, where in order to win you just have to give Daisy Mae some magic words to say about the wonders of her detergent. It seems like a wonderful idea, but the weird part is that the newspaper campaign came and went in practically no time. Seems like for $100 grand (in 1952 dollars!) you'd want to  beat this contest's drum for months and months, but the whole thing seems to have come and gone in a month or even less. 

Weirder yet, after the contest was over, I could find only a single report about a Texas lady who won third prize. Her local paper showed the photo op of her getting the check. The Surf people put not one single dime into advertising the contest results, and if they did send out publicity releases, I can find not one single paper that ran them. So $100 large later, we never found out who won the $10,000 first prize, nor what honey-soaked words they'd written to win the contest. Can anyone find a source for the contest results somewhere?


The October 24, 1952 edition of the Anderson Herald, in Anderson, Indiana carries an ad for the contest from a local retailer of washing machines, which also had a tie-in to the Surf contest. So it may have been ongoing for a bit more than a month.
Admittedly, "Li'l Abner" was practically known as "America's Favorite Comic Strip" in those days, but it must have been a surprise to readers of papers which did not carry "Abner" to see that Surf ad appear in their Sunday Comics Section. It ran in the June 15, 1952 New York Daily News... at that time, "Abner" was a highlight of the New York Mirror's comics section.
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