Chapter 1

Salesmen Don’t Have to Wear Plaid

Selling without selling out

I GREW UP POINTING A FINGER GUN at Mr. Whipple. He kept interrupting my favorite shows. The morning lineup was my favorite, with its back-to-back Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith shows. But Whipple kept butting in on Rob and Laura Petrie.

He’d appear uninvited on my TV, looking over the top of his glasses and pursing his lips at the ladies in his grocery store. Two middle-aged women, presumably with high school or college degrees, would be standing in the aisle squeezing rolls of toilet paper. Whipple would wag his finger and scold, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” After the ladies scurried away, he’d give the rolls a few furtive squeezes himself.

Oh, they were such bad commercials.

The thing is, I’ll wager if Whipple were to air today, there would be a hundred different parodies on YouTube tomorrow. But back then? All we had was a volume knob. Then VCRs came along and later DVRs, and the fast-forward button became our defense. And now today we have the nuclear warhead of buttons, the dreaded OFF button. We can just tell Whipple to shut the hell up, turn him off, and go get our entertainment from any number of other platforms and devices.

To be fair, Procter & Gamble’s Charmin commercials weren’t the worst thing that ever aired on television. They had a concept, although contrived, and a brand image, although irritating—irritating even to a ninth grader.

If it were just me who didn’t like Whipple’s commercials, ...

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