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Bidding Farewell to an Advertising Icon


Chances are, the names Dick Wilson, Jesse White, Michael Vale and Nancy Walker probably don’t mean much to you. But if you’re old enough to remember Mr. Whipple, the original Maytag repairman, Fred the Baker, or Rosie the Waitress, then I’m willing to bet they’ve made their mark on your psyche, conjuring up mental images and equally strong tag lines. For many of us, these characters became the physical embodiment of the brands they represented: Charmin, Maytag, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Bounty (respectively).

And so it is with a mix of nostalgia and wistfulness that we say goodbye to the only grocer who ever cared whether or not his customers squeezed the Charmin. Dick Wilson, the actor who brought the Mr. Whipple character to life in more than 500 TV spots, passed away today at the age of 91.

Reading about his death today in the LA Times felt a little like hearing about the passing of a long-lost neighbor…someone you remember fondly, but realize you didn’t really know. Which got me to asking “who was this guy.” So here are a few facts on Mr. Whipple, aka Dick Wilson, courtesy of TVacres.com:

  • Dick Wilson was born in England on July 30, 1916.
  • Prior to his role as TP pitchman, Wilson had been a stand up comic, a stuntman, an acrobat and a movie actor.
  • Other acting credits include appearances on Bewitched, The Munsters, Hogan’s Heroes and McHale’s Navy.
  • The Mr. Whipple campaign was created by the Benton & Bowles Agency in 1965 and ran until 1989 before being resurrected for an encore campaign in 1999.
  • The original campaign produced 504 TV spots placing Wilson in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the longest running television commercial.
  • In a 1979 poll, Mr. Whipple followed Richard Nixon and Billy Graham as the 3rd best known American.

Who knew a cantankerous grocer with a single imploring request would have such a far reaching effect on a generation? As Bob Hope would say, “thanks for the memories.”

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