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The Bayer company's Alka-Seltzer brand pain-reliever and antacid boasts speedy relief—and one of the most notable advertising (see entry under 1920s—Commerce in volume 2) campaigns in history. Alka-Seltzer was introduced in 1931 by Miles Laboratories (purchased by Bayer in 1979). The product was originally used by some consumers as a remedy for hangovers. Alka-Seltzer's effervescent (fizzing) tablets release their active ingredients when dissolved in water. Each Alka-Seltzer tablet, which comes in origianl, lemon-lime, and cherry flavors, contains 1,916 milligrams of sodium bicarbonate, 1,000 milligrams of citric acid, and 325 milligrams of aspirin. Bayer also manufactures a range of variations on the basic product, including chewable Alka Mints and Alka-Seltzer PM for nighttime relief.

Alka-Seltzer advertisements are considered classics. From 1954 to 1964, its broadcast commercials featured a cheerful animated character named "Speedy Alka-Seltzer," whose voice was supplied by voice-over actor Dick Beals (1927–), and a demonstration of two tablets fizzing after being dropped into a glass of water. Speedy, originally known as Sparky, was created by the Wade Advertising Agency in 1951. The brief ditty "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is," composed by Tom Dawes (1943–) of Twin Star Music, became one of the most well-known commercial jingles in advertising history. During the 1970s, a familiar Alka-Seltzer commercial, set in a restaurant, depicted a heartburn victim moaning "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" after giving in to a persistent waiter's demand to order spicy meatballs. The popularity of Alka-Seltzer stems in part from the American consumer's desire for quick solutions to the irritations of daily life.

—Edward Moran

For More Information

Bayer. Alka-Seltzer. (accessed February 1, 2002).

McGrath, Molly Wade. Top Sellers U.S.A.: Success Stories behind America's Best-Selling Products from Alka-Seltzer to Zippo. New York: Morrow, 1983.