In 1979 a survey found that the most recognizable person in America was former President Richard Nixon, followed by televangelist Billy Graham.
Surprisingly, the third most recognizable American was Rick Wilson, the actor who played the grocery store manager Mr. Whipple in ads for Charmin toilet paper.
Looking back, it can be hard to appreciate how much of a phenomenon the Mr. Whipple ads were. Starting in 1964, they ran for over 20 years and 500 ads, making Mr. Whipple the longest-running TV character when he was retired in 1985.
But why, exactly, was he always trying to stop us from squeezing the Charmin? If you've ever wondered about these strange ads you have John Chervokas to thank.
Chervokas was still new at the ad agency Benton & Bowles when he came up with Mr. Whipple's legendary gimmick.
He was inspired by the way women in grocery stores would squeeze the produce, and thought it would be funny if they did the same thing with Charmin toilet paper. That's exactly what happens in the first Mr. Whipple ads.
The one thing Chervokas didn't come up with was Mr. Whipple's name. The character was named after - and inspired by - his boss, the company's president George Whipple, who sold the rights to his name.
Of course, the Mr. Whipple ads were a huge success. They turned Charmin, which was a new brand, into a household name in just a few years.
While Rick Wilson had guest roles on over 300 TV shows, he was always know best as the toilet paper-squeezing manager. But that was no problem for Wilson, who made $300,000 a year playing the character.
Another job perk? Charmin sent Wilson a package of toilet paper every month!
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