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Mr. Clean was created by Linwood Burton, a marine ship cleaning businessman with accounts throughout the east coast of the United States. In the past, ships had to be cleaned using abrasives or solvents that were able to cut successfully through embedded grease and grime; however, past solvents were so dangerous to workers that Burton was motivated to finding a solution that was effective and less caustic. Burton, with fundamental knowledge in chemistry, developed Mr. Clean in an effort to clean ships without having to pay significant premiums in disability claims for his workers. He later sold the product to Procter & Gamble in 1958.
Mr. Clean made his television commercial debut in 1958, initially portrayed in the live-action versions by character actor House Peters, Jr.. Within the first six months of the introduction, Mr. Clean became the best-selling household cleaner on the market. In November 1962, Mr. Clean was assigned a first name Veritably Clean as a result of the "Give Mr. Clean a First Name" promotion.
In the winter of 1963, Mr. Clean played a police officer "Grimefighter" who arrested dirt problems.
In the summer of 1963, Mr. Clean became the first liquid household cleaner in a plastic bottle.
In April 1965, Mr. Clean got mad at dirt and appeared as "New, Mean Mr. Clean".
In the spring of 1966, Mr. Clean played "two-fisted" grime fighter, who knocked out dirt with one hand and left the shine with the other. Also offered a spray dispenser as promotion pack to increase convenience of use.
In spring 1966, Mr. Clean offered clean and shine, in the "Mr. Clean leaves a sheen where you clean" campaign. He grew whiskers for brute strength, had a black eye to show floor "shiner" and testified in court against dirt.
In Spring 1968, Mr. Clean was a "Changed Man" and was reformulated to include pine aroma and better cleaning "in the bucket."
In October 1970, "Lemon Refreshed" Mr. Clean premiered.
In the summer of 1974, "Two Fisted Mr. Clean" was introduced, who was great at cleaning on one hand and on the other hand he leaves what's shiny gleaming. (This commercial brought back the use of the original Mr. Clean jingle).
In July 1976, "Sunshine Fresh Mr. Clean" with improved fragrance was introduced.
In December 1981 Mr. Clean had a new no-wax floor formula.
In July 1985 a new Mr. Clean was introduced with better full-strength cleaning to clean down to the shine like never before. Also in 1985 a national search for Mr. Clean look-alikes launched in Los Angeles.
In 1994, Mr. Clean became concentrated and became "Ultra Mr. Clean".
In 1996, Mr. Clean appeared in "How Times Have Changed", once again using the original Mr. Clean jingle and the new Ultra power in it.
The name "Clean" is usually translated into local languages:
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the product is sold under the brand name Flash; this is because a company exists that uses the "Mr. Clean" name. Furthermore, Flash does not use a mascot, unlike Mr. Clean. For many years Flash was advertised on UK television by Scottish actress Molly Weir, with the catchphrase "Flash cleans floors WITHOUT scratching".
The product's mascot is the character Mr. Clean. In 1957, Harry Barnhart conceived the idea and Ernie Allen in the art department at the advertising agency Tatham-Laird & Kudner in Chicago, Illinois drew Mr. Clean as a muscular, tanned, bald man who cleans things very well.
According to Procter & Gamble, the original model for the image of Mr. Clean was a United States Navy sailor from the city of Pensacola, Florida, although some people may think he is a genie based on his earring, folded arms, and tendency to appear magically at the appropriate time. Hal Mason, the head animator at Cascade Pictures in Hollywood, California modified the existing artwork in print advertising to be more readily used for the television commercials written, produced, and directed by Thomas Scott Cadden. (Cadden also wrote the words and music for the original Mr. Clean jingle — see below.) The first actor to portray Mr. Clean in live action television commercials was House Peters, Jr..
Mr. Clean has always smiled, except for a brief time in the mid-1960s during the "Mean Mr. Clean" series of ads (1965) when he was frowning because he hated dirt. Although Mr. Clean is the strong, silent type, he did speak once in a television commercial where live actor (Mark Dana) appeared playing Mr. Clean in a suit-and-tie in the mid-1960s.
Mr. Clean appeared (with permission) on the September 2010 cover of Biz X Magazine.
Mr. Clean's theme song, or jingle, has been around since the product's introduction, initially sung as a popular-music style duet between a man (Don Cherry) and a woman (Betty Bryan). Thomas Scott Cadden wrote the jingle at his home in Skokie, Illinois in the spring of 1957 while working for Tatham-Laird & Kudner Advertising Agency. The vocal and piano recording was made on a home tape recorder for presentation to the agency and later to Procter & Gamble. Procter & Gamble approved the jingle in the spring or summer of 1957. Thomas Scott Cadden produced the recording of the jingle at Universal Recorders in Chicago in the summer or fall of 1957. Bill Walker was the arranger and Don Cherry and Betty Bryan were the singers. In January or February 1958, Cadden produced and wrote the first pool of television commercials — nine one-minute commercials and four 20-second "lifts". Included was the original full 60-second jingle commercial and the 10-second jingle "tag" at the end of all the others. They were produced at Cascade Pictures in Hollywood, California. The first pool of commercials ran in August 1958 at WDTV/KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the year the product was introduced. The jingle is copyrighted under numbers EU 589219 & EU 599220. The jingle is also registered with ASCAP under title code 570098598 & 570006267. It has been played as recently as 2013, usually in a contemporary musical setting or instrumental version. It is the longest running advertising jingle used in television history.
Original lyrics by Thomas Scott Cadden:
Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime
And grease in just a minute
Mr. Clean will clean your whole house
And everything that's in it
Entrants were asked to use up to 60 seconds of time for their advertisement. A prize of $10,000 was slated for the announced winner, based on an independent judging corporation's (D.L. Blair) scoring.
The competition ran through June 30, 2007. In September 2007, the $10,000 prize was awarded to the creator of the winning video "Here's To Stains.”
In 1998, Honda Motor Co. created an advertising campaign, including a television commercial, featuring Mr. Clean to represent Honda's clean running Accord along with other Honda products including lawnmowers, string trimmers, motorcycles, and marine engines.