• U.S.

Advertising: Nice Work, You’re Fired

2 minute read

The most memorable television commercial of the year shows a cherubic bride savoring the seeming success of her melon-sized dinner dumpling. In another room, her stomach-sore husband gurgles his pained compliments, downs a fizzing glass of Alka-Seltzer and returns to hear her plans for the morrow. “Marshmallowed meatballs,” she exclaims. “Poached oysters!” He does an about-face for more analgesic. The spot sent Actress Alice Playten on to richer fare in the theater, and at least one publication printed her recipes for marshmallowed meatballs and other specialties.

Last week Miles Laboratories, maker of Alka-Seltzer. dumped the maker of the celebrated commercials, Doyle Dane Bernbach. and shifted the $22 million Alka-Seltzer account to Wells. Rich. Greene. Reason: Doyle Dane’s attention-getting campaign notwithstanding, Alka-Seltzer’s share of the market has continued to shrink, and Miles had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the agency’s creative tack.

What Wells, Rich plans for its new account is uncertain, but Chairman Mary Wells Lawrence has repeatedly stressed the wisdom of a straightforward approach in times when the U.S. economy has a headache. The shift of the Alka-Seltzer account reinforces a hard truth: no matter how much an agency strives to lift its promotions above the humdrum, advertising remains an art for sales’ sake.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com