Toilet Paper Ads, Then and Now

Cottonelle Woman

Not-so-classy British speaker

Every time a Cottonelle toilet paper ad comes on, I hit the remote, either to mute it or to change the channel. According to the usual US television trope, people who speak with a British accent are supposed to be classy.

Toilet paper ads have been with us since the early days of television.

Delta Queen spokeswoman

Charmin ad 1950s

An early Charmin spokesperson was the matronly proprietor of the Delta Queen, a Mississippi steamboat that, at the time, was a floating hotel. Standing in a bathroom, the woman tells viewers that her guests expect soft absorbent towels and indicates a stack of towels. Then she says that passengers also expect softness and absorbency from bathroom tissue. She illustrates the absorbent qualities of Charmin by placing a square against a shower door that is covered with moisture.

Mr. Whipple

Mr. Whipple

In 1964, Mr. Whipple, played by actor Dick Wilson, became the Charmin spokesman and continued in that role until 1985. Fixated on the softness of Charmin, Mr. Whipple patrolled his supermarket telling women not to squeeze the Charmin packages, but, before the end of the ad, he would be seen squeezing the wonderfully soft product himself. Never, in any of the 500 ads in which he appeared, did Mr. Whipple ever go into detail as to the specific uses of toilet paper.

Then comes the new millennium.

Charmin ad 2000s

In 2000, Charmin ads introduced a family of animated bears whose chief topic of conversation is the wiping of behinds. The various ads show family members on the toilet or running about with bits of toilet paper stuck to their bottoms. These ads are repellent, but nothing compared to the ones for Cottonelle.

The Cottonelle ads regale us with a brazen young woman who buttonholes men and women as they exit a public toilet facility. Not only does she ask them if they’ve wiped their “bums,” she wants to know if they did a “complete job” of it. She demands to know if the rippled toilet paper has removed enough residue to enable them to “go commando.” (I had to look that expression up. It means “go without underwear.”)

Mr Whipple meets Cottonelle woman

Mr. Whipple stares in disbelief as two women display their lack of underwear.

Some parents’ groups are complaining to the manufacturers of Cottonelle because the ads encourage children to go without underwear. They should also complain about the sheer vulgarity of the ads.

I know that Mr. Whipple would be appalled.