'Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin:' How Mr. Whipple Made Us Want To
Mr. Whipple, played by Dick Wilson. Source: YouTube
"Please don't squeeze the Charmin," said Mr. Whipple, a store manager in a TV commercial. And TV viewers, who probably wouldn't have squeezed the Charmin, found themselves wanting to. Think about it: Is squeezing Charmin (or any toilet paper) something you'd ever just do? Is it enjoyable? Not really. But obsessed Mr. Whipple, played by Dick Wilson, scolded consumers for squeezing the Charmin in 1964 and brought out the rebel in us. For 21 years, over 500 commercials, this man dared us not to fondle Charmin toilet paper, and the success of his catchphrase sold truckloads of it.
Using reverse psychology and manufactured outrage, Mr. Whipple tricked a nation into feeling just how soft and cushy Charmin is compared to other brands of toilet paper. In doing so, a face of the brand and cultural icon was born -- the famous supermarket manager was among the most recognizable Americans, real or fictional, on TV. Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at a beloved, long-running television commercial character.
Who was the Mr. Whipple Brainchild?
The character of Mr. Whipple was created by advertising executive, John Chervokas. In fact, he is credited with developing the character, his persona, and his most memorable catchphrase, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” But Chervokas didn’t acknowledge his important role in the creation of the iconic television commercial character for many years. It was in a first-person article that ran in Advertising Age on Christmas Day, 1972, that Chervokas publicly confessed to being the driving force behind Mr. Whipple. The title of his article? “Confession of a Creative Chief: I Squeezed the Charmin.”
Mr. Whipple’s Back Story
Much of the information we know about Mr. Whipple’s backstory comes from tidbits of information that have been dropped into commercials. We know that his full name is George Whipple and that he is the store manager for a fictional, unnamed supermarket. In his debut commercial, the viewer sees Mr. Whipple lurking around corners, watching as a female customer first squeezes the tomatoes, them squeezes the melons, and finally, squeezes the Charmin bath tissue. This is an example of the classic use of “threes” in advertising, but the final squeeze seems to be the one that irritates Mr. Whipple the most. He devotes the next 21 years to the prevention of Charmin squeezing.
Who Played Mr. Whipple?
Before landing the role of Charmin’s Mr. Whipple, Dick Wilson was a character actor who appeared as a guest or bit character in several popular television sitcoms of the 1960s and 1970s. Wilson became Mr. Whipple in 1964, and between then and 1985, he appeared in more than 500 Charmin commercials. This was a great gig for Wilson. He earned a top salary…$300,000 per year…while only working a few days per year.
The Return of Mr. Whipple
Mr. Whipple’s reign appeared to be over in 1985 when Charmin stopped featuring its iconic character in its television commercials, but the grumpy old man wasn’t finished yet. In 1999, after more than 14 years, Charmin brought back Wilson’s Mr. Whipple in a series of commercials that explained why the elderly supermarket manager couldn’t retire knowing that there was a whole new generation of people who needed to be educated about the virtues of Charmin. Mr. Whipple was finally replaced by a family of animated bears as the Charmin mascot. Wilson died at the age of 91 on November 19, 2007.
The Mr. Whipple-Mythbusters Connection
In several of the 1970s Charmin commercials featuring Mr. Whipple, the supermarket manager enlists a stock boy named Jimmy to help him observe and stop Charmin squeezers. The role of Jimmy the stock boy was played by a young Adam Savage, who went on to star in the mega-hit science-based television series, Mythbusters. Savage took five years of acting lessons and appeared in a few commercials and television shows during his teenage years. He moved into the special effects industry before starring in Mythbusters. In one of the episodes of Mythbusters that ran in the series’ final season, Savage dressed up like a supermarket stock boy in a clever reminder of his days with Mr. Whipple.
Mr. Whipple Used Reverse Psychology
Unlike the tomatoes and melons in the very first Mr. Whipple commercial, no harm comes from squeezing the Charmin. Customers, perhaps, based their toilet paper purchasing decisions on the softness and squeezability of the product. By angrily reprimanding customers for squeezing the Charmin, Mr. Whipple … and the marketing geniuses behind him … were, in fact, inviting customers to give the toilet paper a quick squeeze. Customers became so used to television commercials in which Mr. Whipple told them NOT to squeeze the Charmin, that as soon as they saw Charmin bath tissue on store shelves, they gave it a squeeze. Freud would have been proud.
Mr. Whipple in Pop Culture
Charmin’s Mr. Whipple character became such a fixture that he appears in some pop culture references. In 1967, country artist Charlie Walker Top Ten song called “Don’t Squeeze My Sharmon” which was inspired by the commercial. Later Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid”, which was released in 1985, contained the line, “You better squeeze all the Charmin you can when Mr. Whipple’s not around.” A survey conducted in the mid-1970s showed that more Americans could recognize Mr. Whipple than they could then-president Jimmy Carter. In fact, another survey, conducted in 1978, placed Mr. Whipple in the number three spot for most recognized Americans, losing only to Richard Nixon and Billy Graham.
Tags: 1964 | Adam Savage | Charmin | Commercials | Mr. Whipple | Remember This?... | The 1960s
Like it? Share with your friends!