What We Watch – Television and Soap

It’s interesting how the American public is so fascinated with and influenced by the trials and tribulations of fictitious families. The success of all soap operas (daytime and prime time), as well as shows like LOST, is all about getting people vested in a form of imaginary voyeurism. And it started with … soap.

Earlier this month, CBS announced they are canceling Proctor & Gamble’s soap opera, Guiding Light. The last episode will air September 18th.

The first episode of Guiding Light aired on NBC radio on January 25, 1937, making it the longest running soap opera. It was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble hence the “soap” opera moniker. However, it wasn’t the first soap marketing by P & G that concentrated on the continuing saga of a ficticious family.

In the 1920’s, P & G newspaper ads featured a fictitious family called the Jollycos. They had three children, Sally, Bobby and baby Teewee. The stories included neighbors and each episode promoted the use of Ivory Soap. Mrs. Percival Billington Folderol was the villian; a user of (yikes!!) scented and colored soaps!

Ivory Ad - The Jollyco Family<br>Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, October 13, 1922
Ivory Ad featuring The Jollyco Family
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, October 13, 1922

Sales of Ivory soap increased by 25% in New York markets within the first 6 months of the marketing campaign!

It’s no wonder that radio soap operas, sponsored by soap companies like P & G, were continued as successful marketing methods and that they moved into television as TV become more popular and widely accepted.

It appears that much of our current television programming, including LOST, Desperate Housewives, Big Love and numerous other “ficticious family” shows, have their roots in … soap!

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