Mr. Clean came on the scene in 1958 when Proctor & Gamble introduced its new all-purpose cleaner. The name Mr. Clean was agreed upon even before the product was fully developed. He was drawn in 1957 by Ernie Allen from the advertising agency Tatham-Laird & Kudner as a muscular, tanned, bald man.
It has been said that Mr. Clean was modeled after a United States Navy sailor. Some people think he is a genie because of his crossed arms, earring, and his ability to appear at just the right time. Either way, he represents cleanliness.
Mr. Clean was first seen in animated commercials, and a catchy jingle was part of the advertising campaign. Written by Thomas Scott Cadden and sung by Don Cherry and Betty Bryan, it was used in all of the Mr. Clean commercials. Although the whole song was not always used, there is a 10 second jingle “tag” that was in every commercial. Actually, the song is the longest running advertising jingle used in television history.
Take a look at this 1958 commercial, featuring the famous jingle:
In 1960, Mr. Clean became the number one all-purpose cleaner, surpassing Lestoil.
A lot of changes took place in the’ 60s. In 1962, Proctor & Gamble held a contest to “Give Mr. Clean a First Name.” Thousands of entries were received, and the winning name was “Veritably”.
Also changing was Mr. Clean’s appearance. In 1963, he played a police “grimefighter” arresting dirt problems. In 1965, he got mad at dirt and was known as the “Mean Mr. Clean.” In 1966 he became a two-fisted “dirt” boxer, cleaning grime with one hand and leaving shine with the other. In 1966, Mr. Clean grew whiskers, and got a black eye to illustrate the cleaning properties of his floor “shiner”. In one campaign he even testified against dirt in court.
The 1970s brought changes in advertising tastes, and Mr. Clean began to appear at just the right time in the commercials to help the woman clean up a mess. Mr. Clean gave a wink, and the dirt and grime were gone with one swipe of the sponge. Commercials like these continued to be played throughout the ’80s and into the present day - Mr. Clean always saves the day with his cleaner.
Like so many retro products, the product Mr. Clean was a success due to its associated character, commercials and related marketing efforts. At more than 50 years old, Mr. Clean continues to appear on the product line and that likely won’t change any time soon.