The "Soap" Opera History of Content Marketing

Content marketing began long before the internet. Radio was an early adopter of content marketing. And one of the most prominent examples of this type of advertising is the soap opera. In fact, content marketing led to the creation of the monicker "soap" opera. 

In the golden age of radio, advertisers sponsored entire programs, usually with some sort of message like "We thank our sponsors for making this program possible", airing at the beginning or end of a program. One of the most successful examples of such advertising is Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins - In 1933, P&G chose it's brand Oxydol to sponsor its first radio serial, Ma Perkins. The fifteen minute show ran five days a week and mentioned Oxydol's name twenty to twenty-five times during each episode. P&G received 5,000 letters complaining about Ma Perkins within the first week. But by the end of the first year, sales had doubled. In fact, this commitment is regarded as the reason behind the brand's record sales and profitability levels despite the depression. This show was nicknamed “soap opera” due to its sponsor, and the name stuck!

Blackett-Sample-Hummert, one of the top advertising agencies of the time, designed numerous such soap operas in those years. The agency believed in hard-sell and the radio commercial designed for Oxydol was long, repetitive, full of product claims and references to science with the announcer spelling out the product name just in case the listeners can’t grasp the brand name.

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