Now America has fallen in love with the Kaufmans thanks to Procter & Gamble and Publicis Kaplan Thaler, who cast them in a series of spots to demonstrate the "Swiffer effect" after they were given a blue P&G box full of Swiffer products that would hopefully simplify Lee's arduous mopping and dusting routine.
Among the products Lee and Morty tested is Swiffer WetJet over a two-day period in which the married couple of 44 years filmed a testimonial that would later be cut to a three-minute clip as well as three 30-second spots. Whether it was retired pharmacist Morty's doting or just the couple's rapport and candor on film, the spots charmed viewers and have received more than 5 million online hits.
Ad Age tracked down the Kaufmans to find out if their lives have changed since the commercials starting running.
Ad Age: How did you become involved with this project? Who approached you?
Morty: Well, my daughter Myra knows a casting director and he requested a suggestion of an "older, more mature couple" and she recommended us. Then they came and looked us over and said "very good." Nothing romantic, but very simple.
Ad Age: How did you respond to that?
Morty: Well, we were baffled. I've been retired for nearly 30 years and this is a very foreign environment for me. I do voluntary work at Nassau Community College and people in the office came over to me and said 'How did you get into this?' and I said 'I really don't know, myself.' But it's all very pleasant and very nice. It's stimulating.
Lee: Really, it just fell into our laps. Quite an exciting event in our lives, you can bet your bottom buck on that one!
Ad Age: So after 30 years of retirement you're getting your close up.
Lee: Indeed! Of all the dreams I ever had, I never had one about this happening to us. It's very exciting!
Morty: Very exciting. My head is spinning.
Ad Age: What has the response to the ad been since it was first aired?
Lee: We've had quite a response from the community and friends. It's been a fascinating revelation as far as the number of people that have contacted us from the past. We're popular!
Morty: They're coming out of the woodwork. I had a young man who worked for me when he was 12 years old -- he's 81 now -- and he called me and we were just rehashing old times.
Ad Age: Do you get recognized?
Lee: Morty, weren't we stopped by somebody once?
Morty: Yes, somebody stopped us in the street.
Lee: We were coming out of the diner and somebody said "Hey Morty!" we looked around and didn't see anybody we knew and it was someone who'd recognized us.
Ad Age: Would you like to film some more videos for Swiffer?
Lee: We would have no objections -- It's been a fine experience for us. We've had no public exposure.
Morty: It's been very nice, very different from the past.
Ad Age: Had you used Swiffer prior to this?
Lee: Not particularly.
Morty: In fact, when we were exposed to it, we were very pleased, because it seems to be a very efficient and easy to set up process.
Ad Age: Is it a part of your life now?
Lee: Why yes, I do use what's in the box that they so generously left for us and outside of the sociability, which has really boomed in our lives, they've made us very happy and very popular and the whole affair has been most pleasant.
Morty: And we wonder how it even came about. You've just gotta wait until you're 90.
Ad Age: How did you feel about advertising prior to this experience? Did you have any favorite ads -- recent ones or some from years past?
Lee: Not particularly.
Morty: I never even listened to ads. That was information that I was never interested in.
Ad Age: Now that you're in one, has it changed your perception?
Lee: I have a different attitude. Indeed, I do.
Ad Age: What do you think of the millions of views your videos have received?
Lee: [Laughs] We've heard from millions of people, it would seem to be.
Morty: It's most surprising, but it is amazing, the number of so-called hits we've gotten on the internet. I'm just wondering about the mechanics of how they managed to get so many hits.
Lee: And the truth of the matter is, to live to such a point in our lives and have this kind of thing just fall into your lap one day: My goodness is all I can say.
Ad Age: So what is your average day like?
Morty: My daily schedule is adoring my wife.
Lee: Oh Morty! [laughter]
Morty: I take care of my wife, take her to the theater and we go out and have a good time. We visit people, we have grandchildren and children and the other time is spent sleeping and eating.
Lee: That's only Morty! I've been complaining about that for many years. Not the eating, but the sleeping. The Kaufman's are sleepers -- they have a sleep gene that's really quite noteworthy. I have close contact with my school friends, at this point, and I'm interested in community doings that are of interest to me I'm glad that I have time to do that now. We're both retired, but both involved in different types of programs that we work with.
Ad Age: How long have you been married?
Morty: We've been together 44 years. We were both widowed in our early 40s. My son Scotty had difficulty with reading and writing and Lee taught remedial reading.
Lee: He was my parent-teacher conference.
Morty: I told her "Scotty can't read for beans. What are you going to do about it?" And she did something. So I came back to see her one day and said, "I didn't come here to talk about Scotty. I'd like to take you to dinner."
Lee: And he did.
Morty: And from there it blossomed. It's been a great union -- 44 years of happiness.
Lee: [Laughs] I'm very glad to hear this!
Morty: Well, I don't want her to run away.
Lee: That's not possible.