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Rewind: '50s Era 7Up Campaign Depicted Soda-Guzzling Babies

Ads Bragged That 7Up Was So Pure, It Had the Youngest Consumers in the Business

By Published on . 4

In an era of backlash against sugary, carbonated drinks -- punctuated by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's declaration of an all-out war on soda companies -- the notion of the fizzy drinks being healthful seems unthinkable. But that 's precisely how 7Up presented them about sixty years ago. And what's more, print ads for the brand suggested mothers should be giving 7Up to babies.

In the 1950s, 7Up launched a campaign with the tagline "Nothing Does it Like 7Up." The campaign bragged that 7Up had the youngest consumers in the business, depicting babies guzzling the soda. And it even suggested recipes that -- try not to gag now -- would combine the citrus soda with milk.

Here's what the copy on one of the ads in the campaign said:

"This young man is 11 months old and he isn't our youngest customer by any means. For 7Up is so pure, so wholesome, you can even give it to babies and feel good about it. Look at the back of a 7Up bottle. Notice that all our ingredients are listed. (That isn't required of soft drinks, you know -- but we're proud to do it and we think you're pleased that we do.) By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers -- if they like to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: Add 7Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7Up gently into the milk. It's a wholesome combination -- and it works! Make 7Up your family drink."

While it was one of the brand's more memorable campaigns, thanks to its stark imagery of black-and-white sketches with the green of the 7Up glass bottles popping on the page, the push was short-lived.

The soda was the brainchild of Charles Leiper Grigg, a Missouri man who during the early 1900s was one of the pioneers in the ad and sales industries. After a few failed tries at making beverages, he decided to focus on citrus flavors, and by 1929 had concocted 7Up.

According to the Ad Age Encyclopedia, it was around the same time of the babies campaign that the Seven-Up Co. emerged from a six-year battle with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In the end, the IRS released the company from any obligation to pay taxes on income from bottlers for advertising. And so the marketer launched a new push of advertising on TV, radio and in magazines during the 1950s, with bottlers backing a large chunk of the company's ad budget.

In addition to the "Nothing Does it Like 7Up" campaign, the fifties also saw the Seven-Up Co. launch its "7UP Floats" promotion to market a new corner confection: 7UP served with ice cream in a tall glass. After the first summer that the campaign ran, it became an annual tradition, and by the early '60s, the company was spending $1 million -- a lot in those days -- on advertising to tout the "Floats" promotion on billboards, radio, newspapers, billboards, magazines and TV.

For almost fifty years, 7Up's lead agency was JWT. From that relationship came the "Uncola" campaign that ran in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Positioning the drink against Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the effort was probably 7Up's most successful marketing strategy

The much later "Make 7Up Yours" campaign, which was launched in 1999 by agency Y&R, featured actor Orlando Jones and had a college humor vibe. As part of the push, there was a spot where Mr. Jones was depicted in a nudist camp, and T-shirts were handed out that said "Make 7" on the front and "Up Yours" on the back. Consumers responded well to the campaign and it lasted until 2005.

Over the years, the brand has changed hands many times. It was owned by Philip Morris, then Cadbury-Schweppes, and then spun off from Cadbury into the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Today it's one part of a portfolio that includes Snapple, Canada Dry, Dr Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Sunkist Soda, Hawaiian Punch, Mott's Apple Juice, Clamato, Yoo-Hoo and more. And none of them would dare run an ad showing a toddler consuming those drinks.

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