BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Dick Wilson, best known as the grocer Mr. Whipple from his two-plus decades of squeezing the Charmin for Procter & Gamble Co.'s leading toilet-paper brand, died today at 91.
Dick Wilson, Best Known as Charmin's Mr. Whipple, Is Dead
70-Year Acting Career Included More Than 500 Ads for P&G Brand
Mr. Wilson, whose 70-year acting career also included TV, film and radio roles, died at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He appeared in more than 500 TV ads for the brand from 1964 to 1985. His character's obsessive-compulsive yet conflicting desires both to protect and squeeze four-packs of the bath tissue helped drive the brand to national brand leadership.
'Helped define Charmin'
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the Mr. Whipple character, which Dick Wilson portrayed for so many years, is one of the most recognizable faces in the history of American advertising," Dennis Legault, Charmin brand manager, said in a statement. "Dick deserves much of the credit for Charmin's success. He helped define Charmin with consumers, reinforcing the product's softness with the 'Please Don't Squeeze the Charmin' slogan."
After a 14-year break, Mr. Wilson took up the grocer's apron once more in 1999 to reprise his role and introduce an improved product. His character was created by Benton & Bowles, New York, which kept the brand until its successor agency, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, was broken up by Publicis Groupe in 2002 and its agency team moved to Publicis Worldwide.
P&G presented Mr. Whipple with a lifetime achievement award in 2001 to honor his contribution.
His death comes the same day as Charmin opens what has become a more modern tack for the brand, the second year of its unusual take on experiential marketing by offering free public restrooms in Times Square. The restrooms, like the product and current ads, are adorned by Mr. Whipple's 7-year-old successors, the animated Charmin bears.
Durable character actor
Mr. Wilson began his career at 15 as an announcer and disc jockey in Canada. Though he may be best remembered as Mr. Whipple, Mr. Wilson was a durable character actor who appeared in more than 300 TV shows, including "Hogan's Heroes," "McHale's Navy," "Bewitched," "That Girl," "The Rockford Files" and "Maude," along with numerous movies, including "Planet of the Apes" and "Dial M for Murder."
He was also a comedic acrobatic dancer in vaudeville for nearly 20 years, having taken his compensation for designing scenery at a dancing school in the form of lessons. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto with a major in sculpture.
Mr. Wilson also received an unusual stipend from P&G -- complimentary rolls of Charmin shipped each month. He made the "Guiness Book of World Records" for the longest-running TV character with 504 ads, and a 1979 poll (conducted for P&G) pegged him as the third best-known American behind Richard Nixon and Billy Graham.
Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife, Meg, three children and three grandchildren, all living in the Los Angeles area.