Ipana // was a toothpaste product manufactured by Bristol-Myers Company. The wintergreen flavored toothpaste (0.243% sodium fluoride was its active ingredient) reached its peak market penetration during the 1950s in North America. Marketing of Ipana used a Disney-created mascot named Bucky Beaver in the 1950s.
Introduction and early popularity
Ipana was introduced in 1901 by the Bristol-Myers Company of New York. Ipana was an early and large sponsor on United States radio broadcasts starting in 1923 with the program The Ipana Troubadors. A series of popular records was issued under that name by Columbia from 1925 through 1931. Sam Lanin was the leader and contractor of the studio group. From 1934 to 1940, the brand sponsored The Fred Allen Show, which ran under the names The Hour of Smiles and Town Hall Tonight. After Allen switched sponsors, Ipana sponsored It's Time to Smile, with Eddie Cantor and Dinah Shore.
In 1959, Bristol-Myers added hexachlorophene to Ipana toothpaste. Television ads at that time proudly proclaimed that this ingredient made Ipana superior to competitive toothpaste brands in germ-killing power. It was not known at that time that hexachlorophene was dangerous, and so, the ingredient was later removed.
In the 1950s, Bristol-Myers saturated women's periodicals with a broad-based monthly ad placement campaign for Ipana. Magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, True Stories, and McCall's were targeted to cover the broad range of women's interests; however, the campaign all but ignored men's magazines, and this weakened the brand by leaving perceptions that Ipana was a product for women and children.
Brand decline and withdrawal
Sales of Ipana declined throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, due to:
- increased marketing efforts from Bristol-Myers' competitors Procter & Gamble, Colgate, and others,
- the increase in the popularity of color television, in whose programming Bristol-Myers was uninterested in investing, and
- the company's recognition that manufacturing pharmaceuticals was more lucrative than buying television ads to sell personal hygiene products
Bristol-Myers withdrew many of its basic care products, including Ipana, from the market. By 1979, Ipana had been discontinued entirely in the United States, but it was still being sold elsewhere in the world.
In 2005, River West Brands, a Chicago-based brand revitalization company, re-introduced Ipana into the U.S. marketplace. River West Brands divested itself of Ipana by selling the brand and related IP to Maxill of Canada in October 2009. Maxill, one of the top three selling toothbrush makers in Canada, brought Ipana back to life in early 2011 as a "retro brand" in the professional dental market, where Maxill had come to dominate the professional oral hygiene category. Maxill extended the Ipana name to other dental products such as prophy angles, topical anesthetic and bamboo toothbrushes. According to the label, its active ingredient is sodium monofluorophosphate (0.76% w/w).
Bucky Beaver (voiced by Jimmie Dodd) was the marketing icon and mascot of Ipana commercials from the 1950s. Bucky Beaver's slogan was "Brush up, brush up, brush up. Get the New Ipana—it's dandy for your teeth!" Mr. Decay Germ, stylized as D.K. Germ, was the villain in the Ipana toothpaste commercials. In the commercials, Bucky Beaver told him, "Mr. Decay Germ, stay away from me. I'm sick and tired of cavities. Go bother someone else now."
Comic strip ads
Stan Drake, artist of the newspaper comic strip The Heart of Juliet Jones, started his career as illustrator for the comic strip ad agency Johnstone and Cushing. In an interview with Shel Dorf for the National Cartoonists Society he said he learned drawing pretty girls on the Ipana ads he did for them.
In popular culture
Under the name Frances Westcott, Frances Bergen, wife of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and mother of actress Candice Bergen, worked for the Powers Modelling Agency, and her face appeared as "the Ipana Girl" in toothpaste ads in magazines.
Before becoming a counterculture beat poet, Allen Ginsberg worked on the "Brusha, brusha, brusha" campaign as a market researcher. The jingle is referenced in a scene in the 1978 film version of the musical Grease (which built upon a passing line mentioning Bucky Beaver in the original stage musical), and subsequently appeared in a live televised version, for which the production acquired the performance rights.
The toothpaste is mentioned in the 1999 movie Blast from the Past. A family mistakenly lives underground in a fully stocked private nuclear bomb shelter after a jet plane crash during the Cuban missile crisis. Decades later when they emerge, their supply of discontinued toothpaste is evidence that they really did live underground for so many years.
- 1959 Ipana Toothpaste (YouTube).
- The Science Is In: Stripe Toothpaste with Hexachlorophene Apocalypzia.com. 16 February, 2010. Retrieved 27 February, 2021.
- European New Product Report. (November 21, 1986) "Gel formulation of Ipana toothpaste introduced in Turkey."
- National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- Dotz, Warren; Morton, Jim (1996). What a Character! 20th Century American Advertising Icons. Chronicle Books. p. 118. ISBN 0-8118-0936-6.
- Heintjes, Tom. "Funny Business: The Rise and Fall of Johnstone and Cushing"Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
- National Cartoonists Society
- The Globe and Mail (October 18, 2006) Frances Bergen, Actress and Homemaker: 1922-2006. Section: Obituaries; Page S9.
- Watson, Steven, "The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-1960," Pantheon Books, 1995, p.119.
- Rich, Katey (January 29, 2016). "What Grease: Live Will Do That No Live TV Musical Has Done Before". Vanity fair. Condé Nast.
- LeBrun, Fred. (January 14, 1987) Times Union Name that Beaver. Section: Local; Page B1.
- Hartill, Lane. (January 14, 1999) K. Smith of Malden, Mass. Asks, Whatever happened to Ipana Toothpaste? Section: The Home Forum. Page 23.
- Cadenhead, Rogers. (March 31, 1999) New Jersey Record In search of Ipana toothpaste. Section: Your time; Page 5.
- Wallace, David. (August 6, 2004) Delta Farm Press. Industrious beavers have friends and detractors. Volume 61; Issue 32; Page 16.
- Stein, Betty E. (February 14, 2005) The News-Sentinel Uncovering the fates of never-forgotten brands. Section: A; Page A8
- http://www.old-time.com/commercials/1930%27s/Smile.html co-marketing of Ipana and Sal Hepatica in the 1930s