Get Your Own Tootsie!

October 1, 2010 at 9:57 am 2 comments

Kids! So much energy! So much enthusiasm! What is their secret? Could it be…candy?

Life Magazine, 1 November 1943

Hey grown ups! Get smart! Do what the kids do: eat Tootsie Rolls!

Tootsie Rolls from the very beginning struggled to be accepted as a candy for adults. When they were launched in the early 1900s, they chose “sophisticated” browns and golds for the wrapping, packaged the penny pieces into larger boxes, and advertised heavily as a treat for all ages. (See my post Tootsie Roll: Penny Candy That’s Not)

Fact is, kids may love candy, but they don’t have the big bucks. Alas, as you can see can see in this series of ads from the 1940s, Tootsie Roll candies seemed to just naturally roll back into the children’s candy market. And frankly, it’s no surprise. Tootsie Rolls are chewy and a little tough, and the spectacle of an adult gnawing on one of these big sticks of sticky is just a little undignified.

So to stir things up a bit, Tootsie Roll came up with the idea of an epic battle of the generations over control for the nation’s Tootsie Rolls.  In this next ad, things have really gotten out of control, with soldiers stealing Tootsie Rolls out of the mouths of babes:

Life Magazine, 26 October 1942

Did you catch that WARNING at the top? The Adult practice of stealing children’s Tootsie Rolls has grown to a national menace!

It is unclear whether the soldier’s job is to protect children from the “national menace,” or if it is the soldier himself who is the “national menace.” World War Two, the implicit backdrop for this ad, would certainly have been a lot more fun if it was just about wresting Tootsie Rolls out of the wrong hands.

And look at this poor little moppet who lost all her “beeyootiful, chocolate, chewy” Tootsie Rolls to the greedy grownups:

Life Magazine 23 Nov 1942

They brought the Tootsie Rolls for her, and then they ate them all up! No fair!

In all these ads, the adults are shown doing something sneaky or even criminal: they are spying on children, and stealing their treats. This makes the message a little confusing: one one hand, Tootsie is persuading adults that they too should eat Tootsie Rolls because they taste good and give you that “pep.” On the other hand, adults are “stealing” them from children, which seems to imply that the Tootsie Rolls really belong to the children. The ad tells adults to “get your own,” but the only way adults seem to be able to get candy is by pretending it is for children and then gobbling it up themselves. Hmm, with Halloween coming up, that might just sound about right…

Life Magazine 28 Sept 1942

Tootsie Rolls make adults into children, and children into little swaggering adults. This tough guy complains:

Gotta watch those grown ups! They sight a Tootsie, sink same.

Grown ups are naughty, and the kiddies have to keep an eye on them to keep them from swiping the candy. In this  installment, grown ups are depicted as ignorant as well:

Most of those Tootsie swipers don’t even know that Tootsies are pep food!

It’s the kid who knows that Tootsie candy is quick food-energy, while the grown ups only seem to care about the “chocolatety luscious flavor.”

My impression of these ads is that despite the explicit intention to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls, they seem to be reinforcing the message that Tootsie Rolls are really children’s candy. Given the nature of the Tootsie Roll, maybe failure was inevitable. By the 1950s, Tootsie had pretty much given up trying to persuade adults to eat Tootsie Rolls. Ever after, the focus was on selling Tootsies to children directly and on selling Tootsies to adults as treats for children.

Rich in Dextrose for Quick Food Energy: if you’re wondering what all the dextrose excitement was about in these 1940s ads, see my posts on dextrose, candy, and food energy:

  • Candy and Corn: “Rich in Dextrose!”
  • Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar
  • Entry filed under: Children and Candy, Marketing, WWII to 1960s. Tags: .

    Dextrose: All-American Corn Sugar Candy for Flu

    2 Comments Add your own

    • 1. Jeanna  |  October 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      I just went through a jumbo bag of Tootsie products and coveted every last Tootsie Roll. I wonder if the struggle for commercial candy is always that it’s associated with kids? But kids certainly have more money now than we did and more dramatically so than during the Depression which must have had an influence on these ads. Tootsie Rolls were always a bargain candy and except for the midgies, still seem to be.

      Reply
    • 2. Mr. Rogers  |  October 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

      I love Tootsie Roll and Double Bubble chewing gum!

      Reply

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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