In 1984, the Gillette Company launched a new series of TV commercials for its Dry Idea antiperspirants that introduced what eventually became one of the famous ad slogans of all time:
“Never let them see you sweat.”
According to the Gillette’s trademark registration for the slogan, it was “first used in commerce” on June 7, 1984. (Given as “19840607” in the official listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database.)
The TV commercials and companion magazine print ads featured celebrities who each mentioned three “nevers” for their profession — the last of which always included “never let them see you sweat.”
This highly catchy slogan is credited to veteran ad man Phil Slott.
Slott was especially hot at the time, having also recently coined the Navy recruiting ad slogan: “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”
The Dry Idea commercials were memorable not only for their tagline, but also because they were witty and well-performed by the celebrities who were featured.
In case you missed them, here are the scripts for some of the commercials in the series that have been posted on YouTube (click the links to view the ads)...
DONNA KARAN (Fashion Designer): [NOTE: This ad is in the clip at about the 3 minute mark.] There are three nevers in fashion design. Never confuse fad with fashion. Never forget it’s your name on every label. And, when showing your lines to the press, never let them see you sweat. ANNOUNCER: That’s what new Dry Idea solid is all about. Maximum control. It keeps you drier than any other solid. KARAN: Feeling tense is understandable. Looking tense is unfashionable. ANNOUNCER: Dry Idea. Never let them see you sweat.
DAN REEVES (Head Coach, Denver Broncos): I think there’s three nevers to being a winning coach. Never let the press pick your starting quarterback. Never take a last place team lightly. And, really, no matter what the score, never let ‘em see you sweat. ANNOUNCER: That’s what new Dry Idea aerosol is all about. It keeps you drier than the leading aerosol. REEVES: Everyone feels pressure. Winners don’t let it show. ANNOUNCER: Dry Idea. Never let them see you sweat.
LAUREN HUTTON (Actress): There are three nevers to getting older in Hollywood. Never audition first thing in the morning. Never try to play a character half your age. And, even if your leading man is prettier than you are, never, never let ‘em see you sweat. ANNOUNCER: When the spotlight’s on, no other solid keeps you drier than Dry Idea solid. HUTTON: Believe me, Dry Idea handles sweat a whole lot better than some people handle birthdays. ANNOUNCER: Dry Idea. Never let them see you sweat.
ELAINE BOOSLER (Comedian): Well, there are three nevers in comedy. Never follow a better comedian. Never give a heckler the last word. And, no matter how bad a joke bombs, though it’s never happened to me personally, never let ‘em see you sweat. ANNOUNCER: When you're center stage, new dry Idea roll-on is the best roll-on there is. BOOSLER: In comedy, being nervous is natural. And, looking nervous is deadly. ANNOUNCER: Dry Idea. Never let them see you sweat.
By mid-1990s, the ad series had run it’s course.
Eventually, Gillette let its trademark for the famed slogan expire and sold the Dry Idea line to the Dial Corporation (now a US division of the German consumer goods conglomerate, Henkel).
But the line “Never let them see you sweat” is still quoted, repurposed and parodied today.
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