Creator of Charmin 'Squeeze' campaign dies

/ Source: The Associated Press

John Chervokas, an advertising man and wordsmith who was credited with introducing a toilet paper slogan into popular culture with his "Please Don't Squeeze the Charmin" campaign, has died at age 74.

Chervokas, who lived in Briarcliff Manor, died Saturday of a stroke at a Manhattan hospital, said his son, journalist Jason Chervokas. He had battled Parkinson's disease for five years.

Chervokas was a junior copywriter at Benton & Bowles in 1964 when, he said, the image of housewives squeezing fruit in a supermarket inspired the toilet tissue campaign.

"What does mom do in the super-market? She squeezes the melons," he wrote years later in Advertising Age. "And the tomatoes. And the bread. To see if they're soft. ... Why not use the same test for Charmin?"

The campaign featured television commercials in which a supermarket employee, Mr. Whipple, was assigned to keep shoppers from squeezing the Charmin. Whipple, played by actor Dick Wilson, became one of TV's best-known characters. And Charmin became the best-selling toilet paper by 1969, Procter & Gamble Co. said. Advertising Age said it was among the top 100 campaigns of the 20th century.

In 2007, another man, Norman Schaut, said "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" was his creation, but Advertising Age and The New York Times have credited Chervokas. There was no telephone listing for Schaut in Ocean City, N.J., where he lived when he made the claim.

Chervokas had a long career in advertising, including a stint as editor in chief of Madison Avenue magazine. He retired in 1994.

His son said he was never bothered by his link to the famous toilet paper slogan.

"Embarrassed? Never," Jason Chervokas said. "To know him was to know he was proud of it."

His son said Chervokas was "a believer in the power of words" and wrote for hours each day — "poetry, prayers, an unpublished novel, he created crossword puzzles, everything."

In 2000, The New York Times invited readers to submit poems in a form it said Chervokas invented: nine lines, 45 syllables, with the first line having nine syllables, the second eight syllables and so on. One submission started: "Please/don't squeeze/the Charmin ..."

After retiring from advertising, Chervokas was elected town supervisor of Ossining, N.Y., in 1997 and re-elected five times. He suggested a museum at the famous Sing Sing prison.

Chervokas was born in Norwood, Mass., and graduated from Fordham University. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Roseanna; sons Jason and Joshua; and daughter Jessica Hoyer.