Wednesday, January 22, 1997
Don't let old Ivory slip
down the drain

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The news that Procter & Gamble was introducing a New! and Improved! Ivory soap shocked me.

Stopped me in my loafers.

Chilled the Cincinnati blood that flows 99 and 44/100% pure in my veins.

What the heck are they thinking in P&G's twin towers?

I got on the horn and made some calls. While I was on hold, I started counting the number of bars I'd have to stash in my garage. How much Ivory do I use in a year? In a decade? For the rest of my life?

I got scared. It's an old Cincinnati tradition. It comes from being congenitally afraid of change.

After I talked with some P&Gers, I simmered down. I found out they're keeping the old stuff. They just want to beat back the soap competition with moisturizers and scents.

But I'm still worried.

Manufacturers with stockholders tend to kill off the weak to keep the bottom line healthy. If sales of old Ivory falter, well, ... I can't even finish that thought.

As a member of the press, I got to hold one of the new bars in my hand.

I shook like a leaf.

I'm an Ivory man. A real Ivory man.

The new Ivory feels slippery and smells perfumed.

The old original Ivory makes my hands feel clean.

It doesn't deodorize. It doesn't moisturize. It doesn't make my fingers smell like my pinkies have been soaking in a dish of cheap perfume. After I clean up with this plain old soap, my hands smell like they feel, clean.

That's the whole idea of soap.

One more thing about New Ivory: It doesn't even float!

Shouldn't that tell you something?

Made in Cincinnati

The banana-shape bars of New Ivory (it's like saying The New Bible or New! Coke, for pity's sake), hit stores today.

As long as I can remember, Ivory's bars have presided over my family's kitchen sinks and basement stationary tubs.

I remember my chubby grandma telling me why she used it in the kitchen. ''Ivory doesn't make your food smell bad,'' this great cook said as she carefully stirred a pot of vegetable soup. ''After you wash your hands with Ivory, you taste the food you're cooking, not a bar of soap.''

Ivory's used as a finishing soap in my basement. After you get the serious grease and grime off with Lava - a brand P&G sold in 1995 - you finish with Ivory. Then you go upstairs for lunch. Maybe a bowl of vegetable soup.

Ivory is Cincinnati. It was invented here. By accident. In 1879, a P&G worker let a vat of soap mix too long. Bubbles were whipped in. This made a batch of soap that bobbed in the bath.

P&G started getting requests for this floating soap. In 1879, lots of people still bathed in muddy creeks and rivers. Bathtubs were filled with murky water. If you had to keep track of your soap, you'd welcome a bar that floats. So, Ivory was born.

That was 118 years and 38 billion bars of Ivory ago. Without that soap, there would be no Ivorydale plant in Cincinnati. Without Ivory, P&G would not be the industrial empire that it is today, making soaps sold around the world.

Ivory is not a nostalgia soap. Of its 38 billion bars, 25 percent (9.5 billion) have been sold since 1979. Ivory is the No. 3 best-selling soap in America. Dial and Dove, a wimpy soap if I ever smelled one, are No. 1 and 2, respectively.

Don't fix the unbroken

So, why mess with perfection?

Theresa Bakken, a P&G product development director, says ''New 'Moisture Care' Ivory meets a specific need.'' It's made for people with dry skin.

She insists P&G has no plans to pull original Ivory off the shelf. She assured me. She promised me.

''We'd never do that to you,'' she says. ''We know our customers too well.''

Glad to hear that.

I'll sleep easier tonight knowing I can cancel my plans to stockpile a truck-load of Ivory soap.

My hands can stop shaking, too. I can wash them with a bar of Ivory and not scrub in fear that this soap's days are numbered.

So, while I may refuse to use the New Ivory, I'll tolerate this new addition to the Ivory soap line.

After all, it's family.


Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.