As some of you know already, we partner with the Exhibit Design class in the Department of Museum Studies at Baylor University every year, so the students get a hands-on learning opportunity in exhibit design and development. This year’s class was given the topic of Dr Pepper spokespersons. They selected Peggy Pepper, Frosty Dog, Harmon, Donna Loren, and David Naughton to examine. They then picked objects from the Museum’s collection, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group collection, and from 2 generous Dr Pepper collectors. With these images they were able to focus on that spokesperson’s impact on Dr Pepper’s national advertising and product sales. Over the next months we will present a series of blog posts the students have developed about their particular spokesperson and some interesting things they learned along way about them. Thanks to these students for their hard work on this exhibit: Jennifer, Grace, Jordan, Laura, Wes, Erin, Margaret, Annie, Stephanie, Hannah, Becca, Megan, Amy, and Erik. We’ll start out with Erik, Wes, and Becca’s blog on Peggy Pepper.
Pretty Peggy Pepper was one of the early faces of Dr Pepper. Her entrance into the company’s advertising campaign took place in February 1941. Her image began with a patriotic theme and moved toward more athletic based ads showing her playing tennis, diving, or cheering on baseball player. These ads were featured in News and Views magazine along with her promotional themes “Swing Your Energy UP, Pick Your Energy UP, and Take Home a Carton.” In addition, she had her own cartoon strip featured in Sunday comics.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, marketing strategies changed and the company began to rethink how to incorporate Peggy Pepper with the war efforts. This was first seen in the February 1942 issue of News and Views, with Peggy handing a bottle of Dr Pepper to a soldier driving a jeep. The company’s support for war efforts also included a listing of Dr Pepper plants who were purchasing Defense Bonds and Stamps in the March issue of News and Views, as well as a general call for Americans to do the same. In addition, each issue featured a list of Dr Pepper employees who were serving in the war. This focus on the war effort was by no means unique in American advertising, but the level of involvement that Dr Pepper committed to things such as war bonds truly made the company stand out in their patriotism. Another interesting use of Peggy during the war was to encourage people to grow Victory Gardens so more food was available for the soldiers. This was an especially interesting find, and one that, in our minds, cemented Dr Pepper’s legacy as a great company.
Although the war was still active, the rise in popularity of Western films being produced in Hollywood at the time led to a shift in advertising in the April 1942 issue of News and Views. Noted color photographer, Ivan Dimitri, was commissioned to take the Western themed photograph featuring Pretty Peggy Pepper handing a Dr Pepper to a cowboy riding a horse. The photograph was taken at the Deep Hollow Ranch, a 5,500 acre dude ranch on Long Island’s Montauk Point, about 100 miles from New York City. The cowboy was the foreman of the ranch and Peggy was featured wearing the patriotic attire that made her famous. While the photograph was not truly from the West, the advertisement made Dr Pepper a well-known trademark, once again.
This Western theme did not last long, however, and neither did Pretty Peggy Pepper. The April issue of New and Views was the last time she would appear in a Dr Pepper advertisement. With the country still in the middle of a war in the South Pacific, the company decided to focus their ads primarily on war themes. As war production plants operated continuously, many bottle vendors provided soft drinks to workers regularly because research found that carbonated beverages were effective in boosting productivity. While Pretty Peggy Pepper’s short career only lasted fourteen months, Dr Pepper strongly believed in supporting the men and women at war and chose to display that support through their advertisements.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 S. 5th Street in downtown Waco. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 PM, last ticket sold at 4:15. For more information, visit us on the web at drpeppermuseum.com. To purchase your own Dr Pepper memorabilia, visit the Museum’s online gift shop.