ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Think for a moment about little things that make life nicer and then hold that thought for just another moment. In 1972, when ALL THINGS CONSIDERED was just a year old, we asked our listeners to write noncommercial radio ads. These non-commercials weren't ads for products. They were ads for things or experiences that just make life nicer. And we've decided to bring it back for the New Year. Susan Stamberg ran that project some 44 years ago, and she's here to talk about it. Hi, Susan.
SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Hi.
SIEGEL: This project was called Commercials for Nicer Living.
SIEGEL: What was the idea behind it?
STAMBERG: Well, the thing is most commercials that you hear on the radio or television - anywhere - are for things that really nobody cares about. I mean, who cares about toothpaste, right? Who cares about the kind of shampoo that you use? So we thought we're noncommercial broadcasters. Let's suggest things that do matter, things that give listeners great pleasure - ideas they love or experiences or things that they love to eat - and create commercials for them. Listeners wrote about apple pie. They wrote about biking. They wrote about clean sheets. And we had a ground rule - only 120 words.
SIEGEL: And what happened to these entries that were submitted?
STAMBERG: Well, we produced them like real commercial advertisements. We had music. We had jingles. We had sound effects.
SIEGEL: Well, let's hear this one. This one was submitted - a commercial for cumulus clouds.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
PHIL ZIMMERMAN: Hurry, hurry, hurry - autumn specials available now. Hurry, hurry - cumulus clouds. This offer good only until twilight when these models will be discontinued. Hurry, hurry - exclusive designs, no two alike.
SIEGEL: Did cumulus clouds sales rise after that?
STAMBERG: Yes, they did. They spiked (laughter).
SIEGEL: Here are some other submissions that were turned into radio ads - love letters - you had one - wading, as in wading in the water, walking and the human bio clock. Here's a taste of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Fuzzed by a buzz? Jangled by a jingle? Rather wake up to morning's hush seasoned by a birdsong? Come alive with bio clock, your built-in time piece. Bio clock is the result of eons research and development.
STAMBERG: (Laughter) I'd buy that one.
SIEGEL: Do you have any favorites, or have we already heard them?
STAMBERG: (Laughter) Yeah. No, I actually - in fact, I loved them all. But, you know, it wasn't so much about what was a favorite. It was the mood, and you could hear it, really, in those. I mean, the times were really rough - 1972. The Vietnam War was raging. Nixon was having turmoils in the White House. And yet what I love about this is they're so innocent-sounding.
STAMBERG: They're not cynical. It really reflects another time.
SIEGEL: This is from before even I came to work here.
STAMBERG: Even then.
SIEGEL: The reason that we are having this conversation today, Susan, is, of course, because today we're going to have a new Commercials for Nicer Living call-out, version 2017. What are the rules, and how do people get their ideas to us?
STAMBERG: So you go to npr.org/nicer, and you send us just your script - 120 words maximum. And we will produce it. We'll put in all the effects, the music. Also, we need your contact information - how we can get in touch with you.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And the best submissions will be turned into radio ads with voices, music, but, Susan, who will decide?
STAMBERG: Well, me, Robert. No, no, no.
STAMBERG: We'll have some extremely reliable staffers, as well.
SIEGEL: That's the who. When will we expect to hear some of these new Commercials for Nicer Living?
STAMBERG: End of January.
SIEGEL: Susan Stamberg, thanks for telling us about the new Commercials for Nicer Living call-out. We'll look forward to hearing how it goes. Thanks.
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