Breakaway Advertisement

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Remember the phrase "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"? Now do you recall what product it was originally used to sell? Did you know that the old computer game Sopwith was a multiplayer game used to showcase a networking program?

This is Breakaway Advertisement, when a slogan, phrase, mascot, or showcase becomes more famous or even outlasts the product it was created for.

Compare with All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game".

Examples of Breakaway Advertisement include:

Slogans, Phrases, and Jingles:

  • "Don't mess with Texas" is from an anti-littering campaign.
  • "Mamma-mia, that's-a-spicy meatball!". People thought it was for sauce. It was for Alka-Seltzer.
    • Given that the ad was about rehearsals for a sauce commercial, this is apparently a case of the tail wagging the dog.
  • "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!"- used in an advert for Life Alert, a medical alarm company. It actually began with a similar product named LifeCall, and Life Alert started using that phrase after LifeCall went under.
  • "Boom De Ya Da": The Discovery Channel commercials with stars of the channel's various shows musing how they love various features of the world. Borderline, as it hasn't yet stood the test of time, but it seems quite popular to make parodies (such as on YouTube - partly fueled by an official Discovery Channel contest). While it's clearly an ad, it also seems made more to invoke a sense of general wonder as anything.
    • Note that the music wasn't created for the commercial (the tune and the "Boom De Ya Da" chorus are from a popular campfire song), just the lyrics to the verses; the song has "stood the test of time."
  • "I'm not a doctor, But I Play One on TV." Many people remember the line. They may even vaguely remember it was for some sort of medicine. Almost no one remembers which medicine (Vicks Cough Syrup)
  • "Crispy Critters" has become a part of the (American) English vernacular, meaning something (or someone) that's been burned to a crisp. You could bomb a football stadium and not hit twenty people who remember Crispy Critters cereal (a short-lived animal cracker-like concotion).
  • "Where's the beef?" Such a simple ad would never fly at the Super Bowl nowadays, but back when the "Fluffy Bun" ad aired, it was a breakaway success, the little old lady who delivered the line became a minor celebrity, and the line became symbolic of something that had no "meat" to it, whether figuratively or literally; it even got mentioned in the 1984 US Presidential campaign. Now, which restaurant chain was it an ad for? (Wendy's)
    • The fact that the slogan got so broken away from the company is a major reason why Wendy's decided to bring it back in new ads for 2011.
  • "The greatest thing since sliced bread" was a tagline from a Wonder Bread commercial.
  • The line "So round! So firm! So fully packed!" was a slogan from radio ads for Lucky Strike cigarettes back in the '40's, but it then got picked up by radio personalities and Looney Tunes characters like Pepé Le Pew for describing members of the fairer sex. Most Looney Tunes fans today can tell it's a '40's cultural reference, but few would know what it's from.
  • "You've come a long way, baby!" Originally a cigarette advert (as cigarettes displaced cigars in an attempt to market the product to women). Now merely a shorthand for sexism... No. I haven't come a long way, and don't call me 'baby'.
  • "They check in, but they don't check out" in reference to an Inn of No Return or a filthy cockroach motel. The original product was Black Flag's Roach Motel® bug traps as "Roaches check in, but they don't check out."
  • Coca-Cola's "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing," which was for four weeks in 1971 the #1 single in the U.K..
    • Although this one is arguably a bit easier to identify for anyone who remembers anything beyond the first line of lyrics, since a subsequent line is "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company."
      • The jingle was re-released as a pop song with the sodapop advertising excised; in that version, the line (which is the fourth line) is changed to "I'd like to hold it in my arms"
      • The song has probably been redeemed with this recent commercial that airs during NASCAR events.
  • The "Da Da Da" song by Trio may not have originated in a 1990's Volkswagen ad, but that's certainly what popularized it in the U.S.
  • The ad campaign / With these short poems / Was used at first / For shaving fo-am / Burma-Shave
  • "You got your X in my Y!" "You got your Y in my X!" for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (originally, it was chocolate and peanut butter).


  • Their hand puppet's appeal infamously outlasted the lifespan of their company (which admittedly wasn't that long to begin with) and now shills for cheap car loans.
  • The ITV Digital Monkey has also outlived its original creators' short life, and now advertises PG Tips tea. It was said (possibly not seriously) that when ITV Digital shut down, Monkey was one of the most valuable of their few remaining assets.
  • Cavemen, the TV Series, derived from the GEICO Cavemen advertisements. It didn't last.
    • Five years before Cavemen, Baby Bob was a sitcom based on Baby Bob, a baby who talked like a 40 year old in ads for (now defunct) and later Quiznos.
  • Yo! Noid, Cool Spot, M.C. Kids, and a host of other video games made from mascots. Surprisingly, some of them are all right.
    • Yo! Noid, interestingly enough, is only a halfway example - it was a heavily localized version of a Japanese game, Masked Ninja Hanamaru, which had absolutely nothing to do with Domino's Pizza (or pizza in general, for that matter).
  • The noted Jim Varney character Ernest P. Worrell was originally created as an all-purpose advertising mascot in Nashville. Then he went to camp and saved Christmas and people took notice.
  • Compare the Meerkat - a advert for an insurance price comparison website (Compare The Market) in which a meerkat tycoon, Aleksandr Orlov, reminds viewers not to confuse it with his website. Aleksandr's "autobiography" was a bestseller.
  • Betty Boop started out as a series of cartoon shorts in the 30's and 40's, and now exists only on merchandise such as girls' t-shirts. That's not mentioning slogans such as "Girl Power!" that have nothing to do with the original cartoon.


  • Sopwith: Created to demonstrate "Imagenet", a proprietary networking system by BMB Compuscience. Became a commercially successful product in its own right; Imagenet itself, not so much.
  • Pixar, after spinning off from Lucasfilm, spent time as a hardware company selling the "Pixar Image Computer." Their first shorts were just demos, but they far outshone anything else done with computers at the time. When the computer didn't sell well, they became Pixar Animation Studios, and the rest is history.
  • The PlayStation 2 game Fanta Vision was originally developed as a tech demo to showcase the capabilities of the new hardware, but proved to be popular enough that a consumer version was released as a reasonably successful launch title for the system.
  • Colonel Harlan Sanders originally fried chicken to help sell pressure cookers, as a way of showing what they're capable of. He couldn't sell those pressure cookers, but the guests would pay to have his chicken. And thus, Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.
    • Specifically, he had invented the pressure fryer, which allowed chicken to be fried far faster than pan frying. He used it at his own restaurant, but when he tried to sell it, people weren't sure what to do with it. He ended up adding his own cooking methods to the package, creating a franchise system.
    • Sanders actually started by buying a gas station and trying to sell gas. After one of his customers smelled his wife's cooking coming from the back he turned the unsuccessful gas station into a restaurant. Though the restaurant ultimately failed after some years it's what got Sanders started in cooking.


  • Knott's Berry Farm was originally a berry stand beside a family farm. After the berry stand grew into a popular restaurant, the owners began building a "ghost town" and other attractions to amuse customers while they waited for a table. As the attractions blossomed into an amusement park, the family began charging admission. The park now rivals nearby Disneyland and has completely overwhelmed the original restaurant.
  • Similarly, Kennywood Amusement Park in Pittsburgh began as a picnic area, where eventually a trolley rail route was laid out nearby. A small park was built next to the trolley station to entertain kids until the trolley arrived. As the park got bigger and bigger and more popular, and the trolley station was dismantled, the amusement park became one of the most renowned parks in Mideastern America.
  • Chessington World of Adventures in London was originally a small side-attraction to Chessington Zoo. The zoo is still there, but now it's a side-attraction to the theme park.

Promotional Products

  • The bizarre comic strip Monty started out as Robotman, and was made to promote a children's doll.
  • Marvel Comics's ROM Spaceknight by Bill Mantlo was a licensed comic based on a toy. The toy was a commercial failure, but the comic was successful and lasted for years, and its settings and supporting characters still appear in Marvel comics from time to time.
  • The Micronauts comic (also by Mantlo) also outlasted the toy line that inspired it by several years. The character Bug, very loosely based on the Galactic Warrior action figure, is still around in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy title, since he's different enough from the toy that inspired him that Marvel can claim to own him outright.
  • In 1991, there was a dancing doll called My Pretty Ballerina. The doll was only around for a year or so and then discontinued. However, a children's picture book, Saturday Is Ballet Day, about a pair of friends (a black girl and a white girl) learning to ballet dance, was published to merchandise it. The book is charming, and has been continuously in print for almost twenty years, complete with the doll's logo on the cover.
  • Hi-C's "Ecto-Cooler" flavor was produced to promote the TV series The Real Ghostbusters. The stuff tasted good, and Hi-C kept producing it for years after the show ended, complete with Slimer on the label. They eventually removed him and changed the name to Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen, then Crazy Citrus Cooler, before discontinuing the flavor completely in 2007.