Odol mouthwash is a German product originating in Dresden in 1892. Sales expanded rapidly, assisted by an exceptionally high expenditure on advertising and promotion. By the 1930s it was on sale in more than 20 countries, including Britain and the US, where Stuart Davis made it the subject of a painting in 1924. The ad below appeared in India in 1931, reassuring the customer that Odol will destroy typhoid germs in less than a minute. Odol survives as a leading brand in Germany today in the ownership of GlaxoSmithKline.
The tradition of handing out small format picture story books free of charge to children was established at the end of the 19th. century as businesses such as Colman’s Mustard learned the value of indirect publicity. The makers of Odol, feeling less generous, priced their series of picture books at sixpence. A brave or foolish move considering that the highest priority on every page was to place Odol at the centre of attention. As well as a story, the book offered a paper plane, colouring pages, cut-out and keep toy soldiers for deployment in the war against decay, an ever-popular “What’s Wrong With These Pictures?” feature and much good advice on dental hygeine. Production values were better than average but whether it represented value for money is not so easy to say.