Why Are Soap Operas Called… ‘Soap Operas’?

Soap operas; you know those tv dramas that involve betrayals, breakups, dark secrets and an incredibly complicated storyline. But have you ever wondered how did they get their name?

Well, the story behind the term is quite simple – and squeaky clean actually.

It all started during the roaring 20s when radio stations desperately wanted to increase their advertising revenue. To do so, they developed daytime serial shows that were directly aimed at housewives (don’t forget that most wives stayed at home in those days), and approached household good manufacturers for sponsorships. (the article continues after the ad)

The first to get in on the act was Procter & Gamble. Oxydol (P&G’s soap powder) was the sponsor of a show called Ma Perkins, a drama about a woman in Rushville who ran a lumberyard. After the show was tested on a local station in Cincinnati, Ohio, it went national on NBC. 

The show turned out to be a great marketing deal as the sales of Oxydol attributed to the sponsorship were more than satisfying. In the years to come, P&G not only sponsored numerous new radio shows but it also started to produce its own daytime serials. Radio stations got their ad money, faithful listeners became loyal customers and it was a win-win situation for everyone.

Due to P&G’s success story, more soap manufacturers jumped into the “daytime serials sponsoring” scene. Because of their association with soap ads, these shows were given the name “soap operas”; a name that stuck throughout the decades and it’s still widely used even today.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Is It Called ‘Caesar Salad’?     

Photo:  National Archives and Records AdministrationWikimedia
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: How Soap Operas Got Their Name; Why Are Soaps Called Soaps? | Ever Wondered Why TV Shows Are Called Soaps? Here’s Your Answer

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