Two of the most unforgettable ads of all time—Alka-Seltzer’s “Try it, you’ll like it” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”—were comments snatched from real life, the real life of Howie Cohen.
Cohen, in a recent Los Angeles Times interview, recounts the moment “Try it, you’ll like it” was born. At their brainstorming sessions, he says, “I would throw out a line, and Bob would throw out a line. We thought this guy should be in a restaurant and the waiter recommends the wrong food. And I said, ‘Try it, you’ll like it.’” Cohen couldn’t think of the next line, so he repeated himself, and Pasqualina laughed. Repeated throughout the commercial by actor Jack Aaron “…So I tried it. Thought I was gonna die,” it still resonates as a catch phrase today.
A year later, as Cohen and crew celebrated the completion of a commercial shoot in London with director Milos Forman, they gathered at a restaurant for dinner. After this very heavy, completely satisfying meal, Cohen leaned back in his chair and groaned, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” His wife promptly turned to him. “There’s your next commercial,” she exclaimed.
For the past 18 years, Cohen’s been the chief creative officer at Phelps, one of the largest independent ad agencies in the West.