In 1969, Swiss advertising agency Gerstner, Gredinger + Kutter (GGK) launched an innovative campaign for Germany’s most popular soft drink: Sinalco Kola (distinct for its “sherbet powder” taste). It starred a brightly colored, life-sized blow-up party doll named Rita. With striking red hair, curly lashes, lush shapes, and a Sinalco Kola in hand, the campaign slogan boasted “Rita ist lieb,” which in English translates to “Rita is sweet.” “She will follow you everywhere: to parties, seaside holidays, or even into the bathtub. She does not smoke, does not drink, does not scold. Rita is all yours and she is not an expensive girl: she comes to you through the mail for 6,60 Deutsche Marks.” Yes, besides this colossal beauty’s presence in magazine advertisements, insert posters, TV ads, and in-store displays all over Germany, you could also have an inflatable Rita sent directly to your home for about $4 US.
Within two years of the campaign’s launch, Rita had quickly achieved cult status and helped Sinalco garner tons of attention, but more importantly, a unique personification and lasting impression that would help separate their brand from ubiquitous competitors such as Coca-Cola. In March of 1971, several inflated Rita’s were thrown from the roof of the Rhein-Main-Halle building during a trade fair as part of a spontaneous marketing stunt. Dozens of excited Wiesbaden residents ran through the streets with their Rita dolls, continuing their celebration in local pubs and train stations. By the mid-‘70s, every hippie in Germany owned this eye-catching piece of plastic pop art, and Rita’s became very common at public gatherings: from crowd surfing at outdoor music festivals to political protests. A male counterpart to Rita was created: a macho, muscular, spandex wearing man pathetically nicknamed “The Guy,” but Rita proved that her popularity could never be matched.
Rita blow-up party dolls can still be found floating around Germany, occasionally someone will sell one on eBay. She typically goes for about 70 euros, who can score me one?