Hello. I have some news. There’s apparently a candy bar manufactured by Hershey's called Whatchamacallit. Did you know this? Hershey's began manufacturing this chocolate bar, initially constructed of peanut butter and chocolate, on December 8, 1978. I'd never heard of it until roughly two months ago. “It’s not your everyday candy bar,” the Hershey Company site argues. Uh, yeah—that’s because I’ve never seen it in my “everyday” life, which involves frequenting grocery and convenience stores. This potentially fictive candy bar must be discontinued, its webpage merely a relic of a bygone era, left over due to the sloth of the Hershey Company's site manager. Right?
Am I crazy to believe that this chocolate bar no longer exists? No; type in “Whatchamacallit” into Google and a suggested search term is “whatchamacallit candy bar discontinued.” There is a great swath of the American netizenry who seems to agree with my suspicion that yes, Whatchamacallit has been discontinued.
Hm. “Whatchamacallit.” What a name. The rascal who devised this moniker was a woman named Patricia Volk. Patty over here was tasked with the Hershey “account” as Associate Creative Director at ad agency Doyle Dane & Bernbach circa the late 1970s. "I did get credit for inventing the name "Whatchamacallit" for a new candy bar," she wrote in 2001's Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family after she’d been stiffed for credit for devising the names of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses. Not crediting women for their work is bad.
But the most recent commercial for the Whatchamacallit is good, so much that it warrants) a glowing mention on the candy’s Wikipedia page. That’s when you know we’re talking business. It wasn't always this way; upon Whatchamacallit's entry into American markets, Hershey's attempted to advertise it through deploying itinerant truckers, a camping couple, and quarreling boys in a baseball dugout. Uh, yeah, snooze. I first saw these commercials in September, and I wanted someone to "wake me up when September ends." These were plainly uninvolving commercials; one might glean from them that Whatchamacallit took its “sweet” time (ha, get it) to hit its stride before 1985, when Hershey’s unleashed the following upon us:
Wow. I know what you’re thinking. This commercial is good as hell.
Broken down, the ingredients suggest an outcome that's insufferable: a jingle that’s a few notes shy of being a dimestore “Funky Town” cover, a line-drawn aesthetic cribbed from a decaying issue of Highlights magazine, the milquetoast singing voice of a woman who sounds like an amnesiac. But it’s all rather humorous—notice how the singer seems to gently rib at our perceived stupidity, acknowledging that the very name of this chocolate bar may confuse us. She suggests alternatives (Gobbledeygook?) before a chorus of sirens reminds us that it is called Whatchamacallit. Amazing. In concert, these antagonistic aesthetic elements come together, creating a commercial is so calming that it almost negates the bar's abundance of such ingredients as corn syrup solids and vanillin. (Yum!)
Actually, let’s talk about the ingredients. In 1978, the candy began, as I said earlier (were you listening?), as a simple, appropriately dressed bar of crispy peanut butter topped with chocolate. All good, right? False—in 1987, Hershey’s decided to “tinker” with the formula, adding some caramel. Why? I don’t know. It was around this same time when Hershey's became sheepish about broadcasting the fact that it offered Whatchamacallit in its canon at all, lessening the rotation of advertising for the product on television. I contacted Hershey inquiring as to why they changed the formula, along with a demand for answers as to why they've begun to disown this product as if it were the family's felon child. They haven’t answered as of publication. (In 2009, they even offered a sister to the Whatchamacallit in the form of the “Thingamajig,” composed of chocolate, cocoa crisps, and peanut butter. Uhhh, yeah, nice try Hershey. Heard it wasn’t too hot.)
In spite of my longstanding affection for these thirty seconds of animation and song, I’ve never said this particular collection of syllables, "Whatchamacallit," until yesterday, when I was forced to ask my coworkers about whether they’ve heard about this candy bar. I assumed they, like me, hadn’t known of its existence thus prior. Well…I surveyed my colleagues and, preferring to minimize human contact, did so through messaging application Slack. Here's what I found:
Incredible. Looks like I'm wrong.
Did you know that Whatchamacallit was still alive? Have you had it? Please let me know in the comments.
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