Dr. Scholl’s Path to the Presidency

Picoaza, Ecuador is a relatively small village near the country’s Pacific coast. With a current population of nearly 20,000, it is the site of an archaeological treasure: a settlement dating back before the time of Christopher Columbus. It is also a rather poor area, with items such as clean drinking water, sewer systems, and telephone service — things that many of us often take for granted — inadequate at best.

It is also probably the only town in the known world to elect, as its mayor, a brand of foot powder.

As is often the case during election season, candidates advertise — a lot.  If a candidate can find a way to get their name and/or message in front of a voter, they will.  And because of this, the amount of this type of advertising during campaign season makes one thing abundantly clear to even the most oblivious passerby: an election is coming.

In 1967, the people of Picoaza voted for mayor.  A foot powder company decided to ride this publicity wave to their own benefit, with an ad campaign of their own, promoting their product, Pulvapies. Leading up to election day, their message, translated, was non-partisan and straightforward: “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” The night before the election, they distributed leaflets which were more to the point:  “For Mayor: Honorable Pulvapies.”

The campaign worked — in one sense, at least.  While we do not know if sales of Pulvapies increased, we do know that write-in ballots voting for the product did.  Pulvapies received enough write-in votes to win the election. What happened afterward is unknown in the English-speaking world — as Snopes notes, no English-language media outlets followed up on how Picoaza resolved the obvious problem of having foot deodorant as the executive-in-chief.

Bonus fact: In 1995, a Florida Wal-Mart banned a t-shirt from its store after at least one shopper complained that the shirt was not consistent with the store’s position on family values, per the Sun-Sentinel.  What was on the shirt?  Nothing involving sex, drugs, violence, etc. — not even close.  It was a picture of Margaret, from the cartoon version of Dennis the Menace, with the message “Someday a woman will be President!”  The store changed its tune after a lot of bad press — three months after pulling the shirts from the shelves.  One can see the image (#4) and 10 other things Wal-Marts have banned courtesy of mental_flosshere.

From the Archives: The Protest Candidate Who Won, the story of a very unlikely — and arguably unintentional — mayor of the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, who ran on the platform of free towels and polar bears.

Related reading: “The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done,” by Kathryn and Ross Petras.  One of the 176 is voting for Pulvapies; the other 175, who knows?  Four stars on 13 reviews.

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