For anyone who was growing during the 1960s and 70s comic books were a fact of life. They provided hours of entertainment in the days before computers and video gaming systems (or even the widespread use of color television) were a feature of everyday life. But comic books were a secret weapon for many marketers who had to find a way of reaching their target audience in the days before (thankfully) the days of the Internet Pop Up ad .And if the audience was children comic books were the perfect vehicle for advertising that often make some extremely dubious (if not downright misleading) claims. Kids were delighted to see mail order offers for x-ray specs, ‘proven’ Charles Atlas bodybuilding courses, packages of 100 toy soldiers and many more, including Sea Monkeys.
It was the offer for Sea Monkeys that attracted the attention of the more science minded kids and those who could not resist the alure of having pets that they could grow in the comfort of their own homes – often supplied with an aquarium for the bargain price of $1,00 (at least in the 60s).
Thousands of children ordered Sea Monkeys. After all, if the illustrations in the comic book advertising were to be believed the growing boy or girl would become the custodian of an entire society of tiny pink web footed creatures which posed enticingly in family units. They were so ‘Eager to Please’ they could even be taught to do tricks! All that was required was some ‘Growth Food’, water purifier and an open tap.
For some, the disappointment of receiving what were actually Brine Shrimp eggs was almost too mich to bear. However, Harold von Braunhut, mail order genius (and inventor of both x-ray specs and at least the marketing of Sea Monkey’s) made million.
This is not to say that Sea Monkeys (freshwater Brine Shrimp) are not fascinating creatures. Although they don’t in any way resemble the creatures pictured in the comic book ads they are attracted to light – following a directed beam (making the ‘tricks possible), they breath through their feet and are remarkably hardy – thanks to the fact that the Sea Monkeys that were marketed are actually a lab created hybrid species.
Sea Monkeys remain popular today. The range of accessories that have been manufactured for kids to enjoy the Sea Monkey experience continues to grow. There are aquariums of many different types. TV shows have been inspired by their antics and it remains true that even a very young child will find hatching and growing Sea Monkeys an absolute breeze.
For any child the fascination if seeing life develop under their watchful eyes is one that is filled with wonder. They are now sold in shops all over the world. Which is amazing given their origins as a marketing exercise aimed at making a quick buck. Sea Monkeys remain excellent value for money for those who want to given kids an introduction to the wonders of the natural world. They remain incredible value for money – and are simply fun.