Why Do We Call Some TV Shows Soap Operas?

Things have changed since the 50's when women used to stay home to clean and cook.

Things have changed since the 50's when women used to stay home to clean and cook.

Have you ever wondered where the term soap opera comes from? This type of advertising was common in the early days of radio and TV, and it formed the foundation of advertising.

Soap Operas

The term means "a serialized drama that airs multiple times per week and follows the intersecting lives of families in a certain town". The stories are melodramatic and over-the-top. But where’s the soap? Why did American culture associate this program with soap?

It has to do with content marketing.

Beginning In the 1930's, one company sponsored each show, and had 100% share-of-voice for the ads that appeared during the run of the show. Most commonly in the 1930's, these were houseware supply companies such as Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. Their intent was to reach a captive audience of stay-at-home housewives and sell them more product. And what product do they use more than anything else when their at home cleaning all day? Soap.


Soap Operas are one of the first examples of content marketing. See our video explaining this in more detail.

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Steven Matt

I am the Director of Digital Marketing at one of the world’s largest financial institutions. I teach Digital Marketing courses to small businesses on behalf of the NYC government and General Assembly in NYC. I am a graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn with a Bachelors degree in Communications Design. I have a Masters degree in Management and Technology from New York University. In my spare time, I organize volunteer glass cleanups in NYC parks and I make jewelry out of the broken glass that I and the volunteers collect. I sell the designs at an artisan market in Brooklyn.