Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Give me a song and a cute mascot and I’ll buy your stuff. A advertising icon that we all love. You know, the Gecko, Tony the Tiger, Captain Crunch, Ronald McDonald, The Burger King, Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth, The Pillsbury Dough Boy, The Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Coronel Sanders, The Travelocity Gnome, The M&M Guys, The Talking Cool Aid Pitcher, The Rice Crispy Guys in your cereal, The Planters Peanut, The Hawaiian Punch Guy, Mr. Clean, The Bounty Lumberjack Guy, Charlie the Tuna, Geoffrey the Giraffe, Speedy the Alka Seltzer Boy, the Taco Bell chihuahua and the Jolly Green Giant. We trust all these icons or toys or friendly faces. I saw them every day more than my Cousins!
Give me the time when there were actual jobs on Madison Avenue in N.Y.C. where musicians were paid to write clever jingles to identify a song with a product. “Chock full of Nuts is the Heavenly Coffee, Heavenly Coffee, Heavenly Coffee, Chock full of Nuts is the Heavenly Coffee, Better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy.“ I think that was the way the song went that I grew up on. Now the commercial music is some knock-off from a new artist style or even a old hit song with the words changed. We have to hear this stuff all day long if you actually sit down and watch something all the way through. Thanks to Tivos in every cable system, we can tape our favorite shows and fast forward through all the new bad music through commercials, but I’ll always stop to see those cute Keebler Elves.
There is a soft place in your heart for anything you grew up with even if it is fake and doesn’t really exist. Now with computer generated techniques, places like Pixar studios can bring these icons back in a new way and give them real lives like the Toy Story guys. The problem is that the new young computer geniuses that can bring the icons back to life don’t even remember them. The Alka Seltzer Boy hasn’t been in television advertisements since 1964. More than 20 years since our young animators were born. Frame Store is an animation company in New York who got the contract to give Speedy some Zip on TV again.
It is a narcotic of nostalgia to see these guys and touches a soft spot in your heart even if Mr. Clean is selling really harmful smelly stuff to clean messes with. Mr. Peanut had a few makeovers. Introduced in 1919 in black and white, in 1948 looking much like a peanut and now looking very yellow since 2004. He is voiced by actor Robert Downey Jr. now. He doesn’t just stand around looking elegant with his top hat and cane; now he even rides bicycles. The Budweiser Frogs have a whole story line that you kind of look forward to but would never admit.
Icons became a plot theme in a major motion picture. In the movie “Demolition Man” starring Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock and Wesley Snipes, a futuristic “San-Angeles” was devoid of centuries of culture. In forming a new society, the ruling class was a very gentile, polite and sophisticated group of people. The only recognizable Logo or icon that survived was the Taco Bell logo and therefore all restaurants became Taco Bell. When Stallone’s character is told that he was being treated to a fancy dinner for saving the leader’s life at Taco Bell he reacts with surprise and amazement that he would be taken to a low cost fast food restaurant. Sandra bullock explains the reality of the situation and they are presented with posh and elegant food presentations he can’t believe his eyes. The entertainer in the restaurant is singing the Green Giant jingle as well as other old commercial jingles. Sandra bullock and her partner are listening to the songs in their car as they drive along and explain that these are the only songs that people remember as good or pleasant from the past so they survived all the upheavals that have taken society to where they are now. So, the jingles became folk songs.
Now they are planning an Advertising Icon Museum, opening this year in Kansas City. It’s founder stresses that it doesn’t do any good if the consumer does not connect the icon to the advertised product. Some of these guys have a celebrity all to itself. Green Giant has to ultimately sell peas! The icon mania went over the top when it came to selling cereals. There is the Trix bunny, The Apple Jacks apple man, The Captain Crunch cereal named after the mascot, The Sugar Crisp Bear, Toucan Sam for Fruit Loops, The Snap, Crackle and Pop Rice Krispies guys and I’m sure I forgot to mention a few more.

We have to blame or thank whichever way you look back on these things on Leo Burnett who ran an agency in Chicago when television was born in the 1940’s. It was known as the critter agency where animation was popping. His agency gave birth to Toucan Sam for Fruit Loops, The Pillsbury Dough Boy, Charlie the Tuna and Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes.
This has become the new American History where the Quaker Oats Pilgrim is wrinkle free at the age of 134. The Michelin man is a fully inflated tire at the age of 113. Mr. Peanut is still elegant at the age of 95. These guys are undergoing a new makeover with all of our new animation techniques. Lets watch commercials! Forget about our shows! And that is just where the advertisers want you suckers! Buy more stuff because the icons or mascots make you feel good even if they are not real.

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