Sunday, November 19, 2017

Burn Notice


You know not to play with matches, right?  If you do, it's probably, in part, because of Smokey the Bear.  The friendly, fuzzy fire prevention advocate has been watching over the American forests for decades.  But how did it all start for our hairy hero?  Like many great characters, his origin has been told in comic book format:

The setting was Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico in 1950.  For a story like this it's best to have an omniscient narrator...possibly an animal...and the comic delivers in the form of our storytelling hawk (or possibly some other kind of bird):

The comic goes into detail about the efforts of firefighters and soldiers who fought the great blaze of the Capitan Gap Fire which destroyed 17,000 acres of forest.  Once the inferno was under control a lone survivor was found:

Yep, the once and future Smokey survived the fire and was rescued by the friendly fire fighters but he was still burned and need medical help.  And once he was brought to the ranger station he began the healing process.

He was originally named "Hotfoot Teddy" but the U.S. Forest service already had a "Smokey the Bear" awareness campaign and, even back then, synergy was synergy and his name was quickly changed.  Stardom followed soon after...

And the rest...well, you know.  Smokey has appeared in pretty much any medium you can think of and is still going strong today.  As far as mascots go, he's changed very little and his message has remained consistent...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Out of the Loop

Let's face it, we've probably all been eating our Froot Loops pretty much the same way from the get go.  Outside of the "milk and bowl" maneuver, there's the dry method and a handful of custom creations but there's typically nothing new under the sun...until Toucan Sam went to Texas.

The State Fair of Texas is known as the "Deep Fried Food Capital of the World" and every year vendors compete to come up with the most creative deep fried dish to amaze and sustain fair visitors.  Deep Fried Twinkies and Deep Fried Snickers may have started the trend years ago but now they're old news.  This year's top contender was Deep Fried Froot Loops...and I got 'em!

Here's what they look like.  The round loops of fruity goodness not only garnish the tasty treat, they also make up the inner filling.  Inside the crisp shell is a "goo" (for lack of a better term) that has the essence of Froot Loops.  Somehow the cereal was mashed up or liquefied or goo-ified but it definitely tastes like the real deal.

Like many deep fried treats, the creators feel it necessary to dump a ton of powdered sugar on top of it.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing but if I breathe in right before a bite, I tend to get a lung full of sugar...which is an unusual sensation. 

Lastly, there's also a type of icing or topping to round out the experience.  I wasn't sure but I think it was marshmallow flavor.  I'm also not even sure that marshmallow is a is, right?  So as far as I'm concerned, we now have a brand new way to enjoy our favorite fruity breakfast treat.  If you try them, tell 'em Sam sent ya.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rubber Made

You may think of the Michelin Man as the quirky, bloated fellow who serves as a beacon of warmth when you have car trouble and have to go to the auto parts store, but the ribbed gentleman also serves as a reminder of economic prosperity to the people of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  And he's always there to greet you at their Michelin Plant:

The plant has been here for years and if you are like me and constantly on the search for photo ops with life sized advertising mascots then it's definitely worth a stop as you travel along I-35.  This tall drink of water is practically begging you to slap some skin and give him five:

Michelin has been so good for central Oklahoma that our lumpy buddy was even honored by the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City by displaying this smaller version of the legendary icon in one of their exhibits:

So around this area there is clearly some love for when the rubber meets the road.  And if you want to pay a visit to an advertising icon, you know where to go.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dead Man's Party

Guess who's back?  Yep, it's that time of year again.  The grocery store shelves are turning a specific shade of orange and black and the rubber mask smell wafts throughout the stores a little bit more than you'd like it to.  But the most important indicator of the approach of the Halloween season happens in the cereal aisle:

I've had mixed feelings about the seasonal availability about the General Mills Monster Cereals.  Of course, in the old days they were on sale year round and when they changed to a six week seasonal offering, the initial feelings of shock and betrayal couldn't be denied.

But I think I've come around on the whole situation.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.  One of the best things about the shorter release is the new box designs we get (almost) every year.  This year in particular has quite the Halloween party on the back:

If you're into advertising mascots like me, this is definitely the party you want to be invited to.  A lot of our cereal pals are in attendance and the costume theme seems to be exclusively "monsters from Monster Cereals."  Here's how it breaks down:
  • Dressed as Count Chocula: Boo Berry, the Trix Rabbit and the Cinnamon Toast Crunch "Crazy Squares" (I still haven't warmed up to those guys)
  • Dressed as Boo Berry: Lucky the Leprechaun, Frankenberry and Buzz Bee from Honey Nut Cherrios
  • Dressed as Frankenberry: Count Chocula, Sonny from Cocoa Puffs and the Pillsbury Doughboy?!?  Wait, he's not from a cereal!

He definitely gets the MVP award for this get-together.  You didn't see any other non-cereal mascots show up to support the monsters but this guy is a total team player.  I want to see more of this in the coming years.  Let's get some crossovers going!

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Today is National Grandparents Day and it's the perfect excuse to take a look at a long lost advertising mascot.  Everyone knows that Sonny the Cuckoo Bird goes "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" but many people have forgotten that he used to be part of a duo.  Originally all the commercials featured him and "Gramps":

Like most great comedy teams, these guys had their signature bits.  The main one was about utilizing Sonny's "cuckoo explosions" to get out of sticky situations.  These days, going cuckoo usually has negative effects on our chocolate craving hero but back in the day it was a great way to escape a bear attack:

Or it was an effective way to avoid a horrible death at sea:

So the guy was clearly nice to have around.  The two made a great team but after awhile the Gramps character was faced out and Sonny became a solo act.  He went on to be the kind of cereal character that is mercilessly taunted by kids at breakfast time.

But a few years ago Gramps made a comeback!  He costarred with his favorite (and possibly only) grandchild in a couple of modern day commercials:

The reunited pair had more of an antagonistic relationship in the new spots with Gramps trying to keep the chocolatey goodness to himself.  But, of course, Sonny gotta get his grub and when he does, Gramps takes it all in stride.   They are, after all, family.  Happy Grandparents Day everybody!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Lime and Punishment

There's a common trope in cereal commercials where a beloved character is desperate to get their hands on the sweet, sweet goodness of their favorite breakfast treat.  And, of course, it almost always ends with the character being denied and some sense of "justice" being served.

The classic example, of course, is the Trix Rabbit.  One elaborate plan after another fails as he dons disguise after disguise in his quest for his fruity prize.  Case in point, an old commercial (from the 70's, maybe?) where he pretends to be a house painter to gain access to the unsupervised children at the breakfast table.  And as expected, his ruse quickly fails:

But something else stuck out to me with this one.  Normally, the kids would have a good laugh at the expense of what is clearly a suffering addict, but this time instead of mild amusement we're met with seething, white hot rage:

These kids just aren't having it.  Now I doubt they'll even be able to enjoy the fruity flavors of their favorite cereal.  They really need to learn to live and let live like all the other kids in all the other commercials.  But they're not going to be content with laughing it off.  They clearly want retribution.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Elsie Tours Texas

Elsie the Cow is one of the most famous company mascots of all time.  She's spent the last several decades promoting Borden Milk and various dairy products.  She has traveled the country, been awarded degrees, supported troops in multiple conflicts and even tried acting by appearing the 1940 film "Little Men":

 While she's not a native Texan, she used to spend a lot of her time in the Lone Star State and her Facebook page lists Dallas as her current residence.  Her and her son Beauregardwould make appearances across the country but they seem to love showing up to Texas events the most, like the annual Children's Parade in downtown Dallas:

Or the annual Candlelight at Old City Park event at the Dallas Heritage Village:

But one of her most popular visits happens every year at the State Fair of Texas.  A few years ago we shot some video of her appearance and her story:

You may have noticed that she has quite a set up and an entourage.  It takes a lot of effort to prepare for an Elsie appearance as you can see from this video we shot a few years ago at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo:

So be on the lookout the next time you are at an event, if you're lucky, you just might get to meet Elsie yourself.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tony's Ride

Cincinnati supermarket Jungle Jim's International Market is just about the best place around.  I could write dozens of blog entries about it and maybe someday I will.   But, as they say, "the journey of a dozen entries starts with one blog," so let's just talk about a quasi-animatronic Tony the Tiger today.

One of the many unique displays at the store is this Tony the Tiger statue atop a grand carousel type stallion.  The "Two Scoops" Raisin Bran Sun shines down brightly in approval of the rider and his steed as cardboard Keebler Elves look on in awe.  Something is clearly about to go down.  So how do you make the magic happen?

That may be one of the most pushable buttons I've seen in a good long while.  I mean, look at that thing!  Who could possibly walk past this beauty without pushing it?  Nobody I want to know.  So what happens after the pushing takes place?  Let's roll the gif!

Okay, it may seem a little underwhelming to people that hate fun but, to me, it's a masterpiece.  Tony actually talks while he moves but to hear it you'll have to visit the store yourself.  So just soak up the gif while you can.

It's worth mentioning that there's another element to the display.  To the right of Tony are these two characters:

Correct me if I'm wrong but this appears to be a version of Pinocchio applying a hair piece to Geppetto.  Why are they there?  What do they have to do with Kellogg's?  I don't have those answers but for some reason I appreciate the fact that they're there.  Enjoy your shopping!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

About a Boy


We all know that portly young lad who hoists a hamburger to the heavens as he beckons travelers to stop and enjoy some comfort food.   Don't ask me why, but Big Boy restaurants (which have various names in various parts of the country) always seem like the place where people eat when they're on vacation or away from home. And that makes a road trip the perfect story for a Big Boy comic:

As you can probably imagine, this 16 page comic packed with coloring pages, puzzles and a kid's menu doesn't have a strong plot.  The story involves Big Boy and his friends Katie and Tripp heading out to camp at an unnamed National Park.  They head there in what I'm calling the "Big Boymobile," which I think is a huge missed merchandising opportunity.  Here's a couple of looks at BB's sweet ride:

Why weren't we all playing with toy Big Boymobiles as kids?  If they ever made any of these things, I never saw them.  So when the gang gets to the park, Big Boy essentially lectures the other two about how great National Parks are and then (I assume the next day) they put out their campfire.  And of course, for Big Boy's more fervent fans, we get this beefcake tease:

That's it.  That's the story.  It may not seem like much to you but I think it's the perfect "keep the kids busy" length for a family restaurant.  And if you were a kid at Big Boy's in 1981 who was perusing this comic issue, what would you be eating?  Well, these were your options:

Looks pretty good to me.  But before we pay the check and pile back into the car, there's one more thing that's worth noting.  In this issue, Big Boy pays a somewhat arbitrary yet seemingly long overdue homage to...sticks:

Yep, sticks are awesome.  You can't deny that.  They can do anything from scratching an itch to holding a venous snake at bay.  Let's hear it for sticks!

So with that, it's back on the road to the next roadside attraction, National Park or restaurant that's just not in your hometown.  Keep an eye open for Big Boy, he'll be holding up that hamburger for ya.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ashes to Ashes

The Marlboro Man is one of the most iconic and successful marketing campaigns ever but there's always been one huge flaw.  Rugged, grizzled types pose for magazine ads and drip testosterone as they take a pull from a Marlboro cigarette and they cause sales to skyrocket but they are frequently replaced.  Not necessarily to freshen up the campaign but because smoking tends to kill people.

So when it comes to tracking down gravestones of famous people, it shouldn't be too surprising to find several belonging to former Marlboro Men.  But in the "Bull Rider's Reprieve" section of the Mt. Olive Cemetery in Hugo, Oklahoma you can find a grave of a Marlboro Man who is still alive:

Oklahoma cowboy Max "Turk" Robinson got the job as the Marlboro Man just by having the right look.  He was a longtime staple of the rodeo circuit when a photo of him on a horse was published and got the tobacco company's attention.  He had the exact look of an authentic cowboy because he was one.  But he has one unique characteristic that other Marlboro Men don't...which may be why his grave is empty...

He doesn't smoke.  I guess that would be kind of like if Colonel Sanders was a vegetarian but you can't argue with results.  I guess clean living and the cowboy lifestyle has a lot going for it.

Turk is still somewhat active in the rodeo community and still does appearances at Oklahoma casinos and in parades so maybe you can get to meet him someday and take a picture with him not smoking.  So here's to your health!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Helping Hand

 The anthropomorphized hand that assists harried and hurried housewives has a name.  It's Lefty.  He also has a birthday.  It's today.  It's on the other side of the country so I can't go but I'll be there in spirit!  Here's a little tribute that General Mills tweeted out today:

So if you find yourself in Brooklyn today near the party maybe stop by and give him a high five.  And if you're not maybe pick up a box of Hamburger Helper and whip up a batch tonight.  Thanks for the help, Lefty.  You deserve a big hand for your efforts!

UPDATE:  Hamburger Helper tweeted this today

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flash Fried

Previously: Fish Story

Freebie promotional comics have been common for years.  We all breathed a little easier when Captain America fought the Asthma Monster and it was an exciting roller coaster ride when the X-Men visited the State Fair of Texas.  Sure these books are a little cheesy and they are clearly part of the marketing monster we all live with but, intentionally or not, they can be fun.

Fast food restaurants have been taking part in the fun for years with Captain D's setting sail on the four colored seas a few decades ago, among others.  Not to be outdone by a Captain, Colonel Sanders recently decided it was time to jump from the chicken bucket to the comic pages, and thus, we get "The Colonel of Two Worlds" from DC:

I love that instead of the often overused Big Guns of the DCU (Superman & Batman) they used the Flash as the main hero.  It probably helps that he has a hit show on the air currently but, hey, it's his time to shine.

The story begins with the Mirror Master bringing Captain Cold up to date on his latest plan.  Tying in with the New 52 story Forever Evil, MM plans to bring over another ne'er-do-well from the evil Earth-3 to help them with their nefarious plans to rob banks and whatnot.  But instead of a member of the Crime Syndicate, or anyone that might make sense, he chooses the Colonel Sanders of Earth-3: Colonel Sunder!

It soon becomes clear to the two Rogues that this might not have been the best All Star Team-Up since Sunder's plan seems to involve doing practically nothing while the two of them are forced to take thankless jobs in his crappy restaurant:

Sunder steps up his game after awhile when he starts glory hounding for attention by bragging about how bad his chicken is and how little effort he puts into it.  It can be assumed that this is a common advertising method on Earth-3.  Possibly the Bizarro World as well.

Well that's about all a certain Southern Earth-1 gentleman can stand and so Colonel Sanders decides to enter the fray:

Hey, remember how the Flash was supposed to be in this?  Well, he finally makes his appearance at this point, complete with an all-new, unnecessarily redesigned costume that includes unnecessary extra elements.  The Flash costume has historically been revered for being sleek and streamlined but those days are over:

Green Lantern is also involved but he really doesn't do anything of any consequence.  He just seems to be hanging out, which I guess super heroes do from time to time.  In fact, the Flash really doesn't do much either.  The real hero of the story is Colonel Sanders and he proves he is a man of action as the two Justice Leaguers try to catch up.  It doesn't take long for Sanders to run afoul of Sunder and we get the Colonel vs. Colonel showdown we've been craving:

Not only does Colonel Sanders' military training immediately kick in but he seems to have an overflowing bucket of special skills and possible super powers: from hurling a table into Sunders' "Nugget Gun" defense system, to being able to withstand the dreaded "Pink Slime Ray."  He's able to shrug it off with what appears to be another white suit that he has on underneath his signature threads:

 As you can guess, good eventually triumphs over evil while the Flash is protecting bystanders from the deep fried fracas.  Captain Cold and the Mirror Master don't do a whole lot either.  At this point these seem to realize the error inherent in teaming up with an Earth-3 tyrant who only seems to be interested in bragging about how bad his food is.  So once things cool down they all head to their local KFC franchise to break biscuits:

And if that isn't a happy enough ending for you the Colonel shows why is he known far and wide as a compassionate warrior and offers the two Rogues the best fate ex-cons can have: full time employment at Kentucky Fried Chicken!

 I know we are all hoping that this story remains in continuity.  The potential is nearly endless.  I see a story line where Colonel Sanders is offered Justice League membership but he turns it down because he thinks they're all a bunch of jive turkeys.  Or maybe a spin-off title featuring Captain Cold and Mirror Master working their way up the chain to finally owning their own KFC franchise?  Once that happens...imagine the shenanigans!  Imagine them!!!