Animated characters can be tremendous in advertising for a variety of reasons … and the first is that they are timeless. An animation doesn’t age, never goes out of fashion … and in some instances can be just as cool in 2014 as it was in 1951.
And yet, they are flexible and they can change with the times. Just give them new language, attitude and a hip humorous script and they will be extremely effective and relevant. Brand recognition has been, and continues to be, amazingly successful with anthropomorphized animated characters.
Let’s take a look at some of these amazing creations and pay tribute.
• Speedy Alka Seltzer 1951
Speedy was created for a TV commercial in 1951 and featured a tablet body with a hat and an “effervescent” wand. He was originally created to communicate how fast Alka Seltzer worked and appeared in 212 different television commercials from 1953 to 1964. He is still alive and was last seen in Alka Seltzer commercials touting the cold relief product. His peppy voice and happy face made him the hardest working tablet on TV and let’s not forget the great platform song “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is.”
• The California Raisins 1986
The California Raisins were originally created in 1986 for a television commercial commissioned by the California Raisin Advisorary Board. The anthropomorphized raisins became a fictional R&B group and became wildly popular with a portfolio that included 2 TV specials, a cartoon show, a holiday special and future television commercials. Using the 1968 Marvin Gaye song and the voice of Buddy Miles, this advertising team got it “right on”. Let’s not forget their amazing line which gave Marvin Gaye more exposure that he ever dreamed of with “Heard it Through the Grapevine”.
The California Raisins reportedly grossed more in the year that was their heyday, 1988, than Californian farmers made selling raisins!
• Poppin’ Fresh: The Pillsbury Dough Boy 1965
“Nothin says lovin’ like something from the oven … and Pillsbury says it best.”
The Pillsbury Doughboy is an American icon. An anthropomorphic embodiment of fresh dough, Poppin’ Fresh has a winning smile, big blue eyes, his signature “belly poke” and payoff giggle.
The Leo Burnett advertising agency of Chicago was assigned to work on Pillsbury’s refrigerated dough account in 1965. Rudy Perz, a copywriter at the time, popped open one of the cans and envisioned an image of a doughboy popping out. Martin Nodell, one of the artists in the advertising group, supposedly quickly came up with a sketch of the character.
Perz first thought the character could be animated, but after seeing the stop-action motion technique used in the credits of “The Dinah Shore Show,” he liked that better. So in March of 1965, the Doughboy was brought to life on television through the ground breaking technological process at Hollywood’s Cascade Pictures, Inc.
Within three years of his debut in 1965 in a crescent roll commercial, the Doughboy had an 87 percent recognition factor among consumers!
Poppin’ Fresh has been featured in numerous commercials over the years. He has been an opera singer, a rap artist, a rock star, a poet, a painter, a ballet dancer, a skydiver and a skateboarder. In addition, he has been seen playing harmonica, accordion, bugle, electric guitar and violin.
He is amazing … timeless … and still making beautiful music for the brand.
In 1995 M&M’s introduced computer animated “spokescandies” in their television commercials. These include the team of the cynical and sardonic Red (originally voiced by Jon Lovitz, thereafter Billy West) who is the mascot for milk chocolate M&M’s, and the happy and gullible Yellow (originally John Goodman, thereafter J.K. Simmons), who is the mascot for peanut M&M’s (he was originally known as “Peanut” when first introduced). Other mascots include the “cool one”, Blue (Phil Hartman, thereafter Robb Pruitt) who is the mascot for almond M&M’s; the seductive Green (Cree Summer), who is the mascot for dark chocolate M&M’s; and the slightly neurotic Orange (Eric Kirchberger) representing crispy M&M’s.
The Mars company took their success with the M&M characters into ground- breaking territory when they cast Ms. Brown (the voice of none other than Vanessa Williams), the “Chief Chocolate Officer”, into a Geico commercial.
It opens with Ms. Brown seated across the table from her insurance rep. She says she understands that being made out of “delicious chocolate” makes her “high risk for insurance companies”. The shot then turns to the GEICO Gecko standing across from her on his desk. He says unfortunately he can’t help her because she’s not a human. The commercial ends with the infamous GEICO camel shouting, “Guess what day it is” as Ms. Brown exits the elevator and tells him to “save it, hump boy.”
The humorous 30-second commercial is the brainchild of BBDO New York and Mars Chocolate North America, who collaborated with auto insurance company GEICO to bring together Ms. Brown and the Gecko.
It’s cross marketing at its best!