One of my favorite Nostalgia Critic episodes is his commercials special. Not just because the jokes are great, but because I love commercials! Seriously, those old ads are great I could watch them all day myself!
But despite that this isn’t an area I’ve talked much about, except for the article on my favorite Christmas ads. You see, Christmas commercials are an easy category to pick and choose favorites. How do I do that with regular ads? For the most part ads tend to blur, oh sure once in awhile one will stick out like the famous Life cereal commercial (Mikey likes it!) or the fantastic Hershey ad back in the 80’s (The great American chocolate bar!), and to this day I get waves of nostalgia when I hear the Flintstone vitamin tune (10 million strong…and growing!).  But when companies produce dozens of ads they tend to blend.
The one thing that does stand out is the mascots. These are the characters that get remembered and become so popular that they are often spun off into other media like TV shows, cartoons, or even comic books. So today I wanted to talk about my ten favorite commercial mascots. This covers any year and any product. Only two rules: It can’t be a character that started somewhere else and became a mascot for something. So you won’t see Fruity Pebbles, Met Life, or anything Disney on this list. And second, it has to be a mascot which has stood the test of time to the point where they are so iconic they go beyond just being a clever ad campaign, they become characters which we love and adore right along with our favorite movie or TV characters.
#10. THE M & M GUYS!!

 

I love these characters, in fact I have several M&M related Christmas decorations that I adore. And I have been to the M & M store in Vegas and New York so believe me I know how popular these guys are (check it out if you haven’t!). I also had an M & M pillow once. So why so high on the list?  I didn’t grow up with them; they were different when I was a kid, being animated in the 80’s and quite boring. It was in the 90’s they took the form we know and love today, and the ads took off! The original two were red and yellow, with red being the bossy one and yellow being the lovable yet dimwitted one. Now there are a bunch of characters like the green female M&M and they are still running strong in ads even as we speak.

#9. Snap, Crackle & Pop

 

Rice Krispies is really kind of a crappy cereal. Its little rice things that sit there and look very unappealing. How can we make it interesting so kids will want to buy it? Hmmm, the cereal makes a sound in milk. What if we create a couple cute gnome elf characters and name them after the sounds! Snap, Crackle, Pop…Rice Krispies! Of course I assume that’s how it happened, either way it worked and these three guys made this cereal one of the most popular out there. How long have these guys been around? Since 1933!!! It’s amazing they have lasted so long, and changed so little! I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite cereal but I’ve eaten my fair share as a kid.
#8.Morris

 

Even before I became a cat lover I loved these ads featuring the fussy feline. He was a sad tabby cat who always had a sarcastic comment, and just wanted his 9 Lives! Morris has been featured in commercials going back to the 70’s, but he has been seen in other media also. He debuted in the Robert Altman film “The Long Goodbye”, starred in the movie Shamus with Burt Reynolds, and has also promoted pet health and adoption. He has even written three books! This is a cat that gets around, but his first love will always be his 9 Lives!
#7. Taco Bell Chihuahua

 

A great ad campaign for a product I can’t stand. I hate Mexican food and especially Taco Bell. But how could anyone resist these ads? They were simple, little dog loves Taco Bell. That was about it. What made it cute was that he could talk in a cute Mexican accent. The dog became so popular that toys were made and his quotes became catchphrases. There was even one clever tie in with the Godzilla movie back in 1998. Sadly the ads were canceled and except for a cameo in a Geico ad he has not been seen in awhile. And there is an argument that he was offensive to Mexicans. Please, does everything have to be offensive?  Yo quiero Taco Bell!
#6.The California Raisins

 

I put these guys on here because of just how iconic they became. It was such a simple idea, Claymation raisins singing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”. That was it, just a simple add for, well, California raisins and an idea so simple a child could have conceived it. But somehow these things took off. There were albums, comic books, cartoon shows, video games, and of course the infamous Christmas special. I mean what was it? Were they cute? Was it the song they were singing? I don’t know but man did these guys take off in popularity. True they are not really around anymore, but I don’t think there are many who can say that they haven’t at least heard of these guys.
#5.Kool Aid Man

 

Don’t you love when sugary drinks get their own mascot? The Hawaiian Punch guy was a jerk, but this guy was awesome! Kool Aid Man has been around since the 50’s, where he was just a singing pitcher, until becoming anthropomorphic in the 70’s. While most probably think of the animated version, for me I will always think of the live action version that appeared in the 70’s and 80’s. This version appeared when kids needed help, and he crashed through walls screaming “oh yeah!”, and he was amazing! So amazing that he got his own video game and comic book! In 1994 the live action version was replaced by the animated version until 2008, but he was still cool! He is still around today but he’s a bit different and less destructive. I loved kool aid as a kid, but you couldn’t force me to drink the crap today. Oh, and yes I know about his appearances on Family Guy.
#4.Energizer Bunny

 

I love this one for a couple reasons. One is that I remember when this started, back in 1988. Second, it has to be one of the most brilliant ad campaigns I have ever seen. If you forgot or don’t know, when the bunny first appeared it was a simple Energizer ad. Then the bunny wandered off and out of the studio. What we got treated to after that were all sorts of fake commercials, all interrupted by the bunny while the announcer reported “Still Going!” The best part was the fake commercials, which were really very clever parodies of popular ads of the time. They always faked us out thinking it was almost anything other than a battery ad. It was fantastic and made the Energizer Bunny an instant hit. Over the years the ad campaigns have changed. One had various classic villains out to destroy the rabbit. Today he’s still around and the term Energizer Bunny has been used to describe people or things that never seem to stop. But one way or another, he is still going strong today. “Nothing outlasts the Energizer. It keeps going and going and going….”
#3.Tony the Tiger

 

You may notice a lack of cereal’s on my list. The characters were always cute but I never ate most of that stuff. Golden Crisp, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms and especially Captain Crunch. Meet a big exception, I loved Frosted Flakes! But that isn’t the real reason Tony is here. This tiger is just awesome! The Frosted Flakes  ads I had growing up had Tony not only able to do anything, but also helping kids out at the same time. The ads would always show a kid depressed or struggling with something sports related, until Tony appears to show that he or she can do it with the right attitude….and some Frosted Flakes. How could you not like such an upbeat and positive character? He is just awesome, and has been around for a long time. He started out in 1951 and had a son in the old days. Tony has of course been seen in other media, including comic books, and there are plenty of stuffed toys and collectables.  I also loved an ad campaign in the early 90’s where Tony tried to convince adults it was ok to love Frosted Flakes. I don’t eat the cereal much anymore, but loved it as a kid and also loved Tony! His son has kind of taken over these days but the character is basically the same. And I should mention that the great Thurls Ravenscroft did his voice for 50 years before he died, that’s amazing! Frosted Flakes, they’re more than good–They’re grr-e-at!!!!
#2.Pillsbury Doughboy

 

How can anyone not like this lovable guy? Starting in 1965 he aired in commercials and has never looked back. His gimmick is to laugh when someone pokes his belly, and it’s always cute. Of course he does other things, including rapping in one ad!  In fact in the 70’s he had a whole family, which includes Poppie Fresh (aka Mrs. Poppin’ Fresh, Pillsbury Doughgirl), Popper (son), Bun Bun (daughter), Grandpopper (grandfather), Granmommer (grandmother), Biscuit (the cat), and Flapjack (the dog). Alas I am too young to remember any of them. Originally he was a 2-D animated character until he became a 3-D character. I think that was the origin of the belly poke, but can’t be sure. How do you make baked break and rolls made with poppin fresh dough interesting? See the Pillsburyt Doughbory! There are tons of Doughboy collectibles out there, including perpetual calendars, aprons, and other items which have elevated Doughboy to represent Amercian kitchen’s everywhere. What is the appeal? I think it’s that he is just a sweet and innocent character, and that what he is selling appeals to kids and adults (in fact the ads flip flop from kid centered to adult centered commercials with ease). He has even had cameos in other ads like one for Sprint awhile back and more recently in a GEIKO ad, and is as cute as ever!
#1.Ronald McDonald

 

Is it me, or do we not see this guy anymore? Well when I was a kid he was huge, I don’t think you could turn a TV on without seeing him. He did a great job making kids excited about McDonald’s! And that is probably the problem today. In today’s health obsessed world kids have to eat fruits, vegetables, and oat bran and nothing else! Don’t get me wrong, kids should eat healthy but for pete’s sake a candy bar once in awhile isn’t going to hurt them! How about making them stop playing video games and go for a walk? Wow, way off subject. Ronald was awesome because the commercials were like little stories. How do you tell a story with interesting characters in 60 seconds? The ads did and really worked, I loved getting happy meals as a kid. Burger King tried to compete but could never quite match the magic chemistry Ronald had. And of course there were other characters in McDonaldland. The McNugget guys, The Happy Meal Guys who were cute, and of course the trio of Grimmace (who is popular in his own right), Birdie, and Hamburgler (who did just what it sounds like). They had a whole land back then. In fact in the old days there was a Mayor McCheese and an Officer Big Mac guy too but alas, I am too young to really remember either. These days that land has kind of vanished and we just have Ronald, who is still going strong. Over the years he has been in video games, comics books, children’s books, an animated direct to video series called The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald, and of course his cameo in the film “Mac & Me”. I even got to see him live at a huge fair they hold here in Western Mass every year called The Big E. They had a stage show on the “McDonaldland stage”. He has been around a long time, since 1963 when he was first played by Willard Scott. The actor, and his look, has changed but he is still the same great guy. Oh and if the fast food stuff really does bother you, remember that Ronald McDonald has also become a symbol for a very important charity. The Ronald McDonald House does amazing work housing families with sick children all over the world. Pretty good for a character that started off as a lame Bozo the Clown knock off.
Those are my top 10. Here are some notable others that didn’t make the list :
                

 

If this were a top 11 the Quick rabbit would be there, I loved Nestle Quick as a kid! I love the Afflac duck.  I also loved the 7UP dots but could find no place for them here (plus they have faded over the years). The Geiko cavemen got their own sitcom, which was beyond stupid as was, in my opinion, the original ad!  Now they have a gecko which is cute. He is a great character because he isn’t cute or over thr top, he just tells you why GEICO is the right insurance in a pleasant manner. And then there was the Burger King…King, who was a plastic creepy thing which stared at you with those eyes….those eyes!!

 

And finally the Cadbury bunny was on this list but I had to bump him when I remembered a better choice. I think that Cadbury ad is an example of a perfect ad. It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s very effective. I have seen the bunny for many, many years and every spring there he is clucking like a chicken. I love him, and it wouldn’t be Easter without him. Another reason I think this is such a good ad? I love the bunny and the ad despite HAVING NO INTEREST IN THE DISGUSTING CREAM EGGS THEY ARE SELLING! That’s a good ad!
Think I had better stop here before I remember some more. I love commercials and these characters are so iconic that I am sure they will be around for a long time!

By richb

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