It’s hard to miss all of the talk about “bringing back play” and incorporating it into, not only our children’s lives, but also ours as a society. There are countless studies on how both kids and adults alike are happier, more creative, less stressed, better problem solvers, and it keeps adults feeling younger.
Keeping in mind this idea of play, I recently was given a copy of the book Mr. Product Volume 2: The Graphic Art of Advertising’s Magnificent Mascots from 1960-1985 by Warren Dotz and Masmud Husain, and I already own a copy of Meet Mr. Product: Volume 1, which goes back even further. Perusing through the pages, it makes me wonder if this resurgence of “play” will encourage companies to bring back the cartoony spokescharacters of the past. These advertising characters were cutesy, funny, silly – and they all sold products in a playful way. And I’m not just talking about monsters selling sugary cereal; it’s Holiday Inn hotels, gasoline, office supplies – even IKEA had a cartoon Viking selling its furniture!
Unfortunately, cutesy and fun has taken the back-burner to serious discussion in some advertising. We’ve heard that, “this yogurt will make your intestinal discomfort go away” and that, “this dog food doesn’t have any of the scary additives that these other brands have so if you love your dog you must buy our brand.” Even toys sometimes tout the educational value above the fun.
Now, I’m not saying that we haven’t seen fun advertising characters in the past decade or two, because we have: Old Spice Man, Mayhem for Allstate Insurance, AFLAC Duck, M&Ms characters, to name a few. I just think there’s a great bit of fun in buying your gas from a gas station with a cartoon mascot, vegetables from a giant green character, or cookies from mini elf bakers. In a way it takes the seriousness out of every day life, adds a little playfulness, and makes me feel a little bit like a kid again.
What do you think and what characters do you miss?