We talked about some of the cartoon failures for breakfast cereal… but what about when the featured face on the box isn’t a marketer’s attempt to create a new image, but rather a person who actually exists?
Then, they get to pocket a large check… and watch as items bearing their image languish in grocery stores, demonstrating that not everyone can be a pre-transexual Bruce Jenner in terms of a purchasing draw.
When you want to see a sugary breakfast cereal without any actual sugar? Try to get a sports legend. It’s your only chance.
Unfortunately for General Mills, not even Wayne Gretsky could get kids asking their parents for “More aspertame!” Kids with childhood diabetes probably loved being able to just grab one of the boxes from the shelves for a change, though. And they did run a contest to have breakfast with Gretsky, which must have been a dream come true for some youthful hockey fans.
Less likely to be a dream come true would have been to spend time with the namesake of Urkel-O’s, a cereal hawked by Jaleel White and based on his character from Family Matters.
White has, in the years since the end of Family Matters show, desperately tried to distance himself from the character he made nationally famous. It’s not surprising; the character was designed to make Paul Reubens’ Pee-Wee Herman look suave and self-aware by comparison. But for a while he was a phenomenon and I hope for his sake he made a lot of money from his portrayal of Urkel, because novelty roles have a history of reducing future acting opportunities.
Of course, sometimes the people involved didn’t get their own cereal. Sometimes, like the aforementioned Bruce Jenner, they only got their picture – or an artistic rendering of their picture – onto the cereal box. This was the case for Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks, which, in the years before Dig ‘Em the bullfrog, had both Leonard Nimoy‘s Spock and Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who promoting their product.
And in one case, the failed mascot was a cartoon, and the one who didn’t fail was the person. King Vitamin started out as a cartoon king on the front of the cereal box, but the advertisers wanted to show a real king interacting with kids eating the cereal. Ex-vaudeville actor George Mann was hired, and he became popular enough to replace the cartoon on the front of the box.
He passed away in 1977, putting an end to the commercials which by today’s standards would be considered a touch creepy, as the only people in them tended to be the King and some random wandering child who he’d cozy up to.
Question of the night: Who are some of the old-school vaudeville / radio / early movie actors and actresses you remember?