TV Commercial Mascots Fight For Personal Lives


TV commercial mascots everywhere are banding together for an increasingly common problem in their field-- a lack of individualism and personal lives.

Normally, the annual "Television Product Mascot Union Meeting and Expo" brings with it sessions such as:
  • Shout About It: The Pros and Cons of Screaming Messaging Until You're Hoarse
  • How Much Repetition Is Too Much How Much Repetition Is Too Much How Much Repetition is Too Much
  • And What To Do When Consumers Love Your Products, But Loathe You

But at the organization's 2009 show, themed "Can You Hear Us Now?," things took an unexpectedly heated tone.

It began with the opening speech, where the well-known "Can You Hear Me Now?" rep for Verizon Wireless revealed that he was simply called, "Test Man" by the marketing execs who created him.

And that that lack of personal identity-- while good for the brand-- was deeply affecting his social life.
"Yes, it's true. I do feel inner pain when I receive mail to my home reading only 'Test Man.' I think I might have made a terrific 'Steve.' Or maybe a 'Doug.' But in the annals of history, I am only 'Test Man,' defined solely by my job for Verizon.

"What if I finally pop the question to the red-headed cutie of Glade Scented Candles? What will she be? Mrs. Test Man? Will we be the Glade-Testmans? These are important issues to resolve this conference."

Another mascot speaking out about these concerns is television's beloved GEICO Gecko.

"Yes, I've no name beyond 'GEICO Gecko.' I mean, sure, gents have speculated I might be Gary. And I do rather like Gordon... Gordon Gecko-- it has a nice ring, yeah? Aside from that bloke in that movie, Wall Street.

"But I think it's time the world saw I have interests beyond GEICO. I mean, it's very single-minded to think that all I care about is affordable insurance all day, every day. For instance, I'm learning the acoustic guitar.... I enjoy Karaoke Saturdays down the pub...

"It's said I do a fine rendition of 'Mandy.'

"That's not to say I dislike my job. The people are nice. The hours are good. And it keeps me in crisps. All I ask is that you shout, 'Oi, Gordon!" if you see me on the street, would you? I'd really fancy that."


In the past, commercial mascots have not only had names, but elaborate storylines running around their product-centric exploits.

Like Mr. Whipple, TP-obsessed supporter of Charmin Bath Tissue...

Rosie, the Bounty Lady, who knew the power of a quicker-picker-upper paper towel...

And Madge, the Palmolive manicurist, who's love of soft hands made the dishwashing soap famous.

"But, like, in recent years, it seems marketing execs have totally have dispensed with names," explained the Dell Dude, who is now working at the In and Out Burger Drive-Thru Window since getting out of rehab last year.

"Now we have those Charmin Bears doing the cha-cha thing and pooping in the woods. Does anyone know their names? Like, does anyone care? The world has changed, man. It's a total bummer."

Meanwhile, marketing executives from top advertising firms are livid about the perceived "mutiny" of their spokescharacters.

Said Chad Tatthawker from UltraMegaMondoMedia:

"This is an astounding betrayal. We gave them life. We made them what they are today. And now they want more.

"Well, let's just see how far they get without writers and producers and animators bringing them to life in 30-second to two-minutes spots. Let's just see who needs who here...

"Whom...

"Is it 'who' or 'whom'? Ah, hardly matters... I'm in television."


The "Television Product Mascot Union Meeting and Expo" will be running Monday, April 13th-Friday, April 18th.

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30 comments:

Da Old Man said...

I never realized that mascots had such identity issues. We never really appreciate all they do for us, and then simply toss them aside when they no longer serve our purposes. Even the named ones suffer. When McDonald's brought in Ronald, whatever became of Speedy?

I shudder to think what will happen to the nameless mascots.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- I do try to cover the important social issue of our time when I can. Thank you for the support.

PS- SPEEDY? Why, I myself was not aware of him, but I think the 2010 conference will need to include a whole introspective on Speedy's life.

Margo said...

I don't remember "speedy," but I do remember "The Hamburglar". Not really a name, but a very personalized cool moniker fitting of a criminal. I would watch a show on the E channel - What Ever Happened to...? kind of show on this. Perhaps the Gecko,the Can you hear me now guy and the red-headed glad woman could host. There would be lots of potential for good natured and flirtatious repartee.

David said...

I need to know the name of that snarky smirking woman on the cheerios ad who asks Steve "what else does the box say?"

I would like to bitch slap that smirk right off her face.

Jenn Thorson said...

Margo- That certainly could work as an idea... I mean, whatever happened to Aunt Jenny from those 30s Spry cookbooks? Well, she probably died of a heart attack from all the shortening... but still.

David- Oh, is she the one who's claiming to reduce her cholesterol, while her husband does this giant To-Do list around the house? Yeah, I don't care for her myself.

David said...

Nope - it is the one where he reads from the box and she yaps at him about not needing to lose weight and he keeps saying "It's what the box says" until finally she asks "What else does the box say?" He responds "the box says shut up Steve" to which she delivers that smarmy smile that makes me want to puke.

Cheers - fun post today.

ReformingGeek said...

I'm glad Tony the Tiger had a name. He's probably doing OK now.

Very fun!

Jenn Thorson said...

David- Now you've gotten me wondering when Cheerios came to represent such an unnecessary Battle of the Sexes... Between the commercial you mentioned, and the one I was thinking of, they're batting 0 for 2, I suspect.

ReformingGeek- I think so. Hey did you know, the original Tony the Tiger voice was done by the same guy who sang, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch?" I always thought that was fun info.

Shawn said...

I think Alltell is to be commended for allowing their spokesperson, Chad, a proper name.

Oh, I never tire of watching those four dorks try to sabotage Chad's business.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shawn- Ah, yes-- I have only seen those once or twice, but it's a cool scenario. Alas, the beset-upon Chad.

Melanie said...

Gee, I really miss Rosie, and Mr. Whipple, even Tony the Tiger.

Are Snap, Crackle and Pop still around? What about Toucan Sam?

And then there was that couple that did the instant coffee commercials back in the late 80's. Great story line, but I think that was the beginning of no-name representation.

The Mother said...

Pretty soon, we're going to hear about mascots and product spokesmen trashing their hotel rooms and getting tossed out of bars on their keisters.

Or being found dead in lonely apartments of drug overdoses.

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- Yup, Snap, Crackle and Pop are still hangin' in there. Plus Lucky the Leprechaun of Lucky Charms. And Toucan Sam.

Now that I think about it, there seems to be less turnover in the breakfast cereal mascot niche. :)

The Mother- Well, the ShamWow guy was in the news recently for similar nefariousness. Guess, we're not long off from the rest! :)

unfinishedrambler said...

I think you nailed it on your impression of the Geico Gecko. If this doesn't put this post over the top, I don't know what does.

Jenn Thorson said...

UnfinishedRambler- He's a lovely little chap. I prefer him greatly to the big staring pile of money I'd save using GEICO. :)

Tina said...

LOL. I used to work at ad agency for Carl's Jr./Hardee's. Could you add random hot girl having sex with a sloppy burger?

Jenn Thorson said...

Tina- Heh, I guess it would depend if she were a recurring hot girl having sex with a sloppy burger or not...

We need to get to KNOW her and her mindless quest for too-intimate relations with fast food. :)

freetheunicorns said...

What they need is a Union like the one the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, The Pillsbury Dough Boy, and The BK King have. Then they can open up their world to things like merchandising, motivational seminars and the like.

Jenn Thorson said...

FreeTheUnicorns-- No, they're actually all in the same union. The problem is the changing times... Less time to spend on character introduction and customer service and more product push.

It's the end of an era, really. :)

Carl said...

And the most recent one, Flo, the girl from the Progressive Insurance commercials. I thought Flo was her name. I have to switch channels every time she shows up. She is too happy. What's so happy about insurance?

Jenn Thorson said...

Carl- You are 100% right- Flo is one of the only named ones of recent days. She and her "big tricked-out nametag". :)

She does kind of look like Amy Winehouse on happypills, doesn't she? :)

chyna said...

I think Flo is hiding a deep dark secret or a secret grieving. She is rather chipper isn't she. Can't trust overly chipper people. LOL I do love her commercials though, especially since Jenn was linking her with the Sham-wow guy.

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- Ah, yes-- In the land of Cabbage, Flo left Vince of ShamWow! for James Dyson the Dyson vacuum cleaner inventor. I believe they went to Mexico on vacation.

Vince was crushed. That's probably why he had that little problem with ladies of the evening recently.

Tiggy said...

I looked at a box of Cheerios and nowhere does it say 'Shut up Steve'.

What kind of misinformation is that? I won't be buying them, that's for sure.

Jay said...

"And What To Do When Consumers Love Your Products, But Loathe You"

That about sums it up, doesn't it? Bad enough not to have a name or a proper identity, but when people detest you, it's the pits, isn't it? LOL!

John J Savo, the Authoring Auctioneer said...

What about Snap, Crackle, and Pop? Those poor bastards were only know by sounds.

Stumbled.

Jenn Thorson said...

Tiggy- Maybe Canadian Cheerios just don't say it. You know, different marketing for different regions. :)

Jay- I know a lot of people supposedly disliked the Dell Dude for Dell Computers (I kind of thought he was funny, myself.) The poor guy... I mean, how must he have been greeted on the street!

John Savo- Yup, onomotopaea can be such a bad idea when naming your kids. :)

Chaotically Calm said...

They need a union or some such thing and the perfect mascot of the union would be the PC Guy because he get's a pretty raw deal from the Mac Dude......sorry I'm not sure if they have real names like Jason or Joey!

Jonny's Mommy said...

Waaahhaa! I wish I could come up with something more witty to write here. I can't. All I can do is laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh....shall I go on? No.I didn't think so.

Jenn Thorson said...

Faith- I don't know who plays the PC dude, but the Mac Dude is actor Justin Long. He's one of the few actual actors I've seen turn into a character for a product, rather than the other way around. Kinda weird!

Jonny's Mommy- Glad you laughed, though. My idea of funny is not always everyone's sense o' funny. :)