Memorable Spokesmonsters through the ad ages

The Michelin Man

Barkers bark and pitch men pitch, but sometimes it’s the monster who sells.

For more than a century, ghosts, giants and beasts representing brands have met or exceeded their sales quotas on everything from tires to sausages.

As a Halloween treat, we present five of the most lucrative supernatural creatures in the history of advertising.

Spokesmonsters, if you will.

And you will.

Bibendum, aka “The Michelin Man,” 1898, Michelin Tires

The Michelin Man, born with a drink in his hand, is unarguably the world’s first Spokesmonster.

He began his career in the late 1800s as a giant, beer loving, not-quite-human thing in a poster that French artist Marius Rossillon (aka “O’Galop) pitched to a brewery in Munich. The words “Nunc est bibendum” appeared beneath him. Translated from Latin, they declare, “Now is the time to drink.” 

The brewery turned down the idea but O’Galop persisted.

Bibendum's debutIn 1898, he showed the poster to Edouard and André Michelin, brothers who owned a rubber factory and sold bicycle tires on the side. It reminded Edouard of a stack of tires he had seen at the Universal and Colonial Exposition in Lyon four years earlier.

The Michelins persuaded O’Galop to change the thing’s torso to look as if it was made out of tires, but they told him to leave the toast untouched. “Bibendum” had arrived.

In his first ad, Bibendum offers a cocktail full of road hazards to several of his competitors. A French inscription on his glass suggests that the words, “we drink,” mean that Michelin tires can swallow any obstacle in their path. 

Since then, Bibendum has cleaned up, lost weight and, for a short time after the addition of carbon into rubber turned the color of tires from white to black, was black. He also switched his handle to “Michelin Man.” 

In 1999, Advertising Age listed the Michelin Man eighth among the top advertising icons of the 20th century.

The Jolly Green Giant, 1928, Minnesota Valley Canning Co.

The handsome, leaf-clad corn pusher we call “The Jolly Green Giant” actually refers to the name given to a variety of supersized peas, the “Prince of Wales,” that the Minnesota Valley Canning Company tried to sell to brands in the early 1920s. 

Finding no takers, the company decided to brand the product itself, introducing “Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas” in 1925.

The first version of the mascot was modeled after the hero of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “Der Bärenhäuter” (“Bearskin”). Like the main character in this Faustian story, the original Green Giant wore a bearskin cloak that made him appear savagely primordial.

In 1935, copywriter Leo Burnett gave the Green Giant a makeover, transforming him into the clean shaven, subtly flamboyant titan we know today.

Since then, the Jolly Green Giant’s celebrity has grown larger than life. The spokemonster’s 55-foot statue appears on Minnesota route 169. Songs in his honor, performed by The Kingsmen and Tennessee Ernie Ford, celebrate his love life and his vocal prowess.

In 1999, Advertising Age ranked the Jolly Green Giant third among the top advertising icons of the 20th century.

Grimace, 1971, McDonald’s Corp.

Hard to believe, but this goofy purple blob was originally designed to steal milkshakes from the mouths of unsuspecting kids.

Introduced in 1971 by the Leo Burnett agency, “Evil Grimace” sported a furry coat and two pairs of arms, presumably to enhance his thieving abilities. Over the next three years, he transformed into the adorable halfwit we all know and love, shedding the word “Evil” from his name and dropping a pair of limbs from his torso.

To date, Grimace has not been charged with any crime resulting from the alleged larceny that inspired his early career. This may be because Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac have got bigger meat to fry, as the latest fake reports invented by Reel Chicago confirm that the Hamburglar is still at large.

Grimace is often recognized as Ronald McDonald’s most loyal friend.

Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Booberry, 1971-1973, General Mills

Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Booberry were introduced in the early 1970s to represent the first cereals with chocolate, strawberry and blueberry-flavored marshmallows in their ingredients.

These Spokesmonsters, originally created by ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (later merged into Saatchi & Saatchi) for General Mills, wield all the danger of a talking puppy as they charm kids into consuming bowl after bowl of wispy sweet modified grains.

Last August, General Mills updated its “Monster Cereals” in high style. It partnered with DC Entertainment and hired legendary DC Comic artist Jim Lee, of “Batman,” “Superman” and “The Justice League” fame, to illustrate the new Boo Berry. Lee was thrilled.

“To me he was not just a monster,” says Lee, who names Boo Berry as his favorite cereal growing up. “He was the smartest of the trio.”

Sasquatch, 2002, Jack Link’s Meat Snacks

Sasquatch is real and he dislikes practical jokes as much as your grouchiest uncle.

Although disturbing Sasquatch usually always causes injury, as Carmichael Lynch’s commercials for Jack Link’s meat snacks repeatedly have shown, the stoner buffoons who happen upon the beast can’t get enough of his reactionary, bone crushing violence.

Their stupidity has paid off. Since its launch, “Messin’ with Sasquatch” has evolved into “Snackin’ with Sasquatch,” a campaign in which the Spokesmonster plays cards and enjoys classical music, although he still has a quick and often violent temper.

During the same time, the Jack Link’s brand has risen to become the top-selling convenience store snack in America.

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