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Reflections: Animals We Live With

Animals We Live With
By William L. Bulla

A white duck runs across your TV screen shouting "AFLAC, AFLAC!" to answer questions being asked on the screen about insurance. A cartoon character tiger, named Tony, roars, "It's G-R-R-R-R-R-EAT!" as Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal is being consumed. Or, Duke the dog tells us about Bush's baked beans, and the soft spoken little-green gecko speaks about Geico auto insurance.
American culture has become inhabited by all sorts of talking animals and creatures that are used by advertisers to promote their brands. These creatures, called trade characters or spokes characters, are fictional, animate beings or animated objects that have been created for the promotion of a product or service. Studies have shown that commercials with these trade characters are an effective tool in their ability to change consumer brand preference.
Today we have cartoon or animated cows directing us to various products. This started in the 1930's, when Borden introduced us to Elsie the cow. More recently we have seen Happy Cows frolicking in the fields of California telling us about real California cheese, and the not-so happy herd of cows representing Chick-fil-A restaurants urging us to "Eat Mor Chikin".
We have been addressed by the National Crime Prevention Council through its representative, McGruff the Crime Dog. Please listen when he talks.
Also, listen to the warnings being passed on by Smokey Bear and Woodsy
Owl of the United States Forest Service.
Rabbits seem to be big as trade characters. An annoying red-suited rabbit-like character called the Noid helped promote Domino's Pizza. Beating a drum, the Energizer Bunny appears in Energizer battery commercials, the Trix rabbit promotes Trix cereal, and the Quik Bunny represents Nestle Quik.
In addition to Bush's Duke the dog, we were introduced to
Spuds Mackenzie , a bull terrier, marketing Bud Light beer in the late 1980s. The dog first showed up in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad. By the end of the game, Spuds was a marketing success.
Taco Bell restaurants were represented by a Chihuahua pup saying "Yo Quiero Taco Bell!".
The rude, bad attitude Chester Cheetah has been crunching Cheetos since 1986, and through the 1970's and 1980's American Tourist luggage has withstood the mauling of a gorilla.
Floyd D. Duck is the mascot of BubbleYum. Floyd says "Hope you're in the mood to POP...come join the bubble party!" That's his rallying cry for anyone who enjoys the pleasure of bubble gum.
I've always enjoyed the soft croaking of the Budweiser croaking frogs. One frog says "Bud," another says "weis,' and a third says "er." This is often repeated throughout the ad.
Budweiser also has a pair of green-with-envy speaking lizards known as Louie and Frank who contemplated rubbing out their amphibian competitors (the Frogs).
In 1986, the California Raisin Advisory Board came up with an idea for the new raisin commercial, saying "We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine'" To their surprise, the commercial became wildly popular.
Joe Camel was the brilliantly successful advertising campaign used to market Camel Cigarettes manufactured by RJ Reynolds. The creation of Joe Camel was part of the RJ Reynolds approach to appeal to a younger audience. The effort to target the younger crowd was successful and Joe Camel was ordered to disappear in 1997.
These are some of the animals that stare at us from our television sets every day. Some have passed on, some are still with us, and I would predict that there will be many more in our future.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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