By Heather Taylor
2016 was a definitive year for brand mascots doing very big things. From debuting in Rio de Janeiro to driving a NUTmobile cross country, these icons launched major comebacks, hit the election campaign trail, and even dropped mixtapes. It’s a brand mascot’s world and we’re just living in it. Here’s a refresher on our favorite stories from 2016 starring these familiar faces (with a couple of fresh ones in between!).
Thumping his way into 2016 bigger, better, and bunnier than ever before is everyone’s favorite pink hare, the Energizer Bunny. With a reloaded comeback courtesy of San Francisco ad agency Camp + King, the 27-year-old mascot has a new tagline (Still Going™) and multimedia campaign where today’s media landscape serves as a playground for his disruptive nature. He’s got his own Spotify playlist and rocked the runway at New York Fashion Week at designer Angela Simmons’ fashion show. He even shared what he looks like without his infamous sunglasses!
All across the United States, reports of sightings of another brand mascot keep popping up. Witnesses have revealed that he’s tall, covered in leaves, and wearing a green toga. Why, it’s none other than the Green Giant! #TheGiantAwakens teaser, created by Deutsch New York, shares shadowy glimpses of the big guy’s return to the Valley with the promise that he has big things in store.
As the original Most Interesting Man in the World departed for a mission to Mars, his new counterpart made his debut for Dos Equis. Created by the team at Havas Worldwide New York and played by French actor Augustin Legrand, the latest Most Interesting Man in the World is just as adventurous as his predecessor. His tagline has been modified to “Stay thirsty, mis amigos,” he’s joined by an audacious female companion, and his legendary status includes sparring in Samurai armor and racing airboats down sand dunes.
It’s never easy for a spokescharacter to retire, but Norm Shearer, CCO and partner at Cactus, thinks the transition was exceptionally done, “When Dos Equis had to replace the retiring actor, the core idea was so strong (and the agency handled the transition so well as part of the narrative) that switching the actor out took a great mascot and great idea and refreshed it."
How about some fried chicken to go with your beer? 2016 saw the debut of many, many new Colonels for KFC with actors including Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser and comedian Rob Riggle getting into character. Chris Walker, Creative Director at HZDG, is a big fan of the ever-rotating faces for the chicken ‘n biscuits chain. “This is a great way to ‘freshen’ up a mascot that's been around for a long time. Each new KFC campaign stands out even more because it has a different actor playing the part, like George Hamilton as the Extra Crispy Colonel Sanders.”
Major Events + Awards
As the world spent the summer glued to the Rio 2016 Olympics, they also met Vinicius and Tom, the official mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games. A pair “born out of excitement” for the sporting event, the two were instantly beloved by audiences universally. But the Olympic mascot fun isn’t over yet! Kelsey Nelson, Director of Social Influence at Ferebee Lane + Co., loved the under-the-radar announcement of Soohorang and Bandabi, mascots for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Speaking of gold medals and awards, this year we celebrated our 13th Annual Madison Avenue Walk of Fame. More than 60,000 voted online and the results are in: the winning mascots are the FOX Robot and Woodsy Owl!
Election season dominated 2016 media coverage with one candidate running for office with an alTUNAtive political platform: StarKist’s Charlie® the Tuna. Throwing his red hat into the ring, Charlie joined us for a fireside chat where we discussed his “pro-good taste” stance and ambitions for making mundane meals full of flavor and fun.
What has Charlie been up to since his campaign ended? Andy Mecs, Director of Marketing and Innovation at StarKist and Charlie’s campaign manager, has the scoop. “Charlie brought levity and fun to the election. He engaged his beloved fans to select his VP swimming-mate, Sallie the Salmon, and his fans were behind him 100 percent throughout the entire presidential race. Although he didn’t win the election, Charlie accepted an even bigger job as President of Charlie's® World — a 360-degree digital oasis filled with videos, activities for kids, recipes and more!”
Birthdays + Anniversaries
General Mills kicked off 2016 turning 150-years-old, as the home to icons like the Pillsbury Doughboy, Betty Crocker, and Green Giant. Shortly afterward, another icon hit a major milestone: Mr. Peanut’s 100th birthday.
For Jeff Siegel, VP and Creative Director at CP+B Miami, Mr. Peanut turning 100 is hands-down the best brand mascot story of the year. “Not just because he’s been single-handedly keeping the monocle alive for decades, but because he was invented by a 14-year-old, proving you don’t need a fully formed brain to make great advertising.”
The dapper gent was honored with festive events held throughout the year including travelling across the country in a 27-foot-long NUTmobile with his Peanutter pals, an appearance on Good Morning America, and a birthday party sweepstakes for fans. As Mr. Peanut enters his 101st year, the Planters team shares that he will continue to share Planters’ nut varieties with consumers everywhere, all while touting the irresistibility of his favorite snack.
There ain’t no party like an M&M’S 75th anniversary party! Amanda Kloos, Associate Creative Director at HZDG, loved seeing the whole squad’s commercial spots represented in the “Candyman” remix by Zedd and Aloe Blacc. “M&M’S 75th anniversary spot, which featured past and present M&M’S mascots, was one of my favorites of the year. Great way to celebrate a candy brand that has been one of America's (and one of mine!) favorites for generations.”
In April 2016, actor Arthur Anderson passed away at 93. He provided the vocal talent for Lucky the Leprechaun at Lucky Charms, spanning the generations from 1963 to 1992. In 2005, he told ABC News that he always thought Lucky was a fun character to play. “Hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn’t ask me to sing the Lucky Charms jingle, and I’m proud of that.”
It’s time for a remix, Mr. Clean! This year, Leo Burnett Toronto remixed Mr. Clean’s jingle for a millennial audience. The newly revamped ditty features electric and acoustic guitars mixed in with its familiar chorus.
Finally, we leave you with some fire tracks courtesy of Hamburger Helper’s Lefty. In April, he quietly dropped the mixtape “Watch the Stove” on Soundcloud. The mix became an overnight sensation online and proved to fans that this oven mitt knows when it’s lit on and off the stove. (And ICYMI, Lefty even gave us a little insight into his creative process and dream collab too.)