Lee Pitts: Indecent exposure
I have felt for some time that the beef industry needs a mascot; a Geicko Gecko, AFLAC Duck, Morris The Cat, Aunt Jemima, Captain Morgan, Jolly Green Giant, Betty Crocker, Snap Crackle or Pop. You get the idea.
According to one study I read the Pillsbury Doughboy was seven times more effective in ads than celebrities were. And cheaper too. The Vlasic pickle, Mr Clean, Travelocity’s Gnome, the Energizer Bunny and Mr. Peanut work for, well, they work for peanuts. Although I do think Flo in the Progressive commercials, Allstate’s Mayhem and the Maytag Repairman have probably worked themselves into high-paying gigs. Usually mascots don’t say embarrassing stuff or proclaim their allegiance to vegetarianism right after you sign them up to promote beef, like a couple of our former spokespersons did.
We could use a mascot to hook tiny tots on eating beef like the breakfast cereal companies have done with Count Chocula, Trix the Rabbit, Horatio Magellan Crunch of Cap’n Crunch fame, and perhaps “The Greatest” mascot of all… Tony the Tiger. (It’s a toss-up with me. In my book Tony shares the greatest all time mascot title with the Red M & M. But not Green M & M. I can’t stand that tramp and her come-hither look. She’s doesn’t fool me.)
Don’t tell me that mascots can’t sell beef. Years ago a national hamburger chain had an embarrassing and deadly incident and subsequent recall of beef that would have bankrupted 99.9% of companies. But Jack-In-The-Box was saved by that now-familiar ping-pong ball head of his.
McDonalds has Ronald McDonald and the much less familiar Hamilton B. Urgler, the burger burglar. (If you can say that real fast five times you win a Big Mac.) Burger King has that creepy looking King guy and a few years back Taco Bell created another future member of the Mascot Hall of Fame. The Taco Bell Chihuahua sold billions of beef tacos and created a cult of Chihuahua collectors who are now trying to sell their stuffed pups on eBay for big bucks.
About the only beef mascot I didn’t like was Hamburger Helper’s Hand. Although I never would have made it through college without Hamburger Helper, I fail to see the connection between a hand with a big white glove on it and beef. Maybe there doesn’t have to be any relationship. After all, if Taco Bell can use dogs to sell beef without any negative connotations I suppose a white glove should be considered an improvement.
Instead of paying big bucks to an advertising agency to come up with a mascot for beef I think we should have a contest open to the world and give a million dollar prize to the person who comes up with the best beef mascot and its name. If we had as our judges dysfunctional singers, divorced movie stars and celebrities who are changing their sex, beef would be on the front of every tabloid in the grocery store.
Personally, my entry in the contest would be a chicken. That’s right, the mascot I’d use to promote beef would be Toughie, a strung out, denuded pathetic piece of poultry who was jealous of cattle, made tasteless jokes about his fellow chickens, and dreamed of the day it might have the same good taste that beef does. If you’re an old timer, think of a cross between Rodney Dangerfield or Don Rickles and a Leghorn loser.
A word of caution at this point is appropriate. What we DON’T need is a mascot that would do us harm like the ones David Letterman suggested years ago on his nightly TV show. He and his team of crack comedic writers came up with… Blackie the oil soaked Exxon Seagull; Roadkill Ralph for Goodyear tires; Greyhound Gus, a homeless drifter; Jitters, the Chase and Sanborn Coffee Hound; and Nutra-Sweet Pete, the Hairless Lab Rat.
In that same vein, what we in the business of producing delectable beef don’t need is “Yummy” the cute little veal calf, or Granny, a toothless old Holstein promoting non-violence. And just imagine what Poopy the Cow Pie might look like.