Jamie Oliver goes snap, crackle and pop at Cereal
posted on 15th Jun 2018 by Sean Deignan
Recently, celebrity TV chef and author Jamie Oliver and a group of British MPs called for a ban on the use of cartoon characters on children’s food packaging, primarily sugary cereals. This ban was to specifically cover “brand generated characters or Licensed TV & Film characters” and their use, in Oliver’s words, “to peddle rubbish”. This group include members of the Health and Social Care Committee, a government body set up to tackle the ever growing issue of childhood obesity in the UK. As part of his 11 Point Manifesto, Oliver’s other recommendations were the restrictions on Billboard adverts near schools, a ban on Junk Food ads before the 9pm TV threshold and a clampdown on discounts and 2 for 1 offers on specific products.
The concept of removing characters from packs in this particular food sector has already become reality in Chile – a country with similarly high levels of early obesity. Unprecedented, its implementation was not without issues between the local government and the affected product producers. Two years on, it’s still a contentious, litigious problem there.
Character use on packaging of certain sugary products is an ongoing debate over a number of years. Back in 2008, Which? magazine featured 19 packs which used cartoon characters – none of which were used to market healthy food. Oliver’s point is not to ban characters on food packaging altogether (The Jolly Green Giant being an acceptable example), but instead to use them to promote healthy foods, like Porridge or Weetabix.
It does beggar the question of just how long these characters or ‘brand mascots’ have actually been around for. The answer is a surprisingly long time. So much so, that along with ubiquitous supermarket shelf exposure and prolonged high-budget marketing campaigns, they have subsequently become pseudo-cultural entities, ingrained in every day public consciousness, arguably bigger than the brand they represent.
Assuring us with the legendary feline-like exclamation, “They’re Grrrrr-eattt!” Tony is one cat that sure likes his Frosties! Created by Kellogg’s in 1952, he has become in some peoples opinion, the ‘ultimate Breakfast cereal icon’. First appearing as part of a competition to represent a new cereal from Kellogg’s, Tony was developed by a group of ex-Disney animators. He was then voiced by another Disney employee, Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, amazingly for over 50 years!
These 3 elf like characters were first developed for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies packaging in 1933 by Vernon Grant – an eminent American Illustrator who would influence Walt Disney and others. Appearing in animated format in the 1960s, and having a specially commissioned Rolling Stones theme tune at the time, they are the longest running characters to represent a Kellogg’s product.
Lucky the Leprechaun appeared on US shelves in 1964 as part of an Irish charm bracelet themed cereal called Lucky Charms by General Mills. Armed with an array of taglines and jingles, Lucky’s most notable lines were the not so Dylanesque “hearts, stars and horse-shoes, clovers and blue-moons. Pots of gold and rainbows and tasty red balloons!” Initially sold without sugar, disappointing sales led to it being sugar coated.
Most can understand the influence of pester power when making decisions at the supermarket cereal aisle, decisions that are ultimately vital in the long run for the well-being of children. And this ban fits with Oliver’s ultimate agenda. However, removing characters from packs that have such a deeply embedded relationship with the relevant brand is not simply a case of opening the pack artwork and pressing delete. Character or no character, the product contained is what it is.
Whatever happens, you can take solace in this: if you don’t choose to put a particular sugary cereal in your trolly, Tony the Tiger won’t bite you – he’s just an illustration.
Sean Deignan, Senior Production Artist
Sean is a Senior Production Artist at Neworld. He is responsible for the handling of major brand name projects from brief to final production, and for taking design concepts and working them to fully finished packaging and literature ready for print. He has worked with a variety of brands including Barry’s Tea, Glenisk, Arrabawn, The Jelly Bean Factory and Irish Pride.