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What Advertising Will Say About Us

"Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities."  --Marshall McLuhan

If so, what will the yet-to-be-born scholars make of the American Tourister Gorilla, for instance?  Those of a certain age will remember the ad campaign, which ran from 1970 to 1982 and featured a primate severely maltreating luggage. The "gorilla" actually was the world's foremost pseudo-simian actor dressed in a $20,000 suit with moving eyes, lids, brow, mouth, lips, and smile.  The brand was so associated in the popular mind with this gorilla that American Tourister became deeply involved in wildlife preservation campaigns long after the ads had ceased to run.

And what of the Energizer Bunny? Will our great-grandchildren see the Bunny as "the ultimate symbol of longevity, perseverance and determination" that its ad creators envisioned? Longevity surely is a possibility--the ad campaign began in 1989 and the "Spokes Hare" continues to show up in every conceivable promotional venue.

Longevity also characterizes Elsie, originally one of four cartoon cows (Mrs. Blossom, Bessie, and Clara were her associates) that began representing Borden dairy products in 1936. In 1939, a live Elsie appeared at the World's Fair in New York; the cow's real-life name was Lobelia. After the World's Fair, Elsie/Lobelia starred as "Buttercup" in the film Little Men, but died in a tragic auto accident in 1941. To date there have been 29 Elsies; they have received the keys to more than two hundred cities. Briefly put out to pasture by Borden in the late Sixties, Elsie's sweet face and daisy necklace soon returned. The current Elsie travels almost a quarter of a million miles a year, meeting more than eleven million people! It is said that nine our of ten people in America recognize her. Perhaps Elsie's legacy will be to symbolize some bucolic, agrarian aspect of our society.


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