Many of the best TV adverts are memorable – for a catchy jingle, cringy performance, funny line or loveable mascot. Often mascots and brand characters go from product packaging to TV adverts and even beyond, becoming just as famous as the brand itself.
There’ve been some memorable TV ad characters over the years, many of whom have even been popular enough to have lines of merchandise and more. So, let’s recount some of the very best TV advertising brand mascots…
Kellogg’s Frosties, Tony the Tiger
As far as TV ad brand mascots go, they don’t get much more recognisable than Tony the Tiger. The animated human-like tiger is arguably one of the most famous advertising mascots. Tony has been in post since 1952, with his iconic catchphrase “They’re grr-eat” dating back to 1955.
The mark of any great ad is going beyond the screen, and over the years Tony has appeared on the cover of GQ Italy and was even commemorated at the 1981 Hot Air Balloon Championship.
M&Ms, Red and Yellow
Known for getting themselves into various hair-brained situations, M&Ms advertising mascots Red and Yellow have become some of the most recognisable. The cynical Red (voiced by Billy West) and the dopey Yellow (J.K. Simmons) have outlasted plenty of other would-be M&M mascots, and remain front and centre of Mars campaigns for the sweets.
During 2023’s Super Bowl adverts, the company “announced” that comedian Maya Rudolph would be replacing all the cartoon M&M brand mascots. This decision was soon reversed, and Red and Yellow were restored to their position as larger than life brand reps.
Duracell’s pink bunny was first introduced to the public in 1973 with the ‘Drumming Bunny’ advert. The battery mascot was originally a worldwide phenomenon, but the trademark for the character lapsed in North America in 1988. During this time, Duracell’s rival saw an opportunity and the Energizer Bunny was born.
So, while the pink Duracell Bunny is known in almost every part of the world for its cute and fiery demonstrations of the batteries’ long-lasting power, TV adverts in the USA and Canada are forbidden from using the mascot. It’s not every day the use of mascots in advertising causes an international incident!
For most children growing up in the UK, Birdseye frozen food was a staple of at least the occasional weeknight tea. From fish fingers to battered cod, frozen fish to vegetable medleys, Birdseye has long been a household name. The brand’s mascot, Captain Birdseye, started appearing in adverts in 1967, then played by actor John Hewer.
Over the years the seafaring captain – an obvious nod to Birdseye’s wide range of seafood – has been rebranded, redesigned and even resurrected – in 1971 the brand decided to kill off the Captain with an obituary in the newspaper. There have been many iterations of the Captain over the years – some more popular than others – the recent £8m version, played by Italian actor Riccardo Acerbi, has been described as “hot” by the Guardian. Seas the day.
PG Tips Monkey
In true TV advertising style, the PG Tips Monkey has been no stranger to controversy. The character (created by agency Mother as a straight foil to Johnny Vegas’s Al) originally starred in a series of adverts for ITV Digital. The company eventually went bankrupt, and the character was so popular that soft toys of the character sold for several hundred pounds.
The loveable character eventually came to be best known for PG Tips, after the Vegas-Monkey duo started as advertising mascots for the tea bags in 2007. Since then Monkey has become a true staple of UK TV adverts, with soft toys, merchandise and even a short film.
Who are your favourite TV advert mascots from over the years? Let us know in the comments!