Brand Characters ; Celebrity Endorsements

The story is told by the manufacturer or the provider, that the product or service is used by people with certain phenomenal characteristics. All the glamour, notoriety, celebrity attached to a film star, politician, or personality can be purchased and sold as a fiction with the product. The fiction becomes more bizarre when the product is recommended by an actor in role, and then by a cartoon figure.
Ronald Reagan perhaps represents both categories. He was, according to the satirical magazine Private Eye , the first cartoon character to become President of the United States of America. Ronnie's appearence with antiseptic Hair Tonic, February 1951, and such deathless copy lines. 6 x 17cms.

The gag is that a celebrated Cow Boy, Gene Autry hankers after a set of tyres. 14 x 24cms July 1950. GOODRICH tyres . The collage is not well done and we do not recommend it for further study. A clear example of the celebrity slotted into the product - hence the dumb gesture, and the feeling that Autry is wearing the tyre. It is an interesting visual problem - how to make quite sure we know the celebrity is actually endorsing the product , and not just dragged near it in the studio ? The obvious way is extend a digit in a pointing gesture while grinning at the audience. Can we set some rules here ?

1. The gesture of identification
2. The smile of satisfaction
3. Establishing eye contact with the Reader - a proof of sincerity.
4. Identifying in image and text some logical link between personality and product - THIS CAN BE VERY FLIMSY INDEED .

Here at last, the celebrated Arthur Godfrey, Broadcaster and first communications "personality" , endorsing Pepto-Bismol anti-indigestion fluid. Godfrey is not widely known today, yet, in the Fifties, his face was everywhere, usually besides some product. The advert (March 1957) also allows a demonstration of the speech bubble and the colour versus black/white graphic technique. Godfrey's down home personality would not have allowed anything more sophisticated than "By Golly ! This is the stuff." So inept is the photo-retoucher's art that we will never know whether he was holding that bottle. 12 x18cms. A larger Arthur Godfrey archive is on the way.

Bob Hope's Toothbrush, with Miracle Tufts - scarcely the relic to pull in the pilgrims. Another potential archive is that of Bob Hope who endorsed so many products. It was said he was only photographed from one side - using the other profile he did not look like Bob Hope.
Here's an example of overkill. And, to our watering eyes, uncomfortable. Six cigarettes ignited in such a confined space must have rendered the air unbreathable. But, looking again, the collage techniques reveal that is no realistic tableau, but a spatial conceit where elbows melt mysteriously into cranium and shoulders disappear. This is the zonal composition of the Cinema Poster. The presence of a monocle (although sported by a Bumble) always adds that certain caché. All these actors are starring (February 1948) in Hitchcock's The Parradine Case. Perhaps the pack conceals Hitch. Perhaps he just walked. 24 x32 cms.February 1961 campaign.

A clear case of celebrity reluctance. Arnold Palmer offered the Livid Bottle. Did you ever see anybody so... temporary ? While Ronnie looks good in hair oil, Autry abndons horse for tyres and the Stars puff in a modish way, there is no logical link between Arnie and ketchup - that is why he is thinking of the size of the check. The image has evidence of the hurriedly organised photo opportunity - the decorative walkway extending fom his right ear, the glowering car that snorts at his other. The only live thing in the picture is the bottle, so focussed and severe.

And here the reverse, a pernicious use of the Newsreader as Endorser. Many people believe the News they view on the TV. Here is the celebrated and respected John Cameron Swayzee NBC's Chief News Analyst with all the trappings of his media magnificence - the books on the desk (with titles only we can read) the image board behind, and a little eraser tipped pencil for those darling little alterations a busy media man must make. And he tells us.... HE tells us.... that Camels get the decision as the first choice of America's smokers. The key to the plausibility of the fiction is the speechbubble which is of the cheap and braggartly variety. Nobody uttering words in that speechbubble ought to be believed. It is the sort of speechbubble you buy from a catalogue. April 1954. 15 x24cms. Nowadays you'd think this sort of persuasion would have been outlawed but Newsreaders are still at it on Corporate Training Videos, and on one occasion, a Newsreader tore her skirt off and danced on Stage thus undermining her capacity to alert us in times of war and Civil Commotion. Who do we believe now ? Probably nobody.

To end with a comfortable old favourite, the main celebrity endorser for America's products (perhaps equal to Arthur Godfrey), is Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), who combines elderly debonair charm, a cowboy's trappings (skull toggle and black leather glove) with a slightly demented expression . The combination of silver hair and dark eyebrows I found slightly chilling in the man.
Here he forces Grape Nut Flakes on a cheering nation of kids, "Be sure to listen to The Adventures of Hopalong Cassidy , America's favourite cowboy..." They are cheering him because he has a favourite Whole Wheat Cereal. It is "packed with vitamins and minerals youngsters and grownups need. No wonder it's Hoppy's favorite whole-wheat cereal..." Hoppy ? Hoppy the Cow Boy ? Why "no wonder" ? .... Where's the Logic ? Still , as long as there are dusty bluffs and a ranch house and cactusses and guns, who wants logical fictions ? The two children to the left of his neck are so badly drawn. The girl with plaits is distant yet has her head closest to Hoppy. June 1950 ; 14 x 24cms.