Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A blog dedicated to the making of the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mr. Magoo as a “Mad Man”

Madison Avenue had a long and fruitful relationship with Mr. Magoo, who served as a pitchman for various products and services over the years.  His first campaign, as discussed in a previous post, was for Rheingold beer in 1956 as the brewery tried to break into the Southern California beer market.  RCA used him to put out a record, Magoo in Hi-Fi in 1957 and a year later, Carling Brewery enlisted his assistance to sell their beer throughout the Midwest.  1960 found Mr. Magoo promoting cancer awareness in a 15 minute film for the American Cancer Society, Inside Magoo.  
Henry G. Saperstein took out a license on Mr. Magoo in 1959 and ended up buying the studio a year later.  His licensing acumen resulted in the decades-long campaign for General Electric light bulbs starting with Magoo’s feature film, 1001 Arabian Nights.  In a brilliant example of cross promotion, Saperstein was able to get a tie-in featuring Magoo in his role from the movie selling US Savings Bonds, saying  that bonds were "Your Magic Carpet to the Future!".  His image appeared on 40,000 Post Office trucks, in banks and in local businesses.  As part of his deal to bring The Mr. Magoo Show to television, Saperstein partnered with Kelloggs and at least one commercial was produced for Rice Krispies before the relationship ended.  In 1960, Mr. Magoo ran as a presidential candidate in a "Ballots for Bulbs" GE campaign and later appeared on glasses for Welch's Grape Jelly for several years during the early 60s.
Timex, as readers of my book and this blog will know, sponsored Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol although Magoo didn't appear in the bumpers or commercials.  His high point as a pitchman seems to have been 1964, the year in which he again ran for President as part of his GE advertising efforts, promoted Soakie bubble bath for Colgate Palmolive and sold canned and frozen food for Libby’s, who sponsored his primetime show, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.   
He was licensed for Fleer bubble gum/tatoo packages in 1967 and in 1977, he appeared in a series of ads for Lazyboy chairs while his GE light bulb campaign continued well past that.  Other promotions that Hank Saperstein claimed for Mr. Magoo were as a recruiter for the US Navy (there is a run cadence for the Sea Bees called Mr. Magoo), Blue Shield, the National Safety Council and the American Heart Association.  While Magoo inevitably appeared on toys and games, what's interesting is to note how often Mr. Magoo was used to advertise adult products rather than products aimed at children.

As Magoo's visibility began to wane, he was used less and less as an advertising icon.  He had a brief revival in a 1994 ad for NutraSweet and his last known campaign was to sell eyeglasses for Sterling Optical in 2005.  Many of these ads or promotions seem to have been lost; there may even be other campaigns that have yet to be discovered.  If anyone has images or videos, please feel free to share them on this blog.


Tim Lones said...

Good Post:
The La-Z Boy Salesman to me looks very much like Jim Backus...I remember the GE Ads..

Darrell said...

Good catch! Jim Backus did appear in print ads as himself but I haven't been able to find any commercials to confirm if he appeared on camera as well.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely remember seeing a La-z Boy commercial with Magoo and Jim Backus while watching the "tonight Show"(w/Carson).Backus did Magoos' voice(obviously)and his normal voice for himself. It was around this same time that I came across some of the ads like the one you posted.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I remember sometime in the 80's seeing Magoo shown promoting a bank's ATM machine.

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