Personality Symbol

Another type of advertising execution involves developing a central character or personality symbol that can deliver the advertising message and with which the product or service can be identified. This character can be a person, like Mr. Whipple, who asked shoppers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” or the Maytag repairman, who sits anxiously by the phone but is never needed because the company’s appliances are so reliable.

Personality figures can also be built around animated characters and animals. Visual image personalities (VIPs) such as Morris the Cat and Tony the Tiger have been used for decades to promote 9-Lives cat food and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, respectively. Recently, commercials featuring the AFLAC duck have made him a popular personality symbol and mascot for the insurance company and have helped build awareness and interest. The humorous spots show the quirky duck in all sorts of odd places—lounging in a sauna, conking his head on the ice at a skating rink, and fighting for the attention of a couple on a roller coaster—as he desperately tries to raise a flap about the supplemental insurance provider.

Anheuser-Busch created popular personality symbols in the talking lizards, Frank and Louie, who appeared in ads for Budweiser beer for five years. However, the company had to deal with complaints from some consumer groups who argue that the animated characters were popular among children and might encourage underage drinking. The company strongly denied that it was using the characters to target minors and argued that the ads did not have any effect on children or encourage underage drinking.22 Actually the controversy over the Budweiser lizards has been mild compared to the furor that was created by R. J. Reynolds’ use of Old Joe Camel, the cartoon character used in ads for Camel cigarettes for many years. Critics argued that Camel ads featuring the “smooth character” were more effective at marketing the brand to minors than to adults. The controversy surrounding the campaign eventually led to a settlement between the federal government and the tobacco industry that bans the use of cartoon characters in tobacco advertising.

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