I was in a Creative Director’s office when I first heard the term “critter” in reference to a spokesperson I was developing for an ad campaign. The CD was a bit of a hack and used it rather incorrectly. But it’s probably safe to assume that advertising critters of all kinds are well-documented in Meet Mr. Product: The Graphic Art of the Advertising Character and Mr. Product Volume 2 by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain.
Meet Mr. Product focuses on characters up to the late 50s and early 60s, and includes the Jolly Green Giant and Mr. Peanut. Volume 2 picks up in the mid-60s and takes us into the 80s. But Dotz and Husain don’t just focus on the famed characters we all know. The books contain a fascinating compilation of regional and even some local city-specific characters. In addition, there are many long-forgotten characters for brands we all still use.
What makes the Mr. Product books valuable is that taken together, we can see the progression of advertising’s history as well as the general advance of pop culture. It’s hysterical to see psychedelic-influenced characters as well as a “Dis-Go” black cherry soda from 1978. In these days where celebrity endorsements seem to have more influence than a made-up character, it’s easy to wonder if the ad industry would be better off revisiting this type of fun approach. Any designer, art director, or fan of advertising history would love these books. Dotz and Husain’s love of advertising and its unique “critters” definitely shows.
Special thanks to Insight Editions who sent me a review copy of Volume 2.