General Foods, we salute you

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‘Drinking the Kool-Aid (and Country Time) in the 80s’

Those of us who worked on the General Foods account at Ogilvy used to kid around a lot (big surprise; see ‘Short Men and Flat-Chested Women’ for evidence). We used to say that nothing General Foods made was really a ‘food’. You know, something that could actually sustain life. If you were stranded on a desert island with only GF products to eat, you would, basically, starve.

That’s because everything made by General Foods (or GF as it was fondly known around the shop) was actually a powder. A powder that you stirred into water (Kool-Aid, Tang, Country Time Lemonade-Flavor Drink Mix), brewed with water (Maxwell House Coffee), shook up with meat (Shake ‘n Bake), or mixed with other assorted stuff (Good Seasons Salad Dressing Mix). I don’t mention Jello here, even though it was in fact made by GF, because it (and Bill Cosby) were Y&R’s problem, er product.

My first Ogilvy commercial was one for Shake ‘n Bake. This was in the early 80s, so it actually did not use the famous ‘and I helped’ line. Nope, I got to do commercials with this spokesperson called Pete the Butcher. The 80s were replete with spokespersons: Cora (Margaret Hamilton, who was the Bad Witch in the Wizard of Oz) for Maxwell House, Grandpa for Country Time. And those were just some of the Ogilvy GF spokespeople. (Don’t forget Bill Cosby for Jello; as if you could.)

Here’s a typical example of a Shake ‘n Bake Pete the Butcher spot that I found. I’m not sure if I did this one or not. That tells you something right there, I’m afraid. Continue reading

Go Betsy Go

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‘Meet me, meet me. Meet me at the Fair’

When I was a kid, the high point of Summer wasn’t the 4th of July, it was the Clinton County Fair.

This Fair was truly an Event For All Ages. If you were a little kid you got to stuff yourself with cotton candy, then get nice and green on the Tilt-A-Whirl or those crazy swings. If you were an adult, you got to feast your eyes on prize-winning livestock and pies or watch cars crash into each other at the demolition derby.

The Child and The Dude take in the view from the (extremely rusty) ferris wheel

The Child and The Dude take in the view from the (urk, extremely rusty) ferris wheel

And if you were a teen, you got to wander around the midway in awkward same-sex groups, giggling at each other and arranging to ‘accidentally’ ride the ferris wheel together. If you were a boy teen and ‘going steady’, you got to win large stuffed animals at the shooting gallery for your girlfriend to parade around the fairground like pirate booty. Continue reading

Old MacDonald Had a Silo

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‘Gramma Peterson loved this one’

My just-completed jury duty reminds me of my days of going on commercial shoots. You know, scores of random people thrown together for long stretches of downtime and boredom, interrupted by bursts of furious activity.

One thing you were sure to get out of a commercial shoot, though: a great story. Not always the story you went out to shoot, but a great story nonetheless.

Here’s one of my favorites.

I was working with my boss, a great art director and native New Yorker who shall remain nameless. Though if you were active in the business Back In The Day, you may recognize him in the picture above. (Hint: he’s not the one in the blue glasses; that’s me. I guess blue glasses and I go back awhile.)

Anyway. For those of you who don’t know, Continue reading