Saturday, 26 March 2016

The King of Smokingdom

Tobacco companies spent a small fortune on advertising until they were told they couldn’t any more because they were making something that killed people. Each had a gimmick. In the days of network radio, there were chanting auctioneers, a bellhop stepping out of thousands of store windows, talk of a T-zone and Arthur Godfrey strumming an “ABC” jingle on his ukelele. In the early days of network television, there were leggy packages of cigarettes, stop-motion choreographed cigarettes and, yes, animated cartoon characters.

American Tobacco had Happy Joe Lucky, who cavorted with Gisele MacKenzie in live action. He was even in paid ads in the Sunday comic section of newspapers. Liggett and Myers decided it wanted its own cartoon spokesman, so its ad agency came up with the King of Smokingdom.

Unlike the Marlboro Man or Johnny the Bellhop, the king doesn’t seem to have lasted very long on TV. Daily TV-Radio announced his creation in early January 1957. Billboard reported on him on March 20th that year, but that’s about all I can find out about him. Here’s Billboard’s story.
Chesterfield’s King Crowned In Speedy Advertising Coup
• Tenuous reign with transportation ads suddenly grows into sizzling campaign of trademark
• McCann-Erickson agency dreams up wider usage of the king and his little herald and lion

Chesterfield has crowned the King of Smokingdom. The coronation took place at the beginning of the year at McCann-Erickson. And what began as a tenuous reign with a few newspaper ads and some transportation posters has developed into a sizzling campaign, one which has grown so rapidly that it has caught all hands off guard.
The response to this tall, slim, jolly ruler and his two pals—the cheerful, pudgy Harold the Herald and the docile, bewhiskered Bushy the Lion—is, in fact, running ahead of the coalition which put him in power. The agency as a result is just now working out many details on merchandising items and point-of-sale display to establish more firmly the king and his pals as a Chesterfield trademark.
On TV the campaign is already launched. Created by McCann-Erickson and produced by Hankinson Studios, which has so far delivered three 60-second commercials and has two more coming up, the blurbs are being used on Chesterfield’s network shows: “Panic,” “Hey, Jeannie!” and “Dragnet.”
Original art work on the Chesterfield King was done by Dan Keefe, art director at McCann-Erickson.
The TV campaign is a light and breezy one built on the theme of “the King has everything!” Copy calls for such expressions as majestic length, regal pleasure, commanding the pack, revel in the royal carton, royal flavor, etc. The voice of the king is being done by Dawes Butler [sic], who was associated with Stan Freeberg [sic] on several humorous records, including the “Dragnet” parody.
Just what else will be done to build this campaign is still a moot point. As yet Chesterfield’s spot campaign has not been solidified, nor have plans jelled on its one remaining sports show, “Boston Baseball.” It is definite, however, that the king and his court will reign on the new ABC-TV Frank Sinatra show in the fall.
With these plans to be ironed out, plus a magazine campaign to be done and new posters coming as well as display items, it looks as tho the king of Smokingdom is in for a long rule.
So who was involved in the Hankinson Studios? If someone has some specifics, please post them in the comment section. About all I’ve learned is it was founded in 1947 by Fred Hankinson and Walter Klas was his production manager. The studio was at 15 West 46th Street in New York City and provided live action and animated commercials and industrials. At the time the Smokingham spots were made, Hankinson had produced TV ads for Chase Manhattan Bank, Gem Blades, Eversharp Pens, Chesebrough-Ponds, Columbia Records, Pepto Bismol, Ivory Snow and Quaker State Oil. My guess is he didn’t farm out his animation to other companies as he was a director of the Animation Producers Association and had animation equipment on site, judging by trade ads. That’s even though he used West Coast voice actor Daws Butler. I haven’t been able to discover who animated or directed for the company.

Here’s one of the King spots. You’ll notice some voices that found fame when Daws used them on the Huckleberry Hound Show a year and a bit later.


  1. First the anti-smoking cartoon from Tashlin, Wholly Smoke, and now equal time for the golden age of smokes! :)

  2. That is a RIOT! Pre-Huck, pre-Elroy, and pre-Snaggle!!!! Luv luv LUVVV!

  3. A spokescharacter who inadvertently kills off users of your product probably wasn't long for this world anyway.

  4. Daws Butler was really the whole show in this! Now can anyone find and post a print of "A Time For Decision," the anti-smoking film Hanna-Barbera made for the American Cancer Society in the late 60's?