There was a period when cartoons reigned supreme in the advertising world. Cartoon characters sold beer and gas and just about everything else. They were found on TV commercials, and newspaper and magazine ads. By the 1960s, that all changed. I’m sure cost had a lot to do with it; I suspect at one time it was cheaper setting a cartoon in a magazine page layout than it was a full-colour photo. And on TV, the attitude eventually prevailed that cartoons were for kids. Pretty soon, beer was being sold by athletes in comedy routines, not a cartoon bear or Mr. Magoo. Cartoons were reduced to plugging cereals and kids toys, though Herschel Bernardi lent his voice to an animated fish who was pretty effective in getting housewives to buy a brand of tuna.
Here’s a feature story in Variety from March 19, 1958. Ade Woolery is, basically, selling companies on selling via animation. Woolery was one of the founders of UPA before opening Playhouse Pictures in 1952. He got his start at Disney in 1936 shooting pencil tests; he was not an animator. At Playhouse, he produced more than 2,500 commercials and other short pieces of animation, including the opening to You Bet Your Life, with a cartoon Groucho driving a DeSoto. The company had terrific designers and animators, though I admit I’m biased toward much of the 1950s stylised animation.
I sheepishly admit the frames accompanying this story are not the product of Playhouse Pictures. The were made by Paul Kim at Academy Pictures in New York; Kim eventually opened his own studio. They’re from an edition of Broadcasting magazine that came out around the time as Woolery’s article (you can click on each to make it bigger; the resolution on them isn’t very good, though). Mike Kazaleh has posted some of Playhouse’s commercials at Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research website.
Case For The Animation Specialist
By ADRIAN WOOLERY
(Pres., Playhouse Pictures)
Of course not all products lend themselves to the animated medium. This is one of the reasons why only about 25% of the total film commercial production is animated. There are other factors such as the light versus the hard sell, the advertising techniques of competitive products and the market involved. Popularity certainly is not one of the reasons why there are not more of these cartoons. On the average, six out of the top 10 commercials in the American Research Bureau best-liked tv commercials survey each week are animated and a sales analysis of their cartoon characters show them to be highly effective.
Animation studios were founded on their ability to provide better writing, animation and art values through coordinated creativeness in storyboard, character design and the unique execution of the entire film. The specialist studio has become big business. It will continue to thrive, as long as it has the talent and skills to add those extra creative touches under close supervision throughout the entire production that results in an above average commercial.
As pointed out, the sponsor benefits from the animated commercial in many ways but primarily through the development of a cartoon salesman. There are the added factors that the character can be used in newspaper advertisements, on billboards, and in point-of-sale presentations. The animated commercial has made its greatest impact on the graphic arts field in this regard. Some advertisers have even incorporated their animated television characters into their packaging design for further product identification.
The full talents of the studio are called into action to find the star: one with warmth, a strong personality, a sense of humor and above all saleability! Conferences ensue with the creative personnel, the designer, background artist (scenic designer), music director, make-up (ink and paint), the director and camera man. Simultaneously, a talent hunt is launched for the proper voice upon which a great part of the character's success is based. With agency approval and the production crew complete; voice, sound effects and music tracks blended; the star is born. Each animator lives the "personality" that has been created as they act out the character in the assigned roles. In the weeks ahead, millions will view the debut of our "star" in the comfort of their living rooms and discuss his or her antics.