By Heather Taylor, Icon Editor, Advertising Week
Earlier this year, I wrote about the brand mascot as the secret weapon in advertising. Many mascots break through the cultural zeitgeist and become household names. But what about the characters who don’t?
Today, we know Tony the Tiger as the iconic face of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Only a handful of cereal enthusiasts can recall the tiger was originally in a commercial rotation starring three other spokesanimals: Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu. Tony, with his signature red kerchief, stripes and gr-r-eat! catchphrase, became an instant hit with audiences. The rest were, as appropriate enough as it is to use this phrasing in the context of cereal, shelved.
The audience’s attention turned to Tony who has engaged with breakfast fans for decades. But one former almost mascot has something to say about his moment in the spotlight. For the first time, Leo Burnett Toronto celebrates its 70-year partnership with Kellogg Canada with a campaign starring Newt the Gnu: the “almost” Frosted Flakes mascot.
Newt the Gnu In 2022
There are two sides to every success story, as Leo Burnett Toronto opens its video for Newt the Gnu. We already know about Tony the Tiger’s meteoric rise to success, but as for Newt the Gnu… what’s his story?
Newt the Gnu was going places in 1952. In a rare interview conducted inside his modest home, the mascot looks back on the highlights of being a Frosted Flakes candidate mascot. He keeps storyboards framed on the walls and a single, unopened box of Sugar Frosted Flakes with his likeness on the box inside a glass domed case.
A voiceover narration explains the history of Newt and his other fellow mascot candidates. They were all tested in the market — Katy, Elmo, Newt, and Tony — before Tony was announced the winner. Newt returns to his framed storyboards, reading them aloud for viewers. He even kept some of the props he was paired with in these storyboards.
Newt’s not salty about losing out to Tony. Not even a little bit.
“He’s definitely had some work done,” Newt gossips, revealing another fun tidbit longtime Frosted Flakes fans might know. Tony used to walk on all fours and has since become bipedal.
Meanwhile, Newt laments not having a back. No seriously — there are only illustrations of Newt’s front side. He literally doesn’t have a backside drawn on his body.
Losing out to Tony as a mascot candidate forced Newt to fall into what he calls a dark period.
“I started mascoting… for anyone,” he admits. For a short time, he did commercials at a used car lot and wore a tomato cardboard cutout at a service station.
Newt Is #OpenToWork!
We cannot in good conscience leave this poor mascot at what is clearly his rock bottom. Newt may not have been the mascot pick for Frosted Flakes, but he can’t continue living a life where he’s cutting out illustrations of his head and placing them over Tony’s in commercial storyboards.
While the Kellogg’s and Leo Burnett Toronto partnership would make anyone jealous, Newt the Gnu is officially #OpenToWork on LinkedIn.
The creative campaign includes Newt’s very own LinkedIn profile. Headlines include “freelance mascot” and “Top 70 Gnu under 70.”
Calling all brands! Do you have a New Year’s Resolution which looks like it’s open to making a mascot? Want to employ a new character? A Gnu face for your brand, if you will? Look no further than Newt the Gnu. He has 70 years of experience in the field, a well-rounded work portfolio, and is ready to reclaim his 15 minutes of fame.