Remembering Top Dogs of Advertising This Memorial Day
To mark this Memorial Day weekend, we’d thought we’d pay tribute to some fallen K-9 icons of advertising. Because who doesn’t like dogs?
Stick a mutt’s mug in your next advertising or marketing campaign and watch your profit margins soar—or your likeability factor, at the very least.
This post? A tad irreverent. Mildly salacious. A whole lotta cute and furry. Definitely psychological manipulation.
Read on (because you know you can’t help yourself):
(February 7, 1994 – July 21, 2009)
Gidget, a.k.a ”The Taco Bell Chihuahua,” was the star of the restaurant chain’s advertising from 1997 to 2000. She was initially cast to play the “girlfriend” role in the advertising campaign, but took over the lead role, at the last moment.
In Gidget’s personal life, she shared a home with her canine partner, Moonie, another famous chihuahua actor, best known for his role as Bruiser Woods in the films Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde.
Taco Bell ended the chihuahua advertisements in July, 2000. According to one report, the campaign was cancelled due to the efforts of Hispanic advocacy groups who felt the dog was a cultural stereotype and, well, kinda racist. Other reports claim the demise of Gidget’s campaign was, allegedly, because of its failure to significantly increase profits, in spite of the dog’s popularity. Then of course, there was some legal trouble, which ended in Taco Bell having to shell out nearly $45 million.
Gidget died at age of 15 after suffering a stroke in the California home of her trainer.
Nipper was a mixed-breed terrier who allegedly got his name because he had a habit of biting the legs of visitors.
He lived out a rather uneventful life in Bristol, England, and only posthumously became a world famous icon—and one of the most well known dogs in advertising history.
Several years after the dog’s death, his owner, Francis Barraud, made a painting of Nipper staring into phonograph, titled “His Master’s Voice.”
This image was the basis for the dog-and-gramophone trademark that was first introduced in advertisements in 1901. For over a century, Nipper has been used to promote products for several audio recording companies and their associated brands, including Victor and RCA.
(October 7, 1983 – May 31, 1993)
Spuds MacKenzie is the fictional dog character used in an extensive ad campaign for Bud Light beer in the late 1980s.
Spuds was portrayed by a female bull terrier named Honey Tree Evil Eye or “Evie” for short. She was originally from Pennsylvania, but moved to Indiana at a young age.
After her rise to fame, she became the subject of some controversy when the public learned the dog was not male as portrayed in the commercials, but actually female (…um, okay). There was also political fire from temperance-minded folks who believed Spuds was being used to market beer to children (is it true, Troy Hayes?). The Spuds mascot was retired in 1989—but not before selling a large amount of Spuds merchandise and tchotchkes, which can now be found on eBay as “collector items.”
Target’s mascot since 1999, Bullseye is a white bull terrier with a red Target logo patch painted around one eye. The role is played by several different dogs.
Nikki, however, was the longest-serving Bullseye. After her illustrious 10-year career, she retired to a ranch in California in 2015 at age 13 —now, presumed dead. Or, very nearly, surely.
Nikki jetted around (flying first class, of course) to marketing events, attending Target fashion shows, strutting down the red carpet, posing with major celebs forTarget-sponsored Oscar hullabaloo, and making appearances at store openings in locales as far as Hawaii.
All the K-9s who play the role of Bullseye travel with a makeup artist, personal assistants and a midsize wardrobe, which supposedly contains a tux and Minnesota Twins baseball jersey, among other various glad rags for different occasions.
It could be said that Nikki was the making of the Target brand. Bullseye advertising blitzes continue to be hugely successful for Target.
More current details as to Nikki’s fate are all very hush-hush, perhaps to preserve the Bullseye mystique.
In sum, we salute you, dead dogs of advertising.
From all of us here at dept of creative, we’d like to wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day. And of course, honor the true spirit of the holiday and express our sincere appreciation and respect for the men and women in military service (both known and unknown to us), and those who have given their lives for our country—its people, and fundamental ideals of goodness, equality and democracy—may we all strive to fully realize and uphold them.
Izzy The Mini Aussie Biz Whiz!
Very much alive and available! Premium talent for your next marketing endeavors. Reasonable rates!
You can reach her at Izzy@deptofcreative.com
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