One of the things I think we are missing in our daily lives is the canine advertising icon. Among American males, I may be alone in thinking that Spuds MacKenzie is more memorable a super model than Gisele Bundchen. After a century of the pervasive presence of doggy pitchmen, there is now a dearth of advertising featuring man’s best friend. Now, I’m not talking about the dogs that hawk pet food, like the West Highland Terrier featured in the Cesar dog food ads. I’m talking about those pooches promoting products to all people with purchasing power. Here are three of the canine celebrity spokespersons I grew up with.
The Smooth Fox Terrier, Nipper, died in 1895, but his owner, English painter Francis Barraud, captured his image looking into an old gramophone before he died. Nipper became one of the most recognizable dogs in history, serving as the emblem of the Beliner Gramophone company, and the Victor record company, but most famously for RCA Victor, now part of Sony Music Entertainment.
In 1959 commercial artist Joyce Ballantyne Brand stood her 3-year-old daughter Cheri on a picnic table in her backyard and painted her portrait standing on a beach while a nameless black Cocker Spaniel tugged on the child’s bikini bottom. Joyce was paid the princely sum of $2,500 and the Coppertone Suntan Lotion company got a multimillion dollar advertising campaign. In 1965 a 3-year-old Jodie Foster would reprise the role in a live action television commercial.
My personal favorites were the Scottish Terrier & West Highland White Terrier, Rags & Tatters, who waggishly encouraged drinkers to choose Black & White Scotch for four decades. When I was growing up, major liquor brands would feature holiday decanters at Christmas. Black & White Scotch had decanters in the likeness of Rags & Tatters. Unfortunately, by the time I came of drinking age, the decanters had disappeared from liquor store Christmas displays. After 15 years of poking around secondhand stores and garage sales, I found the elusive decanters on eBay. They are my favorite dog-related pieces.
One would think that today’s advertising geniuses would realize that 60 percent of American households include a dog…and they work for way less than Heidi Klum. And that’s today’s Back Story.