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Old 10-08-2019, 12:10 PM
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When did commericials start featuring recurring characters and overarching storylines.


I was thinking about this watching football on Sunday. A lot of commercials these days feature long running story lines with a cast of characters. I'm not talking about spokepersons or mascots. I'm talking about things like the Progressive commercials.

For example, there's a commercial where the Progressive "crew" all goes to Jamie's house to discover he's super rich and has a beautiful wife. You would never get the "joke" behind the ad unless you had seen all the previous ones that show Jamie being the loser of the group.
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:14 PM
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In the US, I think it was Taster's Choice in 1992.

One

Two

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 10-08-2019 at 12:18 PM. Reason: corrected date, with link
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:17 PM
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Country crock spread had a hand-sy thing for awhile.
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:24 PM
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In the US, I think it was Taster's Choice in 1992.

One

Two
The pre curser to the above, also a Nestle brand, was the serialised campaign for Gold Blend instant coffee, a love story which ran in the UK from 1987 to 93.

The final episode was watched by 30 million people, well over half the population at the time.
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:26 PM
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Mr Whipple?

Or maybe the "Time to make the doughnuts" guy?
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:42 PM
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Oh, oh. The manacurist and the Palmolive dish liquid.
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:47 PM
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The Trix Rabbit is working toward a goal, man.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:01 PM
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I thought mascots didn't qualify. But if they do, then Captain Crunch had a continuity.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:02 PM
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For live humans as opposed to cartoon characters or people only providing voices we have Mr. Whipple, Palmolive Marge, and the Maytag repairman started in the 60s.

Before all of them though was Ronald McDonald, played by Willard Scott in the DC area starting in 1959. This version wasn't an official corporate character through. He was later played by many people over time as the official McDonald's spokesman, and by multiple people appearing personally at any one time, but only one person at a time played him commercials. Because of the inconsistency of the character he may not count as the oldest such character.

The Marlboro Man was in print media before that, not sure when he appeared in commercials, and he was played by several different men over time. I don't know if the character ever had any lines.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:23 PM
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Ronald McDonald, played by Willard Scott in the DC area starting in 1959. This version wasn't an official corporate character through. He was later played by many people over time as the official McDonald's spokesman, and by multiple people appearing personally at any one time, but only one person at a time played him commercials. Because of the inconsistency of the character he may not count as the oldest such character.
At that, consider the GEICO Cavemen: as soon as the first commercial set up the idea by having a guy storm off, it didnít matter whether he was one of the offended cavemen in a followup commercial: he could be, but didnít have to be, either the guy who ordered the roast duck with mango salsa or the guy who doesnít have much of an appetite (any of whom couldíve then been the guy who spends commercial after commercial talking with his therapist; but that guy could also have been a new character, since whatís doing all the work there is the continuing premise).
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:35 PM
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For live humans as opposed to cartoon characters or people only providing voices we have Mr. Whipple, Palmolive Marge, and the Maytag repairman started in the 60s.
These were the first I thought of, along with Mrs. Olsen from Folgers Coffee. The Palmolive spokesperson was Madge - a family member with the same name got a lot of teasing because of those ads.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:51 PM
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I'll note that most of the examples of spokespeople / mascots that have been suggested really don't meet the OP's question -- the OP is also noting that the Progressive ads are buiding on what had been established about the various characters in those ads in previous ads. Most of the examples given (like Mr. Whipple, Madge, etc.) are essentially the same character, with the same quirks / storyline, used again and again over time. Once you've seen that character / campaign once, you "get it," and most of those campaigns didn't really build on earlier ads as they progressed.

I don't know that I'd go as far as to say that the Progressive ads have "an overarching storyline," in the way that the old Taster's Choice campaign did, though they clearly do build on what has gotten established over time about those characters:
- Jamie is a dork and a bit of a loser
- Janice is Flo's highly apathetic sister
- The two guys in the suits work for another insurance company, and they're obsessed with Flo and Progressive

Last edited by kenobi 65; 10-08-2019 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
I'll note that most of the examples of spokespeople / mascots that have been suggested really don't meet the OP's question -- the OP is also noting that the Progressive ads are buiding on what had been established about the various characters in those ads in previous ads. Most of the examples given (like Mr. Whipple, Madge, etc.) are essentially the same character, with the same quirks / storyline, used again and again over time. Once you've seen that character / campaign once, you "get it," and most of those campaigns didn't really build on earlier ads as they progressed.
I agree with your point. There was little progression of the stories with most characters. However, Ronald McDonald has a storyline that extends into McDonaldland and other characters, along with real life activities.

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The Palmolive spokesperson was Madge - a family member with the same name got a lot of teasing because of those ads.
Right, Madge, not Marge. As a kid when I first saw one of these (and I'm old so that's a loooong time ago) I thought her name was Marge because I'd never heard of anyone called Madge, sounded like a mistake to me.

Last edited by TriPolar; 10-08-2019 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 02:17 PM
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Mr Whipple?...
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
Oh, oh. The manacurist and the Palmolive dish liquid.
I remember an article in the 60's that said "Who are the most memorable celebrities? Mr Whipple and Madge top the list. You may be annoyed by them, you may hate them, but you remember them."
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Old 10-08-2019, 02:20 PM
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My favorite all time Progressive character is Flo's sister. Always looking at her phone.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:29 PM
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The Man From GLAD and Mr. Whipple seem to have posed up around the same time. They’re the first two I remember.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:59 PM
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For example, there's a commercial where the Progressive "crew" all goes to Jamie's house to discover he's super rich and has a beautiful wife.
Since everyone seems to be missing your point, let me ask - when Jamie is helping the single mom with the two kids (You're not my dad!), is he just supposed to be helping her with her insurance, or is he supposed to be dating her? And if so, are we supposed to have forgotten he has a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife? And I may ask myself, how did he get here?

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 10-08-2019 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
I'll note that most of the examples of spokespeople / mascots that have been suggested really don't meet the OP's question -- the OP is also noting that the Progressive ads are buiding on what had been established about the various characters in those ads in previous ads. Most of the examples given (like Mr. Whipple, Madge, etc.) are essentially the same character, with the same quirks / storyline, used again and again over time. Once you've seen that character / campaign once, you "get it," and most of those campaigns didn't really build on earlier ads as they progressed.

Yeah, that's more what I'm getting at. Another example might be the Bud Knight. Started with a simple joke (Dilly Dilly!) and now has expanded into a whole medieval storyline.
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:02 PM
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Since everyone seems to be missing your point, let me ask - when Jamie is helping the single mom with the two kids (You're not my dad!), is he just supposed to be helping her with her insurance, or is he supposed to be dating her? And if so, are we supposed to have forgotten he has a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife? And I may ask myself, how did he get here?
He's not dating her just helping with insurance. The mom tries to interrupt to explain, but he just launches into the whole thing like he the step-dad. Same as it ever was.
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:07 PM
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He's not dating her just helping with insurance. The mom tries to interrupt to explain, but he just launches into the whole thing like he the step-dad. Same as it ever was.
He's so obsessed with insurance that he assumes that insurance agents are supposed to have a relationship with the entire family and that now that the mother is using Progressive, the children must get used to the fact that he's there in place some previous agent. (Time isn't holding us, Time isn't after us)
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:42 PM
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To me, the best example of this is James Garner and Mariette Hartley in the Polaroid commercials. I don't recall an overarching story line, but it was clear that each commercial is a brief peak into the life of this couple.
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Old 10-08-2019, 05:37 PM
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Flo and her family camping out. The actress plays all the characters. Then her sister buys a house. There's the family at a holiday dinner around the table. Progressive has really put alot eggs in this basket. Hope it holds up for them.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:04 PM
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Back in the '50s, when television shows were sponsored by a single company, it was common to see the show's characters doing commercials. You could see Andy and Opie and Aunt Bee sitting down for breakfast with Sanka coffee. Ozzie and Harriet carried this to ridiculous extremes, folding product placements into their show's episodes, so Coca Cola and Kodak cameras drifted seamlessly from show to ad and back to show, always in the hands of the stars.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:10 PM
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Back in the '50s, when television shows were sponsored by a single company, it was common to see the show's characters doing commercials. You could see Andy and Opie and Aunt Bee sitting down for breakfast with Sanka coffee. Ozzie and Harriet carried this to ridiculous extremes, folding product placements into their show's episodes, so Coca Cola and Kodak cameras drifted seamlessly from show to ad and back to show, always in the hands of the stars.
Radio did the same thing, in some cases, with a neighbor character who would just show up, comment on the episode's storyline, segue into a description of the virtues of Johnson's Glowcoat, and wander off.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:27 PM
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To me, the best example of this is James Garner and Mariette Hartley in the Polaroid commercials. I don't recall an overarching story line, but it was clear that each commercial is a brief peak into the life of this couple.
Viewers believed with such a certainty that they were an actual couple that when Ms Hartley got pregnant, she took to wearing a shirt that said "This is not James Garner's baby!"
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:30 PM
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He's so obsessed with insurance that he assumes that insurance agents are supposed to have a relationship with the entire family and that now that the mother is using Progressive, the children must get used to the fact that he's there in place some previous agent. (Time isn't holding us, Time isn't after us)
Upon reflection, I agree. Plus there is water at the bottom of the ocean.
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:28 PM
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The original Energizer Bunny commercials started out with the bunny on the set of a commercial and continuing to move after the director called "cut!" Then the bunny started intruding into other ads, as if he was moving from one set to another. So there was at least an "origin story" of some sort, even if subsequent ads didn't really have much of a storyline.
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:29 PM
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I hate Flo and her whole family. My God! What have I done?
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:43 PM
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When did commericials start featuring recurring characters and overarching storylines.


Ancient Chinese Secret!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drum God View Post
To me, the best example of this is James Garner and Mariette Hartley in the Polaroid commercials. I don't recall an overarching story line, but it was clear that each commercial is a brief peak into the life of this couple.
Ouch.
All their faux hamming it up, um, really really grated.


Buddy with smiley Burger King mask making creepy appearances was the greatest recurring commercial character of all time. The Greatest.


I can get behind Captain Obvious.
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:36 PM
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I'll note that most of the examples of spokespeople / mascots that have been suggested really don't meet the OP's question -- the OP is also noting that the Progressive ads are buiding on what had been established about the various characters in those ads in previous ads. Most of the examples given (like Mr. Whipple, Madge, etc.) are essentially the same character, with the same quirks / storyline, used again and again over time. Once you've seen that character / campaign once, you "get it," and most of those campaigns didn't really build on earlier ads as they progressed.
If we're using that critera, one of the earliest was the Old Home Bread campaign of 1974, which featured a bread truck driver and waitress gradually falling in love. Here's the full campaign.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:16 AM
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Mikey.

(with four or five follow-up ads over the years)
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:39 AM
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These aren't all that old, but the Japanese company Sakeru made a series of commercials about their products that is known today as "Long Long Man". It tells a complete story right to the last commercial (and stick around for the end). Collection can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZsJyCyGBSI with English subtitles.
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:19 AM
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Not sure if this is what you're looking for but how about the Subaru dog family? We've seen them drop one of the "kids" off for the first day of school, go to a carwash, go out to eat, teach the teenager how to drive, go to the park where pets aren't allowed, road trips, and probably more that I don't remember right now.

I love those commercials. I'll rewind so I can watch it again!
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