Sunday 2 May 2010

Snap, Krackle, Pop - Injuns Are A' Coming!!!

As mentioned previously on this blog the 1950's and '60's were a golden age for cereal giveaways, in fact they were so de rigeur at one time that there was no way that an average sized family could hope to keep up with the ranges of freebies being offered without pretty much abandoning all other food stuffs save cereal.

Mums of course were far more resistant to the blandishments of Kelloggs and Nabisco than their children to whom the attendant advertising in comics and children's TV was mercilessly focused. A situation which was not lost on Mad creatives, Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder as this brilliant spoof from Mad reveals.

There were two golden rules applied to the marketing of cereals with freebies.

Number 1). The less dietary value the cereal, the more generous should be the gift. This strategy revealed the true cynicism of the marketeers, by circumventing the need to rely on mum's endorsement and relying instead on the resourcefulness of the delicate minds who the gifts were aimed at (panels 3-6 of the second Kurtzman/ Elder page).

Number 2). Always, always (this rule applies to all free gift promotions) always ensure that there are some real rarities included.

Rule number 2 involves deep psychology and a true understanding of what drives collectors, but essentially  it involves the marketing men assessing the critical weakness in all true collectors and that is that no matter how otherwise lacking in merit the collectible in question might seem, it is in fact it's very rarity that creates the necessary aura of mystique and desirability that will propel the collector to go to absurd lengths to fill in the unforgiving gap in his collection.

Now as anyone will quickly surmise there is absolutely zilch rarity in cereal collectables at the time the men from Kelloggs want you to ruin your health eating bowlfulls of Cocoa Pops. So "whaddya gwinna doooo bowdit???"

Simple - just make one of the set of six Barney Bear sports players in relatively miniscule quantities and to add further torture make another in gi-normous quantities to further twist the knife.

Anyway all that aside, the cereals that were more popular tended to be a lot more conservative with their giveaways and Rice Krispies which according to one jaundiced reviewer had the bulk of their nutritional value in the packets they came in, were up there with Corn Flakes and Nabisco's Weetabix in terms of popularity.

They didn't need to overly pander to playground sentiment and like Weetabix with it's ongoing range of military and vehicular cut-outs, they tended to do a lot of their freebies on the back of the packet

And here (courtesy of John Wigmans who supplied the scans and Clive O' Neill and David Ashford who supplied the original Krispie packets) are some of a magnificent set of figures from Western history which the legendary Ron Embleton created during the 1950's for Rice Krispies.


  1. It amazes me that nobody has ever written a definitive, lavishly illustrated coffee table book on the history of British cereal premiums; I'm sure it'd fascinate any adult who remembers growing up between 1950 and 1980 (Kim Stevens did start a website on the subject but sadly that no longer seems to exist). There was always something especially magical about shaking a box of Corn Flakes until the plastic figure concealed within suddenly broke the surface like a nuclear missile emerging from its silo. I often think it would make a perfect Art History project for a student to write to Kelloggs, etc., asking if they have any archives that could be consulted for a prospective thesis.

    You've already covered the plastic spaceman and knights in armour Peter, but how about the red indians? I remember them as being particularly well modelled (I wonder if Embleton could have had a hand in that?). Also, one item that's particularly intrigued me since I first saw it advertised was a mysterious photogravure adventure comic that was apparently given away with boxes of Shreddies during 1961. Does anybody remember anything about this? - as far as I know there were several issues and one strip featured the exploits of a hero called Mike Wyatt.

    Those Embleton box illustrations are fantastic - and wonderfully nostalgic for anyone like me who can just about remember seeing them the first time round on the breakfast table! I'm constantly surprised at the number of obscure places that Ron's art turned up, during the 1950s. There really is a desperate need for somebody to make a complete record of this published work along the lines of those that have already been compiled for Don Lawrence and Frank Bellamy: I wonder if anyone would object to a specific website dedicated to the task - on the strict understanding that it was non profit making of course...?

  2. Any more Wulf on the horizon Peter?

  3. Not for the foreseeable future Steve, I'm sorry to say.

  4. I have some images from the cereal packs not shown here , I'll try to contact someone so they can add them