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10 Parents, Kids and Spouses of Popular Advertising Characters

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You know the Pillsbury Doughboy, Elsie the Cow and Tony the Tiger, but many of the advertising mascots we know and love have lesser-known wives, husbands, kids and even parents. Pop a breath mint and be on your best behavior, because it's time to meet the families—and one who probably is family, paternity test pending.

1. The Pillsbury Doughboy has a huge family, all with awesome, pun-tastic names. The Doughboy himself is actually named Poppin' Fresh and his wife is named Poppie Fresh. They have two roly-poly children named Popper (the son) and Bun Bun (the daughter). There's also GrandPopper and GrandMommer, plus Biscuit the cat and Flapjack the dog. Every now and then, Uncle Rollie makes an appearance, and once, Poppin' Fresh's mother made him crescent rolls in a commercial.

2. Geoffrey the Giraffe has been instrumental in getting your kids to demand a stop at Toys "R" Us since the 1960s. Gigi is Geoffrey's wife. Geoffrey's daughter, Baby Gee, was introduced in 1973, followed by son Junior (a.k.a. Geoffrey Junior) in 1979.

An ad from 1965. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

3. Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird (you know, he's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs) gets his name because when he first appeared in commercials, he was accompanied by Gramps, an elderly bird who liked to tease him with the chocolate-y cereal. Gramps was eventually replaced by kids who tormented Sonny instead.

4. Elsie the Cow from Borden Dairies was "married" to Elmer the Bull from Elmer's Glue. Seriously! They were real-life animals at the Borden company that ended up representing Borden products. They even had babies, including Beulah, Beauregard and twins named Larabee and Lobelia.

5. Snap, Crackle and Pop, the Kellogg's Rice Krispies elves, have another brother named Pow. Pow was supposed to represent the explosive nutritional value of the cereal, but four elves proved to be too many cooks in the kitchen, and Pow was, um, detonated.

6. Tux, the adorable Linux penguin, has a female companion. Unsurprisingly, her name is Gown.

7. Jack Box (of, you guessed it, Jack in the Box) has been married to his lovely wife, Cricket, for many years, and they have a son named Jack Jr. and dog, Max.

8. Tony the Tiger has quite the family we don't often hear about. Right from the start, Tony had a son named Tony Jr., but we weren't introduced to the rest of the fam until the '70s, when Mama Tony, Mrs. Tony, and daughter Antoinette (not pictured) were given air time. Tony Jr. graduated to become the face of his own cereal in 1975—Frosted Rice—but it didn't last long.

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9. RCA has been using Nipper the dog since way back when Nipper was hearing "His Master's Voice" come out of an Edison-Bell phonograph. He was based on a real dog by the same name (so-called because he bit everyone, which is charming) who died in 1895. Nipper's "son" Chipper started appearing in RCA ads in 1991.

10. As far as we know, Sprout is not the Jolly Green Giant's son. He's just an apprentice. An apprentice who happens to look like a miniature version of the big man himself. Hmm. There aren't exactly a lot of green giants running around the world for Sprout to have come from, and the other characters in the classic commercials are usually human farmers. Seems suspicious.

This piece originally ran in 2010.

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The Secret Ingredient That Makes LaCroix Water So Irresistible
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The distinctive Technicolor cans of LaCroix sparkling water are an increasingly popular sight in stores and on kitchen tables around the country. (If you're old enough to remember the Snapple phenomenon of the 1990s, this is like that—just bubbly.) But as The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, few of the beverage's loyal fans have any idea what it is they're drinking.

LaCroix comes in a variety of flavors, from tangerine to coconut. The can label, however, is cryptic, listing "natural flavors" as part of the ingredients. Their website discloses only that "natural essence oils" are involved, which sounds like LaCroix should be applied to your hair and then rinsed off.

A look at the nutritional information for LaCroix water
LaCroix

As it turns out, that's not too far off. According to The Wall Street Journal, these "essences" are naturally produced chemicals that are manufactured by heating up fruit or vegetable remnants until they make a vapor, then condensing them into a clear concentrate. They're used in a variety of consumer products, from shampoos to ice pops.

LaCroix was unwilling to confirm the Journal's claim, protecting their manufacturing process in a manner similar to Coca-Cola's famously secretive treatment of their recipe. They do state that no sugars are added, but that may not be enough to protect your teeth: Carbonated water and citric acids can combine to create a lower pH, which has a detrimental effect on tooth enamel. Like most everything that tastes good, these flavored waters are best enjoyed in moderation.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

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13 Salty Facts About Mr. Peanut
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In 2016, the dapper little legume known as Mr. Peanut celebrated his 100th year of peddling Planters peanuts, putting him on the Mount Rushmore of food mascots. As the literal face of America's peanut industry, we’ve assembled some facts and history about this shell of a man in honor of National Peanut Day (which is today, September 13).

1. HE WAS CREATED BY A 14-YEAR-OLD.

Mr. Peanut wasn’t hatched from a cynical ad firm brainstorming session. His adorable visage was the product of a 14-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia named Antonio Gentile. Gentile entered a contest held by the Planters Chocolate and Nut Company in 1916 to crown a new peanut mascot. The aspiring Don Draper sketched out a doodle of a “Mr. P. Nut” strutting with a cane. After getting freshened up by a graphic designer—including donning his trademark spats and monocle—Gentile’s design was picked up and he was awarded $5.

(Postscript: The Gentile family became friendly with the Obici family, owners of the Planters empire, and Gentile’s nephews once suggested that the Obicis helped put him through medical school; he became a surgeon.)

2. HE HAS A FULL NAME.

According to Planters, Mr. Peanut is something of an informal moniker. The full name given to him by Gentile was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

3. HE ONCE WEIGHED OVER 300 POUNDS.

Although peanuts can be a highly sensible snack, full of healthy fats and protein, they can also be a source of too many calories. Case in point: the 300-pound cast iron Mr. Peanut, a display item made in the 1920s and 1930s. Planters would use the heavyset mascot on top of a fence post at their Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania factory.

4. HE SURVIVED THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

During the economic downturn of the 1930s, things like “snacks” and “nutrition” suddenly became optional rather than expected. Though many food products struggled to cope with slimmed-down wallets, Planters plastered Mr. Peanut on bags of peanuts that sold for just five cents each. Declaring it a “nickel lunch,” the company was able to use the affordability of peanuts as a selling point.

5. HE WENT TO WAR.

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Specifically, World War II. When the U.S. entered the conflict, Mr. Peanut volunteered for service as a character featured on stamps and propaganda posters.

6. HE’S A MONOCLE ENTHUSIAST.

Food mascots rarely take sides on hot-button issues, but Mr. Peanut made an exception in 2014 when a fashion movement threatened the return of the monocle. After getting wind of men wearing the single-lens reading accessory, Mr. P issued a press release stating that he took notice of the “hipsters” following in his “stylish footsteps” and implied few could pull it off. The monocle has yet to fully re-emerge.

7. THE NUTMOBILE PREDATES THE WIENERMOBILE.

Planters

Though the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile usually takes most of the engine-driven PR credit, Planters actually introduced the NUTMobile, a shell-shaped portable advertising car, in 1935—a year prior to the Wienermobile’s introduction. A Planters salesman designed and drove the car, adding a decorative Mr. Peanut passenger behind him. (Mr. Peanut did not operate the vehicle because Mr. Peanut is not real.)

8. HE’S IN THE SMITHSONIAN.

How influential has Mr. Peanut been to the food industry? In 2013, the Smithsonian admitted his cast-iron incarnation into its National Museum of American History. The statue was exhibited as part of a series on marketing for the institution’s American Enterprise series; Antonio Gentile’s family also donated his original sketches for posterity.

9. FANS DIDN’T WANT HIM TO CHANGE.

Planters

For the company's 100th anniversary in 2006, Planters held an online vote to see whether peanut aficionados wanted to see Mr. Peanut experiment with a sartorial change: Fans could vote for adding cufflinks, a bow tie, or a pocket watch. In the end, the ballot determined they wanted to keep him just the way he is.

10. HE HAS A FAN CLUB.

Mr. Peanut has appeared in so many different licensed products in an effort to expand his popularity—clocks, peanut butter grinders, and coloring books among them—that a collector was having trouble keeping track of them all. In 1978, Judith Walthall founded Peanut Pals, a Mr. Peanut appreciation club that circulates a newsletter and holds conventions. You can join for $20—practically peanuts.

11. HE HAS REMAINED MOSTLY SILENT.

mazmedia via YouTube

Mr. Peanut was already a few decades old when television came into prominence, which afforded him an opportunity to jump off packaging and magazine pages. Despite the new medium, Planters decided they liked him best when he didn’t talk—at all. The mascot was silent all the way up until 2010, when Robert Downey Jr. was commissioned to deliver his first lines. Bill Hader currently provides his voice.

12. HE FOUND A BUDDY.

When Planters unveiled an updated Mr. Peanut for contemporary audiences in 2010, he was sporting a grey flannel suit as well as a new sidekick—Benson, a shorter, single-peanut tagalong. A Planters spokesman clarified to The New York Times that the two are “just friends” and live in separate residences.

13. HE ONCE RAN FOR MAYOR OF VANCOUVER.

Amid a burgeoning alternative art scene in 1970s Vancouver, a performance artist named Vincent Trasov decided it would be interesting to run for mayor of the city while in the guise of Mr. Peanut. Hailing from the “Peanut Party” and meant to be a commentary of the Nixon-era absurdities of politics, he was endorsed by novelist William S. Burroughs and received 2685 ballots—3.4 percent of the vote.

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