Jim Henson with some of the Muppets from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock. (Photo courtesy of http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Jim_Henson)
Thanks to the success of the AMC hit television show, Mad Men, a great buzz has been generated about field of advertising. Characters like Don Draper and Roger Sterling have become household names and have given the business itself a sense of celebrity. Though there are many people who have made a name for themselves in the advertising profession, your Leo Burnett’s, David Ogilvy’s, Rob Whittle’s, Mary Wells’ etc. there are many acclaimed, famous and celebrated individuals who made a name for themselves in other fields who got their start in advertising.
Best known as the creator of The Muppets and for his work on Sesame Street , The Muppet Show, Labyrinth and dozens of other large and small screen productions, Jim Henson spent the early part of his career working on TV commercials. Between the years of 1957 and 1961 Jim Henson created 179 commercials for the Washington DC based company Wilkins Coffee. The series of ads starred character’s Wilkins and Wontkins, using slapstick humor to grab customer’s attention. A slightly different approach than advertisers had taken previously. Henson remarked “We tried to sell things by making people laugh.”. Henson went on to make coffee ads for companies such as Red Diamond and Kraml Milk. Coffee was not the only product Henson collaborated on. He went on to create ads to LaChoy,Wilson’s Meats, RC Cola and even humorous training videos for IBM.
Here are some videos of commercials created by Jim Henson –
F. Scott Fitzgerald
This celebrated”Jazz Age” author’s partying and antics rival those of Don Draper and Roger Sterling. If Fitzgerald had lived to see the, or even his, 60’s there is no doubt he could have taught Madison Avenue a thing or two about letting loose. Though he did not finish his career there, Fitzgerald did work for New York Cityadvertising firm Barron Collier for about a year while courting Zelda. The agency produced advertisements for street car cards. Fitzgerald penned the slogan “We Keep You Clean in Muscatine” an ad produced for a steam laundry in Muscatine, Iowa. The ad earned Fitzgerald a raise and a promotion; his boss stated “…it’s plain that there’s a future for you in this business. Pretty soon this office won’t be big enough to hold you.'” Fitzgerald left advertising shortly after Zelda broke off their engagement. Zelda was convinced he would be unable to support her in that line of work.
Sir Alec Guinness
Knighted and Academy Award winning actor Sir Alec Guinness also worked briefly in the world of advertising. As a young man and before taking to the stage, Alec Guinness was employed as a copywriter for Arks Publicity advertising agency in London. There he wrote copy for Rose’s Lime Juice, radio valves and razor blades. He left the agency after only 18 months of employment to pursue his acting career. Though Guinness’ writing talents were not put to waste, later in life we was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Another Medium for the screenplay he adapted from Joyce Cary’s novel The Horse’s Mouth.
These are not the only famous actors, authors, comedians and innovators who spent some time working in advertising. Other notable individuals are Bob Newhart, Don DeLillo, Rick Moranis and Joseph Heller.