Advertisers mad for 'Mad's Alfred E. Neuman

Material World

March 24, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

"What, me sell out?"

Apparently so. Alfred E. Neuman, the gap-toothed mascot of Mad magazine, has officially joined the Establishment.

Dressed in a preppy blue polo shirt, he can now be found on the cover of a Lands' End catalog, hawking chinos, button-down Oxford shirts and tasseled loafers.

He also had his teeth fixed for a new "Got milk?" campaign.

And PepsiCo plans to plaster his lopsided mug on bottles of its SoBe drinks. The list goes on.

Although Mad's founder, the late William Gaines, once vowed to teach kids not to believe in ads, his cartoon protege has clearly chosen another path.

"Advertisers are realizing Neuman puts a smile on people's face and creates immediate brand recognition," says Joel Ehrlich, senior vice president of advertising and promotions for DC Comics and Warner Bros., Mad's parent company.

Neuman's journey from Mad to Madison Avenue is also putting a smile on Warner Bros.' face, thanks to the loot he hauls in. But his handlers insist that Neuman isn't simply being offered to the highest bidder. "At the end of the day, we do have integrity about his image," Ehrlich says. "The product has to be a good match."

Although some Mad readers might wonder why Neuman is endorsing any products, his role as an advertising pitchman isn't entirely out of character.

In fact, that's how he got his start. Neuman predates Mad by decades. One of his earliest known appearances was on the side of a 19th-century traveling dentist's wagon, accompanied by the motto, "It didn't hurt a bit."

For its part, Lands' End could have chosen an even more unlikely persona as its pitchman. The choice was between Neuman and the late Vice President Spiro Agnew.

The Neuman catalog has already turned up on as a collector's item. And Neuman is apparently in such demand that the front of Mad's April issue shows his blank silhouette with a note to readers:

"Due to the slumping economy, we cannot afford the services of mascot Alfred E. Neuman on this cover."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.