Guest Opinon: So long, Snoopy

Chicago Tribune
Oct. 22
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The news came like a blindside burst of machine gun fire from the evil Red Baron: Snoopy, the plucky beagle and a star of the “Peanuts” comic strip, has been shot down: Insurance giant MetLife has eliminated Snoopy as its advertising mascot.

“We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” says Esther Lee, MetLife’s global chief marketing officer.

And now, the giant insurer is seen as … warm and fuzzy?

Hmm. We don’t think so. Certainly not after strafing Snoopy.

Nevertheless, we won’t second guess MetLife. The company is launching a new global branding effort and plans to focus more on corporate clients. So Snoopy spirals to the ground.

In the ad world, this is business as usual. Heck, in any business this is the way things work.

You produce desired results or, in Snoopy’s case, you wind up ... in the doghouse. MetLife found that while people considered the “Peanuts” gang friendly and approachable, the cartoon characters didn’t summon images of leadership and responsibility, The New York Times reports. Snoopy, with his vivid fantasy life as a World War I pilot, didn’t resonate in the way that MetLife would hope: In other words, Snoopy apparently didn’t chase consumers into insurance offices.

So Snoopy takes his place in the unemployment line with other famous-brand mascots of yesteryear — obsolete characters such as Bucky Beaver of Ipana toothpaste fame.

We shudder to think who could be next. There are so many icons peering out from cereal boxes, detergents and other household staples.

When will Tony the Tiger roar his last “Grrrreat!” Will the Jolly Green Giant take a load off from that imposing akimbo pose and stow the “Ho ho ho”? When will Mr. Clean tire of flexing his guns? Will Smokey Bear retreat into hibernation and never re-emerge with his shovel? Will Speedy Alka-Seltzer, shelved and revived in various roles since the 1960s, finally plop, plop and fizz, fizz away? Will the Energizer Bunny ever stop beating the drum? When will the Geiko Gecko quip his last?

Some characters, of course, have second acts. For instance: Hipster Charlie the Tuna, forever disappointed that he wouldn’t be allowed in a StarKist tuna can. “Sorry, Charlie. StarKist doesn’t want tunas with good taste; StarKist wants tunas that taste good.” After a deep-sea hiatus, Charlie came out of retirement in 1999 and thrives again.

The problem isn’t always flagging sales or a character out of tune with the times. McDonald’s announced recently that it has temporarily sidelined Ronald, after a series of so-called “creepy clown” sightings across the country. (That is, people dressed as clowns linked to threatening incidents near college campuses and other locales.)

Question: If Ronald stays disappeared, will enough people care? We may find out.

When you stroll down the grocery aisle, glance at the faces peering out from bottles, cans and cartons: Aunt Jemima. The Pillsbury Doughboy. Elsie the Cow. The Brawny Lumberjack.

Tip your hat to them and all the others. They’ve survived generation after generation, thanks to you.