Whether you loved or loathed Super Bowl LIII, commercials kept the game day adrenaline high with characters.
Since 2004, Advertising Week has been celebrating that most treasured of brand ambassadors, the advertising icon. From television to cereal box, brand icons are the unique identities representing the brands and products behind them and each year we’ve awarded the best of the best with a highly-coveted spot on the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame.
Here we are proud to display our list of annual winners, year by year, since Advertising Week’s inception.
A very special thanks to Heather Taylor, Advertising Week’s Icon Researcher and Blogger, for her contributions to the list.
The Energizer Bunny
Brand Represented: Energizer
Year Introduced: 1989
He’s still going. Since his 1989 debut, the Energizer Bunny has become an unexpected hero in advertising, thumping his way into the hearts of consumers in a commercial spot where he drummed away to outlast toys powered by other batteries.
The pink Energizer Bunny accepted his award by bringing his signature cool to the stage with his flip-flops, sunglasses, and carrying a drum that never stops beating. On his behalf, the Energizer team shared this statement. “Generations of consumers have grown up with the Energizer Bunny’s unstoppable power and his will to ‘Keep Going and Going.’ We’re thrilled that Advertising Week has named him as one of their icons of the year and know he’ll be a fan favorite for generations to come.”
Fudgie the Whale
Brand Represented: Carvel
Year Introduced: 1977
Famously full of irresistible crunchies, Fudgie the Whale made his debut for Carvel in 1977 to celebrate Father’s Day. The fudge-filled novelty ice cream cake in the shape of a whale quickly became one of the brand’s signature offerings — and their leading mascot.
For Fudgie the Whale, who turned 40 the same year he was inducted into the Walk of Fame, the win was truly an unexpected delight. “What a nail biter! I’m so honored be inducted into Advertising Week’s Madison Avenue Walk of Fame alongside the Energizer Bunny. I would like to thank all my fans who voted for me and I hope we can celebrate soon!”
Cleatus the FOX Sports Robot
Brand Represented: FOX NFL Sunday
Year Introduced: 2005
Don’t call him a Transformer. The newly inducted Cleatus the FOX Sports Robot joins the 2016 Walk of Fame a little over 10 years after being introduced to football fanatics nationwide. Animated by CGI, Cleatus made his debut during the 2005-2006 NFL season at the opening sequence of the game, since holding the distinction of being one of advertising’s rare mega-robotic mascots.
What does the future hold for Cleatus, post-#MAWoF induction? His enduring relationship with fans of all ages aside, we’re personally hoping he hits refresh on his social media accounts instead of continuing to be sidelined. With a bio that proudly proclaims he’s “the most badass fake robot in the universe,” how could you not be tweeting every day?
Brand Represented: United States Forest Service
Year Introduced: 1971
“Lend a hand — care for the land!”
A kind fellow dedicated to motivating kids to keep the world they live in a clean one, Woodsy Owl’s tireless efforts have won him honors in the 2016 Walk of Fame. As the icon behind the United States Forest Service, Woodsy wants to see us build a relationship with nature and give back to the land we inhabit. Over the decades, he has been a bird of many slogan campaign feathers too, including one of his most infamous, “Give a hoot — don’t pollute!” as seen below in a 1977 commercial spot.
Upon receiving his award, Woodsy humbly gave a short thank you speech before bowing out to fly across the land. Where he goes now could be anywhere — woodlands, forests, even cities — so long as he, and the Forest Service, continues to teach the world to be the environmental change they wish to see in the world.
Brand Represented: Cheetos (Frito-Lay)
Year Introduced: 1986
Clad in high-top sneakers, sunglasses, and all about good vibes only, Chester Cheetah has reigned the snack aisle as its resident charismatic cool cat since the 1980s. Created by DDB Needham Worldwide in 1986, Chester’s smooth attitude and wisecracks made him especially beloved in the 1990s when Cheetos, and its brand mascot, ruled with teens and tweens as their snack of choice.
After strutting over to pick up his win in the 2015 Walk of Fame, Chester can now be found donning a beret and scarf as a… Museum Critic? You read that right! Chester’s latest savoir faire move has been acting as curator for the Cheetos Museum where a new promotion from Frito-Lay offers anyone with photos of unusually-shaped Cheetos the chance to earn big, dangerously cheesy, bucks.
Brand Represented: ICEE
Year Introduced: 1963
Following the footsteps of the Coca-Cola Polar Bears came the 2015 induction of another iconic polar bear that has also been an advocate for crisp and refreshing beverages: the ICEE Bear.
It still remains something of a mystery who is responsible for creating the ICEE Bear. Local Kansas artist Ruth E. Taylor is credited with thinking of the bear, but ad agency Norsworthy-Mercer was been cited for making the actual bear mascot. Creator credits aside, ICEE Bear was thrilled to win and continues to define summertime and supply us with America’s favorite frozen beverage since 1967.
Morton Salt Girl
Brand Represented: Morton Salt
Year Introduced: 1914
Wearing a yellow dress and carefree smile while carrying an umbrella and salt, the eight-year-old Morton Salt Girl has been flavoring meals for generations with the slogan “When it rains, it pours.” Already inducted into our list of the most stylish brand icons, it was only a matter of time before she would turn heads with Walk of Fame honors.
The Morton Salt Girl turned 100 the same year she was brought into the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame, honored with a minute-long commercial. The spot honored her as the face of not just Morton Salt, but as a companion, both as a beloved symbol of home that connects us to loved ones and a cultural icon that connects all of us to each other.
Brand Represented: The United States Forest Service
Year Introduced: 1944
For 71 years, Smokey Bear has been a symbol of protection of America’s forests from human-caused wildfires. Aware of the millions of wildland acres that will intentionally burn each year, he promotes a message of environmental conservation and protection to one and all.
Created by the Advertising Council, Smokey’s tireless dedication to forests awarded him with a spot in the coveted 2014 Walk of Fame lineup. Since then, Smokey Bear, who has been voiced by actor Sam Elliott since 2008, continues to remain an environmental icon urging everyone that, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.”
Brand Represented: Snuggle
Year Introduced: 1983
Perhaps the most adorable thing to happen to laundry ever, the Snuggle Bear has been cozying up to consumers for decades. Described as “a magical spokesbear,” Snuggle is a teddy bear who represents Snuggle fabric softener from Sun Products.
Created by puppeteer Kermit Love, Snuggle proudly notes that his brand of snuggly softness is the “less expensive” alternative, as he curls up in fresh, fluffy towels and cuddly towels in commercial spots. Upon joining the Walk of Fame in 2014, Snuggle also received a few subtle design updates in his less fleecy fur and snout. But he’s still loads of cuddly cute and committed to making the world “a softer place.”
Brand Represented: StubHub
Year Introduced: 2012
For the world’s largest ticket marketplace, it was time to create a brand mascot that could go out on a limb. Ticket Oak, a 30-foot tall animatronic-talking tree, was created by Duncan/Channon (and most notably then-Associate Creative Director Dave Knox). Making his debut during March Madness, the puppeteer-led tree provided entertainment fans with the best tickets for sold-out concerts and sporting events.
Inducted into the 2013 Walk of Fame just a year after his debut, Ticket Oak quietly endeared himself across all media to fans. StubHub sales jumped, the Wall Street Journal ran a feature story on him, and the character branched out with commercial spots that ran during episodes of Jimmy Kimmel, American Idol, SNL, and Mad Men. And even though he was eventually phased out in 2015, there’s still a big soft spot in our hearts for the unusually loveable deciduous dude.
The Most Interesting Man in the World
Brand Represented: Dos Equis
Year Introduced: 2006
“I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” For the past decade, The Most Interesting Man in the World has been elevating the way spokespersons represent brands. Created by marketing firm Euro RSCG and portrayed by Jonathan Goldsmith, he is an enigma with a larger than life narrative. We may not know much about the man behind the libation or his globetrotting exploits, but deep down, we want to be more like him.
Post-Walk of Fame nod, The Most Interesting Man went on to many grand adventures before taking the biggest leap forward yet: a mission to Mars in 2016. But while this is one small step for The Most Interesting Man, Dos Equis plans to reveal a successor character in due time accustomed to the icon. Stay thirsty, and tuned for more, my friends.
Brand Represented: Progressive
Year Introduced: 2008
Elected to join the 2012 Walk of Fame was none other than the perky, popular pitchwoman for Progressive (say that 10 times fast), Flo. Created by Arnold Worldwide and portrayed by Stephanie Courtney, Flo’s transparency and upbeat attitude have made her a pop culture mainstay and expert on all things car insurance-related since her 2008 debut.
In her winner’s statement, Flo remained modest about her work, “I’m just a girl with a white apron and a blue headband who tries to make car insurance a little easier to understand.” Two years after nabbing the Walk of Fame nod, she celebrated a milestone of her own: her 100th ad for Progressive.
Brand Represented: GEICO
Year Introduced: 2010(ish)
Right alongside the success of GEICO’s brand mascots the Gecko and the Cavemen was Maxwell, a talking pig from the Martin Agency. While it isn’t fully clear which year he appeared on the scene, Maxwell’s first commercial spot was a nod to the famous nursery rhythm that had him squealing “wee wee wee!”on a car ride all the way home.
Originally intended to be a one-time character, Maxwell held his own and grew up alongside GEICO in commercial spots where he did everything from ziplining to spoofing the TV series “Portlandia” with “Piglandia.” Inducted into the 2012 Walk of Fame with high honors, Maxwell is now all grown up and starring in the “Max Everywhere” campaign to provide helpful tips on how customers can access GEICO with ease anywhere they go.
Brand Represented: Allstate Insurance
Year Introduced: 2010
One of the fastest inductions into the Walk of Fame ever goes to the then-barely year old Mayhem from Allstate. Portrayed by actor Dean Winters, Mayhem was created by the team at Leo Burnett Chicago as a ubiquitous spokesperson that protected people everywhere from the “Mayhem” that was all around including hit-and-runs, acts of nature, and anything that could use car insurance.
Five years after receiving this award, Mayhem continues to be an international hit with audiences. In 2011, Advertising Week awarded him third place as one of the most-recognized insurance advertising characters ever. This year, Leo Burnett Chicago took home the Best of Show Gold ADDY Award for a Mayhem campaign about a social media savvy burglar that aired during Super Bowl 50.
Brand Represented: Coca-Cola
Year Introduced: 1993
Polar bears have appeared on and off in Coca-Cola’s advertising since 1922, but it wasn’t until 1993’s “Always Coca-Cola” campaign that these furry symbols were finally given their own spotlight. Created by Creative Artists Agency (with Edge Creative later taking the reins), 27 commercials were made for the polar bears, each reflecting a mischievous, cute, and playful personality that could make audiences everywhere go, “Awww!”
For the most nostalgic viewing experience possible, creator Ken Stewart worked alongside animation company Rhythm & Hues to animate the bears using state-of-the-art graphic programs. The end result, accompanied by specific bear movements, sound effects, and an original music score, were truly magical commercial spots. Post Walk of Fame win, the Polar Bears continue to be recognized in Coca-Cola ads and packaging, particularly around the holiday season where the ethereal quality of their world encourages one and all to get in the holiday spirit.
Brand Represented: Michelin
Year Introduced: 1898
He has been compared to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters and fellow Walk of Fame member the Pillsbury Doughboy, but when he first debuted in 1898 the Michelin Man appeared mummy-esque in appearance. Created by Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, the Michelin Man — real name: Bibendum — was originally modeled after a stack of tires. He drank and smoked in early advertisements, but still provided families with spare tire assistance.
As times changed, so did the image of the 118-year-old icon as a brand ambassador. By the time he was inducted into the 2010 Walk of Fame, the world was accustomed to seeing a stronger, softer Michelin Man. In 2009, TBWA launched a $20 million ad campaign for Michelin that employed its brand mascot alongside the tagline “the right tire changes everything.” Today, the Michelin Man continues to assist motorists with extra spare tires, keeping with the company mission to accelerate mobility and meet energy, environmental, and human challenges.
Brand Represented: Vlasic Pickles
Year Introduced: 1974
What does a wisecracking stork have to do with selling pickles anyway? Plenty! In the 1970s, the national birthrate was dropping and managers at Vlasic dreamed up a Spokesbird to represent the Vlasic pickle brand, using the old wives’ tale that women often crave pickles during their pregnancy.
With his glasses, grin, and Groucho Marx-inspired voiceover courtesy of Doug Preis, the Vlasic stork was an overnight hit with consumers. Before being honored in the 2010 Walk of Fame, he joined iconic characters like Mr. Peanut, the Jolly Green Giant, and Chef Boyardee for a dinner in 2005’s “Icons” ad campaign from MasterCard and McCann New York. It’s also interesting to note that in 2010, the stork received a makeover from Omnicom’s Merkley + Partners. The edgy new look might not have panned out in the long run though, as the site and Vlasic fans alike still use images of the original stork along with his message that crunchy “Vlasic is the best tasting pickle I ever heard!”
Brand Represented: AOL
Year Introduced: 1997
Few mascots have campaigned as hard for the Walk of Fame quite like the AOL Running Man in 2009. Basing his campaign on the tagline “Run, Don’t Walk!” he urged consumers to exercise their right to vote for the icon that makes it his mission to inform, entertain, and connect the world.
Part of the Buddy List feature for AIM from AOL that allowed users to instantly know when friends were online, the Running Man was featured everywhere on AOL packaging in the late 1990s to early 2007s. JoRoan Lazaro, the Running Man’s designer, was inspired by silhouette images of men used in 1940s and 1950s postwar American logos and trademarks. Lazaro simplified the design for the Running Man, who organically evolved with the brand. Sadly, much like AIM and the Buddy List, the Running Man is no more in 2016, after years of quiet phasing out before being discontinued in 2011. But real late ‘90s Internet dial-up users will always remember his cheerful, sunny self.
Brand Represented: Budweiser/Anheuser-Busch
Year Introduced: 1933
Long before Super Bowl commercial spots, the Clydesdales were defining Anheuser-Busch as its silent, majestic icons. In 1933, August Busch Jr. and his brother Adolphus gifted their father with a six-horse hitch of Clydesdales that simultaneously moved the entire family to tears and created the phrase, “Crying into your beer.” Their first move after the tears ran their course? The Clydesdales started a tour around the United States, beginning with the White House where they delivered the first post-Prohibition case of Budweiser.
Housed in a brick and stained glass stable in Saint Louis with 175 Clydesdales currently in its herd, the Clydesdales trotted into ad icon fame after being inducted into the 2009 Walk of Fame. Then and now, some of their greatest accomplishments have included appearances in more than 25 Super Bowl commercials (making their debut in 1986), participation in two presidential inaugurations and the Tournament of Roses parades, and meet and greets with thousands of fans.
The Serta Counting Sheep
Brand Represented: Serta
Year Introduced: 2001
For centuries, the cure for being unable to sleep at night has been to count sheep jumping over a fence. In 2001, Doner, the lead creative agency for mattress company Serta, brought this concept to life with counting sheep mascots.
The characters’ backstory circles around an ad executive who had a long day at the office. Struggling to sleep on a lumpy mattress, he counts sheep knowing that once his new Serta mattress arrives the sheep will be out of business. He takes his lightbulb idea over to Serta and begins the search for the 13 Counting Sheep. Since their debut and induction into the 2008 Walk of Fame, the Counting Sheep have won the Gold Effie and the American Advertising Federation Silver Addy and starred in over 20 commercial spots.
Brand Represented: GEICO
Year Introduced: 2004
“It’s so easy to use GEICO.com a caveman could do it!”
Shortly after the GEICO Gecko took the world by storm, The Martin Agency developed another instantly iconic set of prehistoric characters for the auto insurance company: cavemen. The campaign revolved around a simple premise — using GEICO is so easy a caveman could do it — which offended the modern-day cavemen who were less B.C. and more bohemian bourgeois.
After winning their honorable induction into the 2008 Walk of Fame, the popularity of the Cavemen won them their own spin-off TV series, Cavemen, on ABC in 2007. Poor ratings forced the show to quickly become short-lived, but not to worry — new commercial spots for the Cavemen in 2008 would feature the icons spoofing the show, all in good fun.
Brand Represented: Orville Redenbacher
Year Introduced: 1919
The second businessman and spokesperson on behalf of his brand to be inducted into the Walk of Fame after Colonel Sanders in 2006, Orville Redenbacher dedicated his life to perfecting the art of gourmet popcorn.
In 1919, Orville began growing his popcorn when he was only 12 years old. After raising enough money from his business to attend college, he graduated and perfected his popcorn hybrid alongside business partner Charles Bowman in 1965. Dressed in a suit and bow tie with his iconic glasses, Orville’s first commercial in 1976 challenged viewers to figure out which popcorn was his “lighter, fluffier” recipe. The commercial spot made an icon out of Orville, who would continue to stay one foot ahead of the snack game until his passing in 1995. His legacy lives on, as researchers for the company continue to create new, innovative, and delicious popcorn varieties.
Brand Represented: Chick-fil-A
Year Introduced: 1995
In 1995, renegade cows scrawled “EAT MOR CHIKIN” in paint on a Chick-fil-A billboard. Yes, you read that sentence correctly — and yes, that would Chick-fil-A’s slogan in an ad campaign created by The Richards Group.
Replacing Doodles, former mascot and anthropomorphized chicken who appears as the C on the logo, the cows fearlessly changed the burger-consumption landscape. They insisted that Chick-fil-A lovers switch to chicken instead to avoid eating their own kind. The Walk of Fame took notice of the courage of the cows and honored their bravery with an induction in 2007. The cows still share their message today via social media, where Eat Mor Chikin Cowz has thousands of Facebook followers.
Brand Represented: KFC
Year Introduced: 1952
As the “finger lickin’ good” face behind Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland David Sanders was a businessman first and a spokesperson second as the Founder of the wildly successful chicken restaurant chain.
Since his passing in 1980, Sanders has remained his own brand mascot. A fictionalized version of his likeness still appears in KFC advertising and branding, with an animated Colonel appearing in ads from 1998 until the early 2000s. Since his induction into the 2006 Walk of Fame, a variety of rotating actors including Jim Gaffigan and Norm Macdonald have paid tribute to the iconic Colonel Sanders in commercial spots rebranding his symbol for a millennial audience.
The Kool-Aid Man
Brand Represented: Kool-Aid (Kraft Foods)
Year Introduced: 1954
We like to think that the nation collectively cried out “Oh yeah!” when the Kool-Aid Man was inducted into the 2005 Walk of Fame.
The Kool-Aid Man’s modest debut in 1954 — a pitcher that sat on a tabletop singing jingles about how a five-cent pouch of Kool-Aid was “the very best drink you ever made!” — dramatically altered over the years to adapt to new audiences. He received arms and legs in 1956 and began bursting into homes to assist families in making the sweet drink in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2013, the Kool-Aid Man went full-on CGI in a new campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi and VSA Partners. Still the same sugary sweet pitcher we all grew up with, but with a new “flavor” wardrobe, expanded vocabulary, and well-rounded personality to better reach tech-savvy audiences.
Brand Represented: National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia
Year Introduced: 1959
Decades before the Starbucks Mermaid hit the java scene, Juan Valdez was paving the way as a humble, but legendary, icon for Colombian coffee. In 1959, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia worked alongside ad agency DDB Worldwide to dream up a spokesperson who captured the spirit of the coffee growers and producers who made 100% Colombian coffee as well as distinguishing the coffee itself.
Dressed in a wide hat, with a striped poncho draped over his shoulder, Juan carried a bag of coffee beans and was accompanied by his mule, Conchita. His look became instantly recognizable and internationally beloved as an icon for both Colombia and coffee. Voted as one of America’s favorite ad icons in 2005’s Walk of Fame, Juan, along with Mr. Whipple and the Pillsbury Doughboy, is considered one of advertising’s most successful pitchmen ever.
Brand Represented: GEICO
Year Introduced: 1999
Right alongside Juan Valdez in 2005’s Walk of Fame was another beloved brand mascot: a small, green lizard who wanted to help consumers save money on car insurance. And while he was only six at the time of his win, the friendly nature and good cheer of the GEICO Gecko had already made him an overnight sensation with audiences.
As a brand name, “GEICO” was often mispronounced as “Gecko” with consumers. GEICO’s ad agency, The Martin Agency, brainstormed a creative session where the gecko was doodled and brought to life. As the ambassador to GEICO, the Gecko provides outstanding customer service while saving people money on their insurance. He also loves meeting new people so you’re ever at a venue where you spot the Gecko, stop and say hello!
Red & Yellow M&Ms
Brand Represented: M&Ms
Year Introduced: 1995
Coming in first place was a motley crew of playful chocolate candies. Their 1990s M&Ms candy ensemble included Blue, Orange, Brown, and Green, but it was Red and Yellow who were acknowledged in the 2004 Walk of Fame win.
BFFs Red and Yellow may be as different as night and day (Red playing the wise guy to Yellow’s more bumbling buddy), but the duo have been playing off of one another’s antics for decades including run-ins with Santa Claus and testing the limits of how they would do anything for love. They even have their own mashup! In 2016, remix artist Nick Bertke of Pogo fame, remixed sounds from the M&M archives in “Bite Size Candies” to help the company celebrate its 75th anniversary.
Brand Represented: Aflac
Year Introduced: 2000
Taking second place in 2004’s Walk of Fame was a quirky mascot that was then only four years old, but was already a celebrated icon: the Aflac Duck.
Debuting in 2000’s commercial spot “Park Bench,” the Aflac Duck, and his pristine white feathers, squawked out “Aflac!” to help a park visitor remember the name of his supplemental insurance group. An international advertising hit, he has since appeared in more than 70 U.S. commercials and is a mascot favorite in Japan. Since being inducted into the Walk of Fame, the Aflac Duck has been added to the official Aflac logo, debuted in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2011, and is the symbol of Alfac’s Duckprints 2013 campaign, designed to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer.
Brand Represented: Planters
Year Introduced: 1916
Nabbing third place in the 2004 Walk of Fame, Mr. Peanut (full name: Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe) may be the most stylish and witty brand mascot the ad industry has ever seen. Sketched by Antonio Gentile for a Planters-sponsored mascot contest, a commercial artist later added his top hat, cane, monocle, white gloves, and spats, adding to his dapper gent ensemble.
Ever the tasteful entertainer, Mr. Peanut didn’t begin speaking in commercial spots until 2010. Since then, actors including Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Hader (his current speaking voice) would lend their voices to the spiffy nut mogul, who celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016.
Brand Represented: Pillsbury
Year Introduced: 1965
Hoo-hoo! For over 50 years, Poppin’ Fresh has been giggling his way into the hearts of consumers everywhere and lending a helpful hand in kitchens with his baking expertise. Drawn by the late Leo Burnett copywriter Rudy Perz and conceptualized by Milt Schaffer, a Leo Burnett animation expert, the Pillsbury Doughboy stands proudly at 7 1/2 inches and wears a chef’s hat, neckerchief, and adorable grin. JoBe Cerny currently voices his signature giggle, taking over for the late Paul Frees.
Since his fourth place win in 2004 during Advertising Week’s Walk of Fame, the Doughboy has been spotted in recent years making cameo commercial spots for GEICO (traveling through an airport on his way to a baking convention) and even receiving his first pair jeans as a holiday present.
Tony the Tiger
Brand Represented: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
Year Introduced: 1952
Taking a “gr-r-reat!” fifth place win in 2004’s mascot Walk of Fame, Tony the Tiger was required to audition as a potential spokes-animal for Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes. With fierce competition from rotating cereal box characters like Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant, and Newt the Gnu, Tony was an instant hit with the public.
Introduced with stripes, a head shaped like a football, and walking around on all fours, Tony eventually stood on two feet with a leaner build, clocking in at over six feet tall to fit the needs of a health-conscious nation. Beyond his look, his role as a brand mascot evolved over the decades as well, spanning the course of a bumbling character in the 1950s to a family man in the 1970s (complete with a mother, wife, daughter, and son). Currently, he’s a confident, trusted friend to adults and children alike and serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Kellogg Company.