Since everything old is new again, guess who is returning to TV? The Jolly Green Giant, soon to be property of B&G Foods. Sales of canned and frozen vegetables have slipped as shoppers opt for fresher options, but B&G is confident the Giant can turn that around. Or presumably there will be hell to pay in the valley.
The JGG has been around since 1928. Back then he wasn’t green, looked pretty neanderthal and wasn’t even called “jolly.” He was redrawn twice during the Depression and then given a hideous, clashing red scarf in 1960, making him look more like an oversized aviator. The current version on cans was introduced in 1976.
Through the decades, the JGG brand has been bought and sold many times, shuttled among countless advertising agencies; the Giant himself suffered long stretches of not appearing in commercials. But B&G Foods is buying the product line from General Mills and soon the JGG will be on your TV again.
The JGG is one of the best known advertising icons in history, but his TV debut in the late 1950s was rocky. According to Bob Noel, a copywriter at the Leo Burnett agency, videographers tried men painted green, puppets and animation. Nothing worked well because “when you try to move the Giant around and really show what he looks like, he comes off like a monster. The baby cries and the dog goes under the bed.”
Mr. Noel’s solution was to show the monster – uh, the JGG – sparingly and have him bellow “ho, ho, ho.” (In those less litigious times, Santa Claus didn’t sue.)
I’ll close with a tidbit you probably didn’t know. As a pop icon in 1965, the JGG inspired a grossly over-modulated Top 40 song by the Kingsmen, who also did the classic “Louie Louie.” Courtesy of YouTube, here’s “The Jolly Green Giant”