A spokestoon is an established cartoon character who is hired to endorse a product. It should not be equated with a cartoon character invented specifically to give identity to a product, such as the Michelin Man, Speedy Alka-Seltzer or the Pillsbury Doughboy. For these and more, see List of advertising characters.
When the United States entered World War II, well-known celebrities already highly placed in American popular culture, such as Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny, joined the war effort, donating their highly visible images for patriotic and informative cartoons. Bambi, loaned by Walt Disney for one year (1943) to the US Forest Service, was the precursor of the purposely-created Smokey.
Since then, many high-profile celebrity toons have turned their skills to corporate product placement. Though fast food franchises have used gimmicks to tie-in temporarily with current releases of animated features since the 1950s, a few toons have become more permanently associated with a product or service offered by corporate culture and may be considered genuine spokestoons.
Early recorded usages of "spokestoon", in newspaper articles of October 1995 related to the Disney Corporation's use of characters from The Lion King to promote good nutrition in children, were preceded by a March 25, 1995 feature in the Portland, Maine Press Herald, noting "Buster Brown, the comic strip character who became the "spokestoon" for the children's shoe line."
Among these spokestoons and the products they are identified with:
- Dennis the Menace for Dairy Queen until 2002.
- Donald Duck for Donald Duck orange juice
- Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble for Winston cigarettes, Post's Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles breakfast cereals, and Flintstones vitamins
- Little Lulu for Kleenex
- Bugs Bunny for Tang
- Gumby for Cheerios
- Peanuts characters for the Ford Falcon car, Dolly Madison snacks, and Metropolitan Life Insurance
- Mickey Mouse for Disney Mickey's Magix breakfast cereal
- The Pink Panther for Owens Corning fiberglass thermal insulation, and Sweet'N Low artificial sweetener
- The Road Runner for Time Warner's Road Runner internet service
- Rocky and Bullwinkle characters for Family Fun Center, General Mills, and Taco Bell
- The Simpsons characters for Nestlé's Butterfinger candy bars
- Underdog characters for Family Fun Center
- Winnie the Pooh characters for Disney Hunny B's Honey-Graham breakfast cereal
- http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/04/we-have-met-enemy-and-he-is-us.html This Day in Quotes 04-2011
- "Latest News, Breaking News and Current News from the UK and World". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
- Washington Post news story, "Disney School Lunch `Spokestoons' Leave Lawmaker With Sour Taste," October 9, 1995.
- Highbeam.com: "Spokestoon"
- Dairy Queen: FAQ