Persuasive Puppets

While this outspoken puppet might try to sell us on things, I don't think he would do too well in a commercial.

While this outspoken puppet might try to sell us on things, I don’t think he’s that convincing!

Where do you think the average person has seen puppets most recently? At the movie theater, courtesy of the film Muppets Most Wanted? On television, as their kid watches Sesame Street? Or how about in passing, as part of a commercial?

Puppets have been used for commercials for nearly as long as television has been around. Back in the 1950’s, Jim Henson got his start in commercials creating short segments promoting Wilkins Coffee. You can see his two puppets Wilkins and Wontkins here in this set of spots on YouTube:

The two characters were so good at persuading the public to buy coffee, Henson put them to work promoting a whole bunch of different products:

Doing a Google search on puppets in commercials today, however, brings up somewhat less madcap and instead, more creepy clips, such as this DirecTV commercial:

While the punch line about ‘no wires’ makes sense in comparison to the marionette, it’s still pretty weird and not that clever. This article in The Guardian highlights other puppets in creepy commercials while this one from Mental Floss rounds up more successful examples, including this more recent Muppets spot:

Henson’s ads for Wilkins were wildly successful, as well as groundbreaking for the time period. Do you think puppets can still persuade us to buy things? Or are we too cynical about having our strings pulled to go along with it?

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