Leo Burnett was something of a revolutionary in his day for the way he introduced his “critters” –animated characters who became the personification of certain cereal brands. (e.g. Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes.) It was breakthrough for its day because until then most products were sold on their attributes alone: creating a character to represent the brand was something completely different.
I’ve been thinking about how that would likely play out today: Tony wouldn’t just be a commercial spokesman. He’d have his own cartoon show, either online or on a cash-starved network that didn’t mind the blurring of the lines between editorial and advertising. Also available on DVD. There would be toys galore. T-shirts, sheets, Halloween costumes, board games, online games, theme songs… the whole shebang that propels something like Dora the Explorer into a multi-zillion dollar business. All carefully orchestrated and rolled out at once, unlike the original version where toys and tchotchkes were part of random promotional efforts.
Like it or not, he’d be a transmedia critter.