Spokescharacter Graveyard

In the olden days, some companies got so caught up in the spokescharacter craze that, without looking at why spokecharacters were successful for some products, they’d rush together anything for a brand’s icon. Like having a website today, it almost seemed like it was better to have a bad one than none at all.

Far too often, they’d simply take a picture of their product, have an illustrator slap eyeballs on it or draw a weird, themed caricature out of it, and BLAMO! Say hello to Speedro the Washboard Conquistador and such.

Nowadays, brand icons tend to be created more carefully and with a predestined expiration date—normally the span of a specific campaign—and even wildly successful icons are put out of their misery before they can become ridiculed hacks or embarrassing has-beens.

They certainly don’t make them like they used to. Or as often. But, in some cases, maybe that’s a good thing.

Mad Scientist of Movie Marketing

Who is William Castle (1914–1977)? Director, producer, actor and, most importantly, marketing man. Castle was famous for directing B-flicks with odd marketing gimmicks. Let’s take a look:

“Fright Insurance” for Macabre (1958). At the film’s so-called “screamiere,” many theaters offered life insurance: SO TERRIFYING WE INSURE YOUR LIFE FOR $1,000 IN CASE OF DEATH BY FRIGHT!


Castle Quote:
“Of course it would be an awful thing if somebody actually did die in the theater. The publicity would be terrific though!”

“Emergo” for House on Haunted Hill (1959). Inflatable skeletons flew over the audience.

“Percepto” for The Tingler (1959). Electrified theater seats shocked the audience during the movie. The film was made in black and white, but one brief sequence features red blood: this effect required that a piece of color film stock be hand-spliced into every print of the film released for cinema exhibition.

“Illusion-O” for 13 Ghosts (1959). Dual-colored viewing glasses (Similar to anaglyph 3-D glasses) reveal the ghosts.

“Fright Break” for Homicidal. This film contained a 45-second timer overlaid over the film’s climax with voiceover announcing the theater would give out certificates that would grant refunds to frightened audience members if they left before the last five minutes.

“Coward’s Corner” for Homicidal. When people started using the “Fright Break” to essentially see most of the movie for free, a “Coward’s Corner” was added in order to redeem the refund, and add the threat of public humiliation. Yellow footprints and Coward signs led patrons to a corner that was attended by a nurse who could check your blood pressure. Very few people asked for a refund.

“Punishment Poll” for Mr. Sardonicus. A choose-your-own-adventure gimmick where audiences filled out ballot cards to decide how the film would finish.

“Magic Coin” for Zotz! Each patron was given a “magic” coin which, of course, did absolutely nothing.

“Theater Seat Belts” I Saw What You Did (1965). In an early trailer, Castle advised the audience that a section of the theater would be installed with seat belts for audience members “who might be scared out of their seats.”

Gosh, That’s Handy!

The Ascender Bone Is Connected to the Bowl Bone…

If you can get the idea of a time when all type was drawn by hand, then you can probably see that a bunch of artists, printers and monks with a lifetime of free time on their hands would come up with some pretty detailed technical names for their trade.

Inspired Ideas!

Poor Yorick

Ben Franklin said the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. But only one has a visual symbol associated with it, the one that was invented first: death. The image of a human skull is one of the oldest visual symbols—let’s have a look at some image ideas that have provided inspiration over the years.

Original 1944
The famous photograph by Philippe Halsman, “Dali Skull,” which depicts nude women posed to form the shape of a skull, is based on a painting by Salvador Dali.

2002 Anti-AIDS campaign

2006 Poster for the film The Descent

Original Circa 1900
The drawing (pictured right) titled “All Is Vanity” by Charles Allen Gilbert (1873–1929), depicts yet another skull double-image with a woman at a boudoir mirror.

1977 Album cover for hard rock group The Damned

1993 Album cover for hard rock group Def Leppard

2002 Announcement for Digital Image magazine

2003 Poison perfume