When the famous Life Cereal commercial first aired in 1972, I was eight years old. I distinctly remember asking my mother why those older boys in the commercial decided that it was a good idea to ask their little brother Mikey to try the cereal in the bowl in front of them. “I’m not going to try it” they say to each other while pushing the bowl back and forth. Then they have a stroke of genius – “Let’s ask Mikey! Yeah. He won’t eat it – he hates everything.” As we all know, they slide the bowl over to Mikey and without much hesitation, he begins eating. And eating. And the older boys are amazed – “He likes it! Hey Mikey!”
“I don’t understand Mom – why would Mikey’s brothers think Mikey would even try it? They even said ‘He won’t eat it…he HATES everything.’ If they know he hates everything, why do they think he’ll even try it? Oh…maybe they’re stepbrothers who only see each other on weekends?” I needed to know. Only, my mother didn’t have time for such folly with three other children in the house – “Uh…I don’t know – eat your cereal – you’ll be late for school” she said, leaving me to ponder this mystery.
And so thirty something years later (OMG) I write ads for a living and am amazed that despite its flawed script, this spot has gone on to become a fixture in American pop culture.If there’s a lesson, it’s got to be that kids and puppies hold most people’s attention long enough to do some solid brand development.What else could it be?
Jim Mitchem is a copywriter, father, husband, American and founder of smashcommunications, llc.