Muppets, Munchos, and Me: An Epic Story

Published: April 22, 2009
Categories: Commentary

I realized something recently: Jim Henson was the most effective advertiser in history. Allow me to explain this bold statement in the form of a pointless personal story.

Just a couple of years ago, a YouTube user named batman1971 (probably not the real Batman) posted two old commercials produced by the Muppets in 1969 for a new snack food called Munchos. These commercials feature a funny-looking Muppet named Fred, but are much more notable for starring a shaggy, blue, hungry monster who would soon become America’s sweetheart.

Check ’em out:

(Side note: Is it just me, or does the monster have a different performer in the second spot? In the first commercial it’s obvious that both of the voices are Jim Henson’s… In the second one, it’s not Jim, but I can’t tell who it is. Could it be a young Frank Oz, still new to the world of monster voices? End side note.)

So, when I saw these on YouTube, I said, “Well, those are pretty fun. And these Muncho things sound pretty good. It’s too bad they don’t make them anymore.” And that was that, and then I probably moved on to another YouTube video, which may or may not have been a spotlight for the talents of a toilet-flushing cat.

But soon thereafter, I was at the grocery store when my eyes beheld an amazing sight: There, in the snack food aisle, in amongst the Ruffles and the Tostitos and the artificially flavored puffed corn snacks, was Munchos! I was startled, but then it dawned on me: It wasn’t that my local store had just started carrying them. It was simply that I had never noticed them.

Of course I had to buy a bag so I could try them for myself. After all, how could I refuse a product whose coming was heralded by a primitive version of Cookie Monster and a Muppet who bears a striking resemblance to a thumb? And as it turned out, I liked Munchos. A lot. They’re addictively salty and delightfully crispy, although I have to say, I think they’re actually thinner than standard potato chips. So either they’ve tweaked the recipe or Fred was a big fat liar. Since then, they’ve pretty much become my potato-based snack of choice (as Fred points out, they’re potato crisps, not potato chips).

And to think: All these years, I had been completely ignorant to the fact that I was living in a universe where Munchos existed! But this commercial made by Jim Henson and his crew was so attention-grabbing, so persuasive, that it sold me on the product almost 40 years after it was produced. If that’s not a well-made commercial, I don’t know what is.

And that’s why Jim Henson was the most effective advertiser in history.

Do you have a similar story? Did decades-old Muppet commercials inspire you to drink RC Cola, to eat La Choy Chinese food, or to try Wilson’s Meats? Does Wilson’s Meats even exist anymore? I have no idea! Let’s talk about it on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe –

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