Posted by: Jessica | October 23, 2014

Snoopy Sells Insurance

The rise of digital media has allowed old content from past generations to recirculate and reinvent itself for newer generations.

In Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, Henry Jenkins and his co-authors reference the Hanna-Barbara cartoon character Scooby-Doo and how the Great Dane detective has been able to transform himself to reflect children’s taste today while also staying relevant to older fans who watched him in the past.

This bodes well for the Mystery Gang who have spanned “more than four decades of television programming from 1969 to the present” (105), but what about characters like Snoopy, who now appears in commercials as MetLife’s brand ambassador? Do we still feel the same nostalgia for this loveable canine while he’s trying sell us life insurance?

Probably not. But, MetLife finds Snoopy’s demeanor, “Charming, warm, approachable, loyal,” fitting with their brand message, and in return we should still feel that way about him, right?

Then there’s Bill Watterson, the artist and author of the “Calvin and Hobbescomic strip, who refused to merchandise any of his work, fearing it would “cheapen his comic.” Yet, Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, remain beloved characters to many—in 2010 it was reported that the “Calvin and Hobbes” compilations’ total sales were nearing 45 million—15 years after the comic strip’s exit from the newspapers.


(Streaming on Netflix)

Reintroducing characters as brand advocates, staying completely anonymous, or remaining the same “meddling kids” working for snacks—what’s the strategy to keeping our childhood cartoon characters “alive?”

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Responses

  1. Ah, two of my favorite strips, and what an interesting juxtaposition. I consider both Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson to be artists of integrity, though you’re correct that Snoopy’s shilling for Met Life (though this is a relationship that goes back almost 30 years, according to the company’s website) does detract a little from my nostalgic feelings for Peanuts.

    I suppose it matters to me what kind of business is being endorsed, as well as the reputation of that specific business. I don’t know much about Met Life as a company. It’s an insurance company, which comes with its own set of issues, but it’s not like it’s selling products that are harmful to children or the environment or something.

    That said, I applaud Mr. Watterson for his efforts to preserve the integrity of Calvin and Hobbes altogether, as this is in keeping with the overall philosophy of the comic.


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