A look at some of the most marketing-centric characters to ever be featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Pop icons like cartoon characters are at the core of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but marketing has always been an essential element though the level to which sponsors have been able to take part varies year to year. Right now sponsors are on a short leash but they haven’t always been.
Around 2000 critics started to accuse the parade of becoming overly commercialized with balloons in the shape of the General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and Jeeves of Internet search engine Ask Jeeves fame causing some to say the marketing push had gone too far. As a follow up to our November/December 2007 story “Turkey Trot ” here’s a look at some of the more marketing-centric balloons and floats of that time. We ask you clever marketing or highjacking the holiday?
ASK JEEVES INC.
In 2000 Jeeves was the first Internet character to become a balloon. The year before he premiered as a float. This tech butler was dressed in his signature pinstripe morning suit and vest and held the “golden keys to knowledge. The balloon was retired in 2005.
That same year Pulte Homes (the largest homebuilder in the U.S.) celebrated its 50th anniversary by sponsoring the “Three Little Pigs” float that featured three houses – one made of straw the second of sticks and the third made of brick. Pulte Homes created a “Watch and Win” sweepstakes to coincide with the parade. As the float entered Herald Square pre-registered viewers had the opportunity to win a $250 000 Pulte Dream Home by answering the question “Where is the Big Bad Wolf on the Three Little Pigs Float” via the NBC-TV telecast.
Reminding consumers of their commitment to water and energy conservation Maytag sponsored the Mother Earth Float in 2000 in association with its Maytag Neptune washer. The float featured a 28-foot long swan-like water bird and between its gigantic wings Mother Earth appeared holding an urn of flowing water against a translucent rainbow.
In 1999 The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee raised eyebrows as some claimed it was too commercial to be a balloon. But the bee flew high on parade day celebrating its 20th birthday. General Mills handed out bee balloons and created a company-wide drawing giving employees a chance to win prizes from Honey Nut Cheerios and Macy’s.
For the kids General Mills created a contest to give the Honey Bee an official name – Buzzbee. Kids could send in their name suggestions through Dec. 31. Consumers could check packages of Honey Nut Cheerios for details or visit the Cheerios website.