The Cartoon Characters of Leo Burnett

Cartoon Characters of Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett was an advertising executive who was born in 1891 and died in 1971. He was one of the most creative advertisers in that industry, according to Direct Creative. Leo Burnett is credited for changing advertising during the 1960s from lengthy product descriptions with complex buying arguments to simple icons that described easily-understood benefits.

Time Magazine also lists Leo Burnett as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. The Art Directors Club reports that some of Burnett’s most effective advertising concepts included cartoon characters such as the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger.

Jollygreengiant Jolly Green Giant

The Minnesota Valley Canning Company began in 1903, and the company introduced a large variety of pea under the brand “Green Giant” in 1925. Burnett began using the Jolly Green Giant to promote these peas in 1928. The success of the Jolly Green Giant as a mascot caused the Minnesota Valley Canning Company to change its name to the Green Giant Company in 1950. The Sprout is the apprentice of the Jolly Green Giant, and was introduced in 1972.

The town of Blue Earth, Minnesota erected a 55-foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant in 1978 to commemorate the completion of Interstate 90. The statue was permanently erected the following year, and it now attracts at least 10,000 visitors annually. Paul Hedberg was the owner of radio station KBEW and would provide his interview subjects with canned vegetables from the Green Giant Company. He got the idea to build the statue from his interview subjects, who often asked to see the Green Giant.

Tony-the-Tiger Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger debuted in 1951 as the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, and he has since become an icon for breakfast cereal that has spanned several generations. Burnett was using creative job placement by this time to build his staff, including Eugene Kolkey. Kolkey was a creative art director who drew a sketch of the character based on Raymond Anthony Wells, another member of Burnett’s staff. Martin Provensen completed the art work, and Tony the Tiger was selected from a pool of four candidates.

Dallas McKinnon originally provided the voice for Tony the Tiger, but he was quickly replaced by Thurl Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft had a bass voice and spent the next 50 years voicing the character. He has also described how he gave Tony the Tiger some of his own personality. Copywriter John E. Matthews coined the catchphrase “They’re Grrrrreat!”

pillsburydoughboy Pillsbury Doughboy

Rudy Perz conceived the Pillsbury doughboy in 1962 as part of an advertising campaign for the Pillsbury Company. Perz was a copywriter for Burnett’s advertising agency, who imagined the dough in Pillsbury products coming to life. Martin Nodell originally drew the Pillsbury Doughboy, and early commercials brought the character to life with stop-motion animation. Modern commercials with the Pillsbury Doughboy use CGI. Pillsbury commercials routinely used the character from 1965 to 2004, and the Pillsbury Doughboy has also appeared intermittently since then.

Emmet M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


Artisan Talent is a Digital, Marketing and Creative Staffing Firm placing talent in jobs perfectly matched with their skills all over the US.  For available jobs, to submit your resume, or learn more about working with Artisan Talent, contact us here.

Connect with Us
Linked In| Glassdoor| Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Ready to work
with us?