Friday, 18 October 2013

Skippy the Peanut Butter Squirrel

It all began with that incident in the park. It was a moment Skippy the Squirrel would never forget and was perhaps, the turning point in his life that helped him become the successful rodent that he is today. The fact that a homeless man, a man who could barely do up his own urine-stained pants, grabbed Skippy while he was just a young, carefree squirrel romping amongst the leaves and grass, held him tightly behind the head, pried open his mouth and then proceeded to use Skippy's two front teeth to open a can of beans, was both a humiliating experience and a wake-up call to a life that was awaiting him if he didn't wise up quickly to the foibles and follies of the human race. In interviews years later, Skippy credits this experience with his slow rise to fame (agonizingly slow because we're talking about a squirrel who could scale a mighty elm in seconds flat and when Skippy did things, he did them fast and still does to this day except maybe for peeing and bowel movements due to an enlarged prostate and constant constipation because of old age) and his vow to never again let his teeth be used as a can opener, by either the homeless or a suburban housewife. And if he had to conquer the world of peanut butter and become a beloved mascot to achieve that, then so be it, that's what he would do. And do it he did until his name was on the lips of millions of salivating children craving peanut butter, whether in school, at home, in the woods or stuck in a sewer pipe somewhere. Now Skippy was born with two abnormally large incisors, even for a squirrel, but rather than being ashamed of them he decided to make them work in his favour. Once he became the major spokes-squirrel for Skippy Peanut Butter, there wasn't a kid on the block who didn't want two, giant front teeth, which the Skippy corporation was quick to capitalize on, giving away fake plastic squirrel teeth if you sent in five Skippy labels and for a while those rodent buckteeth were bigger than hula hoops and Davey Crockett coonskin caps put together. There wasn't a dentist in North America who didn't hear on a daily basis some kid asking if the dentist could make him two big teeth like Skippy's. But the truth of the matter was, Skippy was not the original choice for a brand mascot and rejection rather than reward was the mainstay and misery of his life. He knocked around from job to job, sometimes unemployed for months at a stretch, living on park benches and eating scraps out of garbage bins, raiding other squirrels' hidden nut stashes when he could find them. It was a paw to mouth existence when one day, while trying to tip the few remaining drops from a fifth of gin he found discarded in some bushes, Skippy had an epiphany while gazing up at a billboard advertising peanut butter. It was Skippy brand and his name was Skippy and it didn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together and realize this was his meal ticket off of the mean streets, trees and park pathways of New York city. Skippy scampered right down to Madison Avenue, found the top advertising company and flying past the secretary without even an appointment got some of the big shot ad execs to hear him out. Amazed by this little rodent's tenacity, the ad execs called up the Skippy corporation and promised to triple their sales in six months if they would follow their advertising lead, the cornerstone of which rested on a brand mascot. The Skippy people were at first hesitant, the company having been named after the owner, Marcel Dimpler's mentally-ill brother who was confined to an insane asylum (this was the 50's) and so no image have ever adorned their labeling. They had bantered around ideas for a mascot and the Skippy board of directors were leaning heavily towards an elephant. But when Skippy the Squirrel captivated them with his presentation a squirrel star was born along with a Skippy surge on the stock market. Here's just some of Skippy's speech to the president and marketing team of the Skippy corporation with video footage below to illustrate Skippy the Squirrel's groundbreaking, nut-cracking ideas.

"Now listen, those early ads you guys got, they're way too cerebral, too conceptual. They're okay if you're selling peanut butter to bohemians or Greenwich Village artistes but you guys need to capture the middle America marketplace. I'm talking Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, all those places where people love peanut butter but nobody's talking to them. Now you guys were kind of doing okay with that Annette Funicello broad, I mean she was okay with a nice set of knockers but in a motherly way but really, without the mouse ears she was just so much chopped liver. As for that last 80's rock piece of trash, forget it. Leave the Spandex pants to Mr. Peanut and his crew, you guys are better than that. What you need is me. A frisky and frolicsome little squirrel dressed in a colourful sweater because everybody's gonna love that image. You can't go wrong. It's money in the bank, money in your pocket and I swear if you don't see results in 30 days I'll forgo my salary and go back and live in a diseased elm tree."

Well the rest, as they say, is history and these days Skippy even has his own float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is one of the greatest honours you can bestow upon a squirrel. Living now in a luxurious Upper East Side penthouse apartment where he counts Donald Trump and Justin Bieber as neighbours, Skippy hasn't forgotten his roots, knowing what it's like not to have all your nuts handed to you on a silver platter and so can still be seen occasionally strolling through Central Park, stopping to sign autographs for humans and squirrels alike and dispensing rodent advice when he meets young, at risk squirrels climbing up the tree of trouble.

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