CHICAGO — Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant, Charlie the Tuna and Morris the Cat may not look alike, but they have the same father, Leo Burnett Co.
The world's eighth-largest advertising agency celebrated its 50th birthday Monday with Burnett characters Tony, Ronald McDonald and the Pillsbury Doughboy joining 1,800 employees in a parade through the Loop.
Burnett's menagerie includes some of the most identifiable characters in advertising history, including the Marlboro Man and the Snap, Crackle and Pop elves of Rice Krispies fame.
"The Green Giant campaign has lasted 50 years," said Richard Fizdale, president and chief creative officer for Burnett operations in the United States. "The Marlboro man is the most successful advertising campaign in the world. There's no question that Morris the Cat is the most successful for pet food ever."
Even the most successful campaigns, however, have required occasional tinkering or cast changes.
The Jolly Green Giant was born Green Giant. "Jolly" was added when the agency found out that the monster image was frightening children, and the giant's eyebrows were modified to look less forbidding.
The original Morris the Cat died six years ago at age 19. Morris II was recruited from an animal shelter, just like the original.
Former country boy Leo Burnett opened the agency in the midst of the Depression, with just three clients. His first year was a little shaky because a severe drought parched the advertising budget of his biggest client, Minnesota Valley Canning Co., now Green Giant.
Burnett retired as board chairman in 1967 and died in 1971 at age 79.