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Rewind: Oh Yeah! This Was Kool-Aid Man Back in the Day

Kids' Character Gets New Look Is Still Breakthrough (When It Comes to Walls)

By Published on . 1

A pitcher, personified.

The iconic Kool-Aid Man --while contemporary to famous icons like Smokey the Bear, Tony the Tiger and Lucky the Leprachaun -- has always been one of the most literal ad icons. He didn't just represent the product, he was the product. And that prompted some dark questions about what it meant when he was pouring kids pitchers of the cold red liquid on a hot day. His signature move became crashing through walls or ceilings, exclaiming "Oh Yeah!"

The Kool-Aid Man first appeared in an ad in 1954. Nearly 60 years later, he's gotten a makeover. Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and Chicago-based VSA Partners this week introduced a new campaign for the Kraft-owned brand that gives him a newer modern look. The new CGI-generated Kool-Aid Man is appearing in TV, print and digital ads with an expanded vocabulary and more-developed personality. The ads show him trying to decide which of 22 flavor "outfits" to wear, working out at the gym, buying flowers and interacting with neighbors. He still knows how to break through a wall like a pro, though.

It's a far cry from the black-and-white ad from the 1950s shown below, in which we see children singing a sort of creepy Kool-Aid tune while Mom is readying a batch for them to drink outside."It's pure and good," she says, encouraging other moms to purchase it. She notes that it's got the Parents magazine seal of approval, and best of all, "it's so thrifty -- a 5 cent package makes 2 full quarts!"

Kool-Aid was invented by an enterprising young man by the name of Edwin Perkins in Nebraska. In the 1920's he would conduct experiments in his mother's kitchen and eventually developed a powder that he sold to General Foods in 1953 nearly 20 years after he first began production. Interestingly, the predecessor to Kool-Aid was a liquid concentrate called Fruit Smack, but it was sidelined due to shipping costs. Kraft's new campaign is to market its new liquid concentrate Kool-Aid product.

The original flavors included Cherry, Grape and Orange, but these days that's evolved to more than 20 more inventive ones including Peach Mango, Soarin Strawberry Lemonade, and Invisible Grape Illusion.

Another fun era for the Kool-Aid Man was the '80s. Watch the spot below and the crazy things the spokespitcher does, and it'll give the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" a whole new trippier meaning.

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