The Advertising Century

Ad Age Advertising Century: Top 10 Icons

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Some of the best-loved ad images of the 20th century have names like Tony, Betty and Ronald. Others, like the Marlboro Man, may not be as beloved, but grew to have tremendous worldwide impact as an instant identifier of Philip Morris Co.'s Marlboro cigarettes.

From frozen vegetables to packaged cake mix, from fast food to automobile tires, these carefully drawn characters are the personifications of businesses that began small but grew to become dominant brands in their fields -- thanks in large part to their famous icons.

(From l.) The Pillsbury Doughboy, the Michelin Man, Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger.
(From l.) The Pillsbury Doughboy, the Michelin Man, Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger.

Many of the most famous ad icons were the brainchild of one agency: Chicago-based Leo Burnett Co., which specialized in building brands through the use of enormously popular characters, including the most effective icon of all time, the Marlboro Man.

Advertising Age's list of the Top 10 ad icons of the 20th century recognizes those images that have had the most powerful resonance in the marketplace. The criteria include effectiveness, longevity, recognizability and cultural impact.

1. The Marlboro Man,
Marlboro cigarettes

2. Ronald McDonald,
McDonald's restaurants

3. The Green Giant,
Green Giant vegetables

4. Betty Crocker,
Betty Crocker food products

5. The Energizer Bunny,
Eveready Energizer batteries

6. The Pillsbury Doughboy,
Assorted Pillsbury foods

7. Aunt Jemima,
Aunt Jemima pancake mixes and syrup

8. The Michelin Man,
Michelin tires

9. Tony the Tiger,
Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes

10. Elsie,
Borden dairy products

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