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TV commercials

In 1962, General Foods contracted New York based ad agency Benton & Bowles for Post cereal TV commercials promoting football cards on the backs of its boxes. Post cereal was a sponsor of early 1960s TV programs such as The Danny Thomas Show and The Andy Griffith Show. At least ten commercials were produced utilizing members of the same group of star players featured on grocery store booklets. With the exception of the Grape Nuts Flakes commercial, the 20 second spots all followed the same format showing the player in action, then displaying the product while introducing the card promotion to kids and ending with a hand full of seven fanned out cards--including one with the player's likeness. The Grape Nuts Flakes commercial with Sam Huff begins as if it will be similar to his others but quickly brings Sam's son, Sammy Lee, into the picture. Lasting a full minute, this commercial has dialogue between father and son but still highlights the promotion in the same way as the other commercials.

Alpha-Bits, Crispy Critters, Raisin Bran, Post Tens, Sugar Crisp, Post Toasties and Grape Nuts Flakes each had a separate commercial. Possibly there were additional commercials, but to date, these are the ones currently known. The commercials are hosted by Duke University Libraries. Please click on the thumbnail to link to a commercial in a new tab.

Post Tens and Sugar Crisp were presented by Paul Hornung and included Bart Starr holding a place kick for Hornung at City Stadium in Green Bay. Hornung set the NFL scoring record in 1961 by racking up 86 of his 176 points on field goals and extra points. The tray on the bottom of the Post Tens package had cards of Huff, Hornung and Arnett. Hornung also did commercials for Post Toasties, Crispy Critters and Alpha-Bits. These three spots showed Hornung taking a hand off from Starr and running right looking to throw the option pass when he pulls up in front of a charging Dan Currie and tucks the ball and runs. In these five commercials, as with all the rest, there are various boxes placed on a table in the background. The Hornung commercials showed a Top 3 box with Hornung as the player on the front side ad header and is the only box displayed in any of the six commercials that has a header other than Jon Arnett. Be patient with the Crispy Critters and Alpha-Bits commercials as they show 40 seconds of Linus the Lionhearted and Your Friendly Postman (Jack E. Leonard) before getting to the 20 second Hornung spot.

Paul Hornung Post Cereal Commercials
Paul Hornung Post Tens commercial  Hornung Post Toasties commercial  Hornung Sugar Crisp commercial  Hornung Crispy Critters commercial  Hornung Alpha-Bits commercial
Post Tens Post Toasties Sugar Crisp Crispy Critters Alpha-Bits

 

Jon Arnett did the commercial for Raisin Bran, presumably at the 1962 training camp site at Chapman College in Orange, California. Arnett is holding a 14 ounce box, the back of which featured cards of Arnett, Johnny Unitas, Huff, Jim Brown and Hornung. Boxes shown in the background are Post Toasties, Raisin Bran, Sugar Crisp, Alpha-Bits and Post Tens all with Arnett as the ad header on the front. Arnett, an All-American running back at USC, was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first five years in the NFL from 1957-1961. Much like Hornung, he was a versatile player who could run, catch passes and throw the halfback option. Nicknamed "Jaguar" Jon, the southern California native was an easy choice for Post or Benton & Bowles to promote Post football cards.

Arnett Commercial
Jon Arnett Raisin Bran commercial
Raisin Bran

 

New York Giants' linebacker Sam Huff promoted four Post Cereal brands: Alpha-Bits, Grape Nuts Flakes, Post Toasties and Sugar Crisp. With Benton & Bowles and the Giants both based in New York, it was convenient to shoot the commercials with Huff. It appears the film sessions took place at Giants training camp in Fairfield, Connecticut. The commercials for Alpha-Bits 13 oz., Post Toasties 12 oz. and Sugar Crisp 14 oz. are virtually the same except the start of the Alpha-Bits commercial shows a different action sequence. Box arrangements on the table are changed slightly for each commercial. As detailed above, the Grape Nuts Flakes 16 oz. commercial was longer and also featured shots from what was presented as Sam's kitchen.

Sam Huff Post Cereal Commercials
Alpha-Bits commercial Sam Huff Grape Nuts Flakes commercial Sam Huff Post Toasties commercial Sam Huff Sugar Crisp commercial Sam Huff
Alpha-Bits Grape Nuts Flakes Post Toasties Sugar Crisp

 

The proof boxes made for the commercials featured seven players: Arnett, Huff, Hornung, Unitas, Brown, Sonny Jurgensen and Jim Mutscheller. Arnett, Huff, Hornung and Jurgensen were each on the cover of a grocery store booklet. Hornung was literally Post cereal and Tang's poster boy. Hornung and Unitas were part of the main grocery store display. Hornung, Jurgensen and Unitas were three of the six players that had cards on the backs of Alpha-Bits ¾ oz. boxes that came in Post Tens and Treat Paks. Unitas was the only one of this group that was on the front of a cereal box used in production--and he was on both sizes of Alpha-Bits and Grape Nuts Flakes. Jim Brown was in the middle of his hall of fame career in 1961 and early 1962 when promotional decisions were being made. For whatever reason, he was not as prominently displayed as the aforementioned five players. Out of Notre Dame, Jim Mutscheller was a tight end with Baltimore who played a key role in the Colts 1958 NFL Championship overtime win against the Giants. Mutscheller retired about April 23, 1962 so Post's decision to include him in both the regular and proof cards came before that date.

Production boxes of Oat Flakes did not include a player on the header, however proof boxes made for commercials did have Jon Arnett on the header. When a player in a commercial displayed the back of the box, it was nearly always the largest size of that brand, based on the number of cards on the back. Post Toasties was the 12 oz. version because the header on the back was on the right side. Boxes shown in Huff's kitchen cabinet were Raisin Bran and two other boxes that were either both Grape Nuts Flakes or Sugar Crisp or one of each, again due to the placement and character on the backside header. The Oat Flakes boxes on the table appear to be the large size 15 oz. box, assuming that only large boxes were used since that was all that the players in the commercials displayed. This conclusion is based on the relative height of the boxes placed on the table. None of the boxes were labeled with the size at the bottom as was customary with production boxes.

Nine of 14 Post cereal products were displayed in commercials: Post Toasties, Grape Nuts Flakes, Raisin Bran, Post Tens, Alpha-Bits, Sugar Crisp, Oat Flakes, Crispy Critters and Top 3. Bran Flakes, Rice Krinkles, Sugar Coated Corn Flakes, Treat Pak and Grape Nuts boxes were not shown, nor was a Post Toasties pour spout box. It would be merely a guess as to why some boxes were included and others not, but one might conclude that it was based on product sales. Creating proof boxes for commercials may have been a relatively expensive process given their low production run. Small Bran Flakes and Grape Nuts boxes harbored a high percentage of short print cards inferring that production was low. Post had traditionally advertised Rice Krinkles reasonably well using the character they named So-Hi. Post also chose to insert Action Toys in each Rice Krinkles box to further boost sales. Sugar Coated Corn Flakes was Post's answer to Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes but was not as popular. Crispy Critters was relatively new--less than a year old--and was slated to be a duplicate print of Alpha-Bits box cards. Post had reasons for the boxes they chose to create for the commercials, unknown as they are.

Whether a proof box made for a commercial exists today is also unknown. One would have to speculate that the boxes were destroyed after the commercials were finished, probably for no other reason than that they had served their purpose. There was essentially no collectibles market at the time. Unless Post maintained an archive for projects such as the football promotion it is doubtful that a proof box will ever surface. But what if it did? ...and we'll leave it at that.