I remember sharing commercial confusion with Valparaiso's Popcorn Festival Executive Director Glennas Kueck in 2006 about what appeared to by our own Orville Redenbacher "brought back to life" for use in TV commercials for the product line bearing his name.
Even though Redenbacher died at age 88 in 1995, the bow-tie wearing and bespectacled big shot of popcorn fame some how had returned to television screens, radio spots and magazine ads touting his famous "gourmet popping corn" and "Valparaiso, Indiana."
"People were calling me from all over and asking if an actor has been hired to re-create the character of Orville Redenbacher," Kueck told me.
"First of all, no it's not an actor dressed up as a likeness, and second of all, Orville was never a made-up 'character.' He's a real person."
Kueck made a few phone calls and discovered at the time a new advertising firm from New York (Ketchum Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations) had taken over the ConAgra account, which is the parent company that sells and distributes the Orville Redenbacher line. The new Orville was a "computer generated" likeness.
"When this new firm took over, they found they were hired because sales had leveled out in the years since Orville's death and because the use of later commercials that did not feature Orville did not connect with the public," Kueck said.
Fast forward to last month, and my surprise at seeing a likeness of Col. Harland Sanders in TV commercials with Santa Claus tasting newly developed cookies to be sold at KFC restaurants.
The real Sanders died at age 90 on Dec. 16, 1980, and he really was a colonel, after he was given the honorary title in 1935 by Kentucky Gov. Ruby Laffoon.
He started selling his famed fried chicken from his small gas station in Kentucky when he was 40, and then took it on the road to convince Americans his was the best family-recipe fried chicken ever dropped onto a plate. He opened his first official Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1952.
As for the use of an actor to play the role of Col. Sanders in the commercials, which started running late last year for the holidays, I received a news release from Jason Marker, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S. and KFC press representative Rick Maynard explaining it's part of a new cookie campaign.
"The brand known for its world famous secret recipe for fried chicken now has another proprietary formula to hide away in its vault: a unique recipe for the chocolate chip cookies sold in its stores," the release explains.
"As the keepers of both the Secret Recipe for the colonel's fried chicken and a new, proprietary recipe for chocolate chip cookies, the KFC team started thinking about combining the two flavors. Thousands of KFC's Facebook fans agreed that the savory taste of Original Recipe Chicken and the sweet taste of chocolate chip cookies were meant to be together. Soon after, KFC chefs were testing a series of recipes to create a cookie that combined the two popular taste sensations. While the (very) limited-edition Original Recipe Cookies are not available in-store, KFC is asking fans to vote online at www.facebook.com/KFC about whether the unique dessert should be added to menus nationwide."