Saturday, 29 June 2019

Mugging and Smoking With Fred

Daring Dino? Ferocious Fred? Neither of the adjectives in front of those cartoon characters’ names seems all that appropriate. But who can argue with paying 75 cents for a mug with their mug on it?

In a way, a mug is appropriate. The original Flintstones cartoons were sponsored, for a time, by Welch’s Grape Juice, through the Manoff Advertising Agency. That happened starting in the 1962-63 season.

The series had a bunch of new sponsors for its fourth season (1963-64). Green Giant (Leo Burnett) and Best Foods (Lennen and Newell) also picked up sponsorship that year. Broadcasting magazine estimated the cost of production at $55,000 an episode, the same as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Donna Reed Show and Hazel. In 1964-65, the Jolly Green Giant took his ho-ho-ho elsewhere and was replaced by Motorola (also a Leo Burnett client).

The show began its life with the bills being paid by Miles Laboratories and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Miles was the maker of Flintstones vitamins, but that product wasn’t hawked in breaks on the cartoon show; it wasn’t invented until 1969 (the series ended in 1966).

These ceramic Flintstones ashtrays from the early ‘60s must have seemed appropriate for a show sponsored by a cigarette maker.

The fact that Winston cigarettes were pushed in between acts of The Flintstones is met with a combination of shock and disbelief today by people who weren’t around in the days when smoking was cool, not deadly. They can’t understand why cartoon characters were allowed to sell cigarettes. The reasons are simple.

a) The Flintstones was not a children’s show.
b) Cigarette advertising had a long history in magazines and on network radio.

Jack Benny sold cigarettes; his TV show had (for a while) a cute cartoon character named Happy Joe Lucky. Lucy and Desi sold them on TV, too. Arthur Godfrey sold them on radio. So did Abbott and Costello. Cigarette ads were ubiquitous. They were on all kinds of shows aimed at families. No one thought anything about it. I suspect something we do today will be looked upon as ghastly and unthinkable a few generations from now.

R.J. Reynolds bowed out after two seasons. ABC decided to sell participations in the show for year three, according to Sponsor of June 4, 1962. By September the network had signed contracts with five different advertisers, including Welch’s.

Interestingly, Miles Labs exercised its sponsor authority on the content of The Flintstones. Sponsor magazine of June 17, 1963 reported that “ABC network agrees it’s usual practice for Miles Lab to insist that The Flintstones contain no reference to ‘headache, upset stomach or the taking of remedies to relieve same.’” By this time, Winston’s had moved on to being advertised on TV for the first time in colour—by some animated matchbooks.


  1. Uncle Tex makes an appearance in one of the rare media outlets not owned by interfamily rival, Cousin Tumbleweed.

  2. In a Flintstone Kids short, Fred palled around with a cool kid until he offered Fred a cigarette to smoke; apparently Hanna-Barbera evolved by then.

  3. Sponsorship meant a lot more then than what it appears to be these days, where a company only buys time on a show that has already been funded by the networks, with its rates determined by the ratings. Early on, when Kellogg's was footing the bill for all of the syndicated H-B output, the shows reflected Kellogg's sensibilities. During most of the run of THE FLINTSTONES, sponsorship determined whether a show got on the network at all, since they were footing the bills for production, after which they bought time from the network to air their shows. Thus, it wasn't Miles and Reynolds, who shared the production costs, pushing H-B around, it was them being the producers. This is how so many shows shifted from one network to another in those days, with sponsors seeking better time slots. Their say-so over the content was bigger than the networks' until around '64 or '65 when the reversal of power occurred. This is when many syndicated series that were being repeated on networks on Saturday mornings (like QUICK DRAW McGRAW), were gradually phased out in favor of entirely new programs, and H-B shifted its focus from primetime animation to Saturday mornings (following its last major set of syndicated series, MAGILLA GORILLA, PETER POTAMUS, SINBAD JR., LAUREL & HARDY and ABBOTT & COSTELLO in '64-'67). H-B ended up turning out far more hours of animation on all three networks than they had even during the several seasons when they had two prime-time series on ABC, to wit, eighteen different brand-new network series between 1965 and 1969, and they probably didn't have to personally deal with a sponsor on any of them.