A-B-C. Always Be Closing. Alec Baldwin’s cold-blooded Glengarry Glen Ross character would never be called in to rip these characters a new one. The GEICO Gecko? Kid can sell. Aunt Jemima? She’s been moving pancakes for over a century. They are the best of the best. That’s why this month, they’re included in EW’s Big Shill bracket game, which celebrates the country’s finest advertising icons — and pits them head-to-head in a battle for supremacy. In our first round, Auntie J draws Mrs. Butterworth in a showdown that promises to be sticky, while old-school Mr. Clean squares off with a new kid on the block, the Old Spice Guy. Meanwhile, Geoffrey the Giraffe gets his shot at the Anheuser-Busch clydesdales, and the princely Gecko might have to get his tidy toe pads dirty against Dig ‘Em the Frog. One of these green fellas is going home. But it’s up to you: Vote for which advertising icons reign supreme after the jump. (And review the competitors’ profiles below to help you make your selection.) It’s up to you, PopWatchers: Whose shilling gets top billing? Check out the entire bracket here to start formulating your long-range predictions.
Product: Aunt Jemima breakfast mixes and syrups
Debut year: 1890
Catchphrase: “Nothing could be finer…”
Claim to fame: She’s the “First Lady of Pancakes.”
Weakness: Despite several makeovers to make her more politically correct, the very name “Aunt Jemima” can still be a pejorative on par with “Uncle Tom.”
Product: Mrs. Butterworth’s syrups and pancake mixes
Debut year: 1961
Catchphrase: “Mrs. Butterworth’s is twice as thick as the other syrups.”
Claim to fame: Mrs. Butterworth (first name: Joy) is just like your sweet old grandmother — that is, if granny was a talking syrup bottle that you kept locked in the cupboard and only spoke to when you ate pancakes.
Strength: When Mrs. Butterworth tells you that her syrup is thicker and richer, you believe her. She’s so Betty-White convincing that she could just as easily sell car insurance, which she did.
Weakness: She seems a little insecure for an old lady. Why does she always have to compare her syrup to other peoples’? Thick and rich is good enough, Mrs. B.
Product: Mr. Clean cleaning products
Debut year: 1957
Catchphrase: “Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean.” (He’s not much of a talker; more of a winker.)
Claim to fame: Bald and burly, with a dangling earring long before it was cool, Mr. Clean — whose first name is Veritably — never seems to get dirty despite his job fighting greasy dirt.
Strength: The man practically beams, so much so that some people mistake him for some kind of genie. Or a missing member of the Village People.
Weakness: How strong can he really be if he’s still afraid to come out of the closet?
THE OLD SPICE GUY
Product: Old Spice body wash
Debut year: 2010
Catchphrase: “Swan dive!”
Claim to fame: The virile renaissance man (played by Isaiah Mustafa) is everything you or your man is not, but at least there is a chance of smelling as great as he does.
Strength: Where do we begin? He can bake a gourmet cake in the dream kitchen he built for you with his own two hands. Plus, he’s on a horse.
Weakness: Does he even know what a swan dive is? Because that’s not a swan dive.
GEOFFREY THE GIRAFFE
Product: Toys R Us
Debut year: 1960
Catchphrase: “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid”
Claim to fame: A slightly awkward, spiritual distant cousin of Barney the Dinosaur, Geoffrey presides over most-every child’s favorite toy wonderland.
Strength: Strength? You mean outside of the fact that a close encounter with him means that every 7-year-old is just a tantrum away from a new toy?
Weakness: He’s much better behind-the-scenes. People like to know he’s running the shop, but put a microphone in front of him and all bets are off.
Debut year: 1933
Catchphrase: “Clip-clop, clip-clop, clippety-clop”
Claim to fame: These majestic equines have been delivering beer for Anheuser-Busch since the end of prohibition, and their heart-warming commercials are must-sees during the winter holidays and the Super Bowl.
Strength: If the clydesdales weren’t already an American treasure, their post 9/11 ad put them on a sacred pedestal right next to apple pie and baseball.
Weakness: These blue-bloods can make Santa’s reindeer seem inclusive.
Product: Honey Smacks (formerly Sugar Smacks)
Debut year: 1972
Catchphrase: “You’ll dig ’em!”
Claim to fame: Cap-wearing, pun-wielding frog who was so cool, he brainwashed kids into associating frogs with tasty. Doc Hopper went after the wrong frog.
Strength: Dig ‘Em successfully cozied up to the kids by making adults seem like dolts.
Weakness: At one point, his cereal was simply called Smacks, underscoring a subtle drug-pusher vibe Dig ‘Em had going.
Debut year: 1999
Catchphrase: Can an accent be a catchphrase?
Claim to fame: The tiny green bloke is a vehicular insurance savant obsessed with saving customer’s money.
Strength: Don’t be misled by his cuteness — the Gecko is no one’s clown. He’ll steamroll you with facts, and you’ll thank him for it.
Weakness: No one likes a know-it-all. Also, lacks eyelids.