It’s a sad fact that Joe Camel has frequently polled higher with American five-year-olds than Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. Sad, yes, but can I say that it’s also kind of awesome, without endorsing cigarette smoking? Awesome in its power, awesome in the subliminal influence that a glasses-wearing, phallic-nosed camel can persuade a kid to pick up a cancer stick that will immediately make him or her cough like an 86-year-old asthmatic. Advertising is a science, and great advertising always works with a smile. Or a laugh. Or perhaps some skin. So Joe shouldn’t take all the blame; he was only doing his job. Looking cool. Confident. Classy. He was selling. Just like Ronald McDonald and Mr. Clean and those adorable Coca-Cola polar bears. They’ve bored a tunnel into our brains, where they pop up from time to time with a jingle or a quip, especially when we’re pushing that shopping cart down Aisle 6.

Many of these marketing icons are beloved characters, and at EW, we’ve decided to celebrate the best of the best with our first Big Shill bracket game. Starting in January, 64 of your favorite corporate mascots, characters, and whatchamacallits will compete head-to-head in a tournament to see who (or what) we adore the most, no matter what they’re selling. (Please keep your five-year-old off the computer so Joe Camel doesn’t win. That would be a PR fiasco.)

The competition to make the field of 64 is intense, and rather than give an entire branch of our bracket to the multitude of memorable Budweiser and Bud Lite sales mascots over the years, we need a qualifying round to see who will represent all of Anheuser-Busch in this spirited contest. Do you miss Louis the Lizard, the surly swamp thing who despised those mouth-breathing frogs? Or do you feel nostalgic for Spuds MacKenzie, that ridiculously cool dog who, rumor has it, was fired after one too many forced skateboard rides drove him to a habit of overindulging in the product he endorsed. Actually, all these commercial figures have a fascinating backstory, and in January, when the Big Shill game officially begins, we’ll examine them all closely. Until then, I ask that you Real Men of Genius nominate your favorite best Bud. And drink responsibly.

Truth in Advertising
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