Commercial Art and Honey Sweetened Puffs

I use Indesign CS at work. I haven’t gotten very into it yet because there’s pretty much only one task I do. I’d like to do a lot more with it like sell sheets and catalogs.

A few days ago I downloaded the Indesign CS2 trial. It comes with some templates and examples of what’s possible with the program. Download the trial and take a look if you’d like. It really makes you appreciate the artistic qualities of something as seemingly mundane as a newspaper layout or a company’s annual report. Presenting information like this is like an art form in and of itself.

I suppose that’s the difference between art created for personal fulfillment and art created for a commercial purpose. Both forms need to present an idea. The personal project comes from within, wheras the commercial art comes from the organization. The commercial art has clearly defined goals (promote a product, present the annual figures to stockholders, etc). The personal art’s goals are defined by whoever is creating it…if at all.

Whether or not one is “better” over the other is a debate I won’t enter into here, but when you start thinking in this fashion you see it all over the place. Years ago I never thought much of fonts, but now I can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into a font and how typefaces can clearly effect how the information is interpreted.

And when it comes to commercial art, my mind keeps thinking of cereal boxes. Most breakfast cereals rely on cartoon imagery to catch a child’s eye, and then once the interest is there the marketers of the cereal can use a free toy or puzzle to seal the deal. But I think that first impression is the most important. Some cereals, no matter how cool the toy is inside, will remain on that grocery shelf because of poorly thought out marketing.

Like Kellogg’s Smacks. Smacks is probably the most DISGUSTING cereal I’ve ever had the displeasure of eating, which is why Dig’Em, the Smacks frog, is such an appropriate character for it. Frogs do not do much for my appetite and I suspect that it’s the same case for most people. So Dig’Em, with his warts, his goofy color-clashing blue shoes (meant to label him as a kid) and his deep voice (doesn’t help me believe that hes’ a kid) does not say much for the Smacks brand of honey sweetend puffs. Maybe Kellogg’s found that Dig’Em appeals to children, but to me it seems like they did their marketing research in France. Having Dig’Em on the box lets me know that I will not enjoy the cereal, because I can’t identify with the character, which is just as well because Smacks tastes like ass.

And the amazing thing about that is they brought Dig’Em back after having “Wally The Bear” for a year. Maybe a bear isn’t different enough to really differentiate the brand, especially from a Post cereal like Sugar Crisp, which already uses a bear that goes around singing “can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp.”

Yet despite how little I think of Smacks, it’s still on store shelves. Who is buying it?

Characters like Snap, Crackle, Pop, Tony the Tiger, and Sonny are really the only difference between national brand cereals and budget brand cereals. Budget brand cereals (like King Vitaman) can probably afford to pass savings onto consumers not necessarily because they are a lesser quality product, but because the budget cereal companies don’t have to continually develop strong branding through the use of characters. The characters used by Post, Kelloggs and General Mills are pop-culture icons that we encounter nearly every day of our lives. King Vitaman is a box of cereal on the shelf near the floor.