This sounds too much like a 1970s variety show,don’t you think?
Our very 1980s kiddie commercial existence relied on four staples – colorful toys, colorful and sugar-laden cereals and fruit snacks, loudness, and sweepstakes! Remember when everything involved a sweepstakes – collect labels from cans of processed pasta in a can, collect proofs of purchase, or just fill out a postcard to an address that flashed all over the television during weekday afternoon cartoons. Millions would enter, only a few would win, and no purchase was ever necessary.
The prizes were always for cool stuff – bikes, toys, and trips – and always involved sending postcards to Syosset, New York, Battle Creek, Michigan, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, and Independence, Missouri. I always wondered about why these very specific places were *the* places for sweepstakes. Naturally, being an adult with mad research skills, and not the five-year-old who was sitting in front of the television hearing these far-off cities fired off in every sweepstakes commercial, they were the homes of the companies that made these products.
Makes perfect sense, right?
Today, we’re going back to 1985 (before December 31, 1985), and sending off our postcards to Syosset, New York (zip code 11775, not 11773 and 11791), and entering in a SpaghettiOs contest!
Meet “Mr. O” and and his friend…the Buck-Toothed Chef (?). They’ve got a great contest for you – Mr. O’s Funtime Instant Winner Game!
There’s amazing prizes – toys for girls, toys for boys (over 100,000 toys available!), and a GRAND PRIZE trip (odds of winning: 1 in 21 million)!
But don’t let ME tell you about “Mr. O’s Funtime Instant Winner Game,” let Mr. O and, um, “Bucky The Chef” (if anyone knows his name, please enlighten me!) tell you all about the contest!
Be sure to send in your postcard for a game piece (or the rules) by November 30, 1985 – wouldn’t you like to be the “1 in 21 million” who goes to HAWAII?!
And if you play your cards right, you could enjoy HAWAII (!) with these guys!
Hope you like third-rate Aspiring Muppets!
SpaghettiOs were introduced by the Campbell Soup Company’s Franco-American brand in 1965, marketed as “less messy” than regular pasta to parents who were clearly concerned about kids getting pasta sauce all over their shirts. Variations have included meatballs, pieces of processed meat resembling hot dogs (EWWWW!), and beef ravioli.
The concept, created by Franco-American marketing manager Donald Goerke, was the result of a year-long internal study of the appropriate shape of pasta for a pasta dish that wouldn’t create a mess. Before the “O” was deemed the perfect shape, cowboys, Native Americans, astronauts, stars, and sports-themed shapes were all rejected ideas. In his thirty-five years with Campbell, Goerke created over 100 products. The iconic jingle, “Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs!” was originally sung by Jimmie Rogers, loosely based on his 1950s song “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again.”
SpaghettiOs are still around today, and still something I’ll never eat. I’ve always liked the commercials for the Chef Boyardee and Franco-American products because of the catchy images and jingles, but the idea of this stuff has never seemed appealing. Growing up in an predominantly Italian household furthered that “never eating this” stance – to do so is, in my dad’s eyes, “madigan.”
As for “Mr. O” (and forget it, I can’t find anything on his buddy), I don’t have a time he was introduced, but I’d think sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s – he just screams of 1980s children’s advertising. His successor, “The O” was introduced in 1992, and in 2013, famously foibled a solemn historical event.
While writing this article the other day, I was hunting around for information on “Mr. O’s Funtime Instant Winner Game,” and aside from others who have posted this exact commercial, I haven’t been able to locate any information on the actual contest. We know the obvious – the contest prizes and that it is in 1985 – but other than that, it seems to be a cooperative between Mattel and SpaghettiOs/Franco-American…and not much else is available.
I always wonder if kids in the 1980s entered for the opportunity to win these prizes, and always hope for the “Grand Prize Winner” to somehow find my article and tell me about their experience. I’ve hit gold at varying times with these types of appeals placed within my articles – a post on “Tang” from 2018 netted me comments from a few winners of a Tang-themed scooter. These articles seem to have a way of jogging memories, or just finding the right people. Nostalgia always finds a way!
So of course, I want to know the same about “Mr. O’s Funtime Instant Winner Game” from 1985. Did you enter, and what did you win? It says 100,000 toys in the commercial, so somebody has to be out there who mailed away to Syosset, New York before November 30, 1985, to see if they won something – anything. Perhaps you won the Hawaii trip, or a Malibu Barbie. I’d love to know what you netted from this contest, or if you know someone who did.
The theme of “Foodstuff Sweepstakes” continues tomorrow, with another product, and a toy prize tie-in. Perhaps there will be more information than Mr. O’s promise of Mattel toys.
Have a great Throwback Thursday!
I always hated those send a postcard things in, because first of all… who has postcards lying around. That was also before DVR’s, so I could never find a pen and paper to write down the address before the commercial was over. We used to have Spaghetti-Os when we were kids and I can remember liking it, but a couple of years ago I bought a can to try it again. It is just awful as an adult, how I ate it as a kid I’ll never know. It tastes like really watery ketchup and noodles with the worst hot dogs you’ve ever had. Consider yourself lucky.
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That stuff wasn’t allowed in the house!
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