This July 12, 1965 advertisement shows Pacific Gas and Electric still more comfortable in the Eisenhower Age of the previous decade rather than the soon to be psydellic 1960s. But then again this ad wasn’t aimed at Jerry Garcia or John Lennon.
I have written about the culture gap sometimes seen in ads of the time, the thing that caught my imagination this time was the little cartoon figure at the bottom right.
With a perpetual simile, a light-bulb nose, electrical outlet ears and body and hair made from lightning bolts the yellow faced Redi Kilowatt was the mascot of many electric companies.
He has at least four facebook profiles (Activities and interests? Electricity. Favorite Music? Volt, E.L.O.)
Unconfirmed word on the street is that he is the illegitimate father of the 1970s Happy Face.
Who is this guy?
Reddy Kilowatt was introduced to the world on March, 11, 1926, created by Aston B. Collins Sr., general commercial manager of Alabama Power Company. Electric companies needed a friendly face to sell their new and ephemeral product. As Collins gazed out the window wondering what an electric servant might look like lightning struck both literally and figuratively. The chain lightening from a thunderstorm was the jolt of inspiration needed to create a mascot. It became the darling of advertising artists, licensed to electric companies across the United States.
In comic books and animated films he was the spokestoon that introduced school-kids to the power company and electrical safety.
Walter Lantz’s studio, when they weren’t sketching Woody Woodpecker, would bring the mascot to life.
Of course success breeds competition and some electric companies hired Willie Wirehand as their spokestoon.
When energy crisis struck in the 1970s power utilities put less promotional effort into boosting consumption.
He still lives, owned by Northern States Power Company, trying to recapture the glory days when everyone knew his name.
PG&E has turned their back on him and now has their own mascot, Helmet, who looks much like you would expect.