The Exxon Cartoon Tiger

October 12, 2020

Exxon used to use a Cartoon Tiger in television commercials. The Exxon Cartoon Tiger was often shown on television in the 60s and 70s when I was a child. Back then as far as I knew TV commercials were only there to entertainment me. I knew they also sold products and that they sometimes tried to teach me things like “Schoolhouse Rock.” The Exxon Tiger was only there to grab attention and make the ads stand out. When Exxon changed their name to Exxon they made commercials to announce it.

The first commercial was called” There’s going to be some changes made.” The Exxon Tiger was humming and maybe whistling with the words “There’s going be some changes made.” The tiger is doing tasks like replacing the Enco sign with Exxon. He sounded like a person who is doing a task and not aware of anyone being near him and humming and singing and sort of talking because he’s bored and no one can hear him. Normally he never talked. He was mute, but for that one commercial he spoke, if the voice could be attributed to the tiger. The voice was going on while the tiger was working. I did not see the tiger’s lips moving. So maybe the Exxon Tiger was officially mute like the Pink Panther. Tony the Tiger said “They’re grrrrrreat.” More about the Exxon Tiger later on in this article, but first we will look at the background behind the Exxon commercials which involved the name change.

The next commercial was “We’d like you to know Exxon.” It was a song to get the viewers (in this case children) watching the news with their parents to know what Exxon was all about. The line that recalled was “Exxon’s a fleet of modern tankers and expert sailors who know the sea, to bring the oil to our countries seaports with safety and security.” The chorus was “We’d like to know, Exxon.” I remember a little bit more of these Exxon lyrics. Often 70s commercials song invade my brain at random times. “Night and Day along our highways, carrying oil and gasoline. Many stops and many place and many towns in between.” The tanker trucks takes the petroleum products from town to town all across America. I wish I could recall the whole song, but it was a long one and it was not played all that many times. My ability to recall commercial jingles is based on how much I liked the song commercial and how many times I saw it. Some commercials were run frequently, but some also had limited runs and were never seen again after a short period of time. If I liked the song I would think about later or sing it later as a child. If I did this I would have a much greater recollection of the song.

I may have forgotten what these gas stations were called before they changed the name to Exxon in California. But I think they were called Enco. My mother always got her gas at Chevron which she still called Standard. I may have confused Enco with AAMCO or Arco. I was against the name change at the time. I don’t like things changing especially names. Enco, Ammaco, Arco could be easily confused. They both have something to do with cars. The names sound very much alike depending on the regional accent of the speaker. I knew Arco well because they were giving away a toy plastic Noah’s Ark and I could collect animals each time we got gas. I begged my parents to get gas for Arco. I had two arks and a variety of animals, but I never got all of them. I had other animals already at home I could add to my plastic arks.

After a big oil spill Exxon Valdez happened, I thought of those words from the commercial and I could see it as a fine example of hypocritical brain washing. On one hand gas and oil are the worst things for the planet. One the other hand I liked to go places. I hated being bored at home. There was no Internet for entertainment in the 70s. In order to find fun one had to go out and find it. But, now that’s all changed and people stay home. Big screen TVs are like going to the movies. The song was supposed to make one think Exxon Tankers were very safe and that they did not spill and ruin the oceans. It was like a promise that was so fake such as someone saying, “Your secret’s safe with me,” and then immediately telling as many people possible and posting it on Twitter. There was likely a smaller oil spill and it was probably in the gulf coast. The big Gulf Spill was later caused by BP which means British Petroleum.

In the early 1990s, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon changed the appearance of its cartoon tiger, making it “more endearing, warm, and friendly.” In the words of Exxon’s principal artist, “Today’s tiger is now cast in a more humanitarian role.   He is polite to the elderly, plants trees for ecology and has an overall concern for the environment.”-quote from press info

I was already aware of the dangers of oil spills and auto exhaust pollution due to having a subscription to Ranger Rick which was an environmental magazine for children. I don’t know how long it was in between the song and the spill, but Exxon Valdez was in 1989 and that was too late for me to have made this mental connection. I may have heard of a smaller spill caused by Exxon.

Ranger Rick was a children’s magazine which was often seen in the 70s in children’s dentist offices and doctor’s offices. I knew from the magazine there were places that had all the things I did not have in San Francisco such as snow, and cardinals shown on this cover from 1967.

Ranger Rick Magazine 1967

There are a few interesting Exxon commercials on Youtube such as this one narrated by Rex Marshall, But they don’t have the ones I remembered posted to Youtube. Kellogg’s sued Exxon over the use of the Tiger Mascot. Tony the Tiger was created in 1952, while the Exxon tiger is from 1964.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the Exxon tiger has appeared as a symbol at the mini-stores, helping to sell pizza, potato chips, doughnuts and soft drinks. The tiger is also used as a marketing symbol for Exxon’s own beverage, Wild Tiger, and coffee, Bengal Traders.” Oct 17, 2000 The Baltimore Sun

I was not able to determine who won the lawsuit, but I think Exxon won the right to continue the Tiger Brand Foods sold at gas stations. Although it was also noted that in 2008 Exxon decided to get out of the gas station food/store market. I don’t know if one can buy any premade sandwiches wrapped in plastic at a gas station with a cartoon tiger on the label. On my next road trip I plan to go and check out an Exxon Market. The Exxon Tiger could sort of talk? and he did not sound like the distinctive voice of Tony the Tiger. The Tiger’s ability to talk is uncertain. If they ran a commercial now with a talking tiger, people would really feel they were being talked down to and insulted. Tony the Tiger was voice by Thurl Ravenscroft. He is also credited with singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and the “No Dogs Allowed” Song from the Movie Snoopy Come Home.

Chevron Commercials are some kind of “environmental” education. Companies that pollute the environment still want us to feel favorable towards ruining the planet for future generations. (This is why I never had children) In 2010 there was was the “We Agree” campaign. The only reason to run commercials like this is try to make people feel pro gas and pro oil. There is a debate about clean or green energy vs dirty nonrenewable energy. While not blatantly taking sides many companies try to “educate” which really means brainwash people to go along with their point of view. Gas and oil is important. There is no way to replace it. If one can’t drive, they are sure to have a worse and less complete life. Hybrid and electric cars are fine, but the batteries are also really bad for the environment. People who say Climate Change is a hoax, only mean stop thinking about creating new regulations that are not business friendly to Big Oil.

But now under Covid all of that has changed. We can all drive less. I am changing my point of view towards oil and gas. Exxon using a cartoon tiger to promote the destruction of the planet is unconscionable. The gas station snacks contain a lot of plastic, and plastic is killing the planet and in particular the oceans. A tiger should not promote this. Frosted Flakes may be “Great!” but they are unhealthy due to the large amounts of sugar. Frosted Flakes was in fact my preferred childhood cereal. I later branched out to try Fruit Loops and Sugar Smacks, but I liked Frosted Flakes best. I used to try new cereals like Apple Jacks when my mother bought me those tiny single serving cereals boxes with associated favors. Eight small boxes of different brand of Kellogg’s Cereal were wrapped in plastic to hold them all together and sold.

If you want to look further at the morality of using a Tiger to sell gas, I found a blog which discusses how the Exxon Tiger could be made more acceptable by making him more realistic looking and using funds to help save endangered tigers in the wild or even giving money to Tiger Sanctuaries such as Save the Tigers. I wanted to post a photo of the Exxon Tiger, but I can’t find one that is copyright free.

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