Some commercial products have reached the ultimate position of brand-name recognition. These brand names have also made it into the lexicon of everyday living and marked American society and culture. For example, Mr. Bubble, the Energizer Bunny, the Jolly Green Giant and Betty Crocker have made such a connection with the general population that it’s difficult to imagine a world without them. Characters used in advertising become part of the fabric of popular culture and emerge not just as physical symbols of the products for which they were created, but as icons that have come to characterize the values of entire generations.
The Advertising Icon Museum is the first institution of its kind in the world to focus on advertising icons and to provide a place for the interpretation of these icons and their importance to our culture. Visitors will explore through authentic artifacts and vivid stories how icons are used to sell products and in doing so, reflect the aspirations, desires and cultural values of the era in which they were created. It will provide a pop-cultural experience for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests as it explores the many ways characters created just for use in advertising have become woven into the fabric of modern life. It is a survey of history and a look at what is happening now. It is a living museum that will continue to evolve with the times.
The museum’s mission is to educate and enhance the public’s appreciation and understanding of advertising and product branding through the use of advertising icons and fictional characters, and to explore how these icons reflect social and cultural values.
The Advertising Icon Museum will be the permanent home of the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. Each year the public votes online for two icons and taglines that they believe should be inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. The contest is held in conjunction with the advertising industry’s professional conference, Advertising Week. The museum will display and offer an educational interpretation of each inductee.
The museum will house a 3,000-piece icon collection that will be displayed in a larger-than-life home setting. The collection is made up of three-dimensional objects and original printed materials and is supported by radio and television advertisements. For example, the kitchen will include two iconic women, Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker. Both women are emblems of home cooking and have gone through dramatic physical and symbolic transformations as society shifted its views on gender roles.
Education is a key focus of the museum. Hands-on interactive, educational programs are being developed that will enhance the public’s experience. Grade– and curriculum–specific programs will be available for school groups. Continuing education will be offered to advertising and marketing professionals.
The 12,000-square-foot Advertising Icon Museum will be located on the Country Club Plaza in The West Edge office building in Kansas City, Missouri. The museum is scheduled to open in 2009. A three-year strategic plan is under development. The plan will outline the museum’s financial stability through several income sources and set the stage for its communication, education and development plans.