Monday, November 17, 2008

Making The Snoopy Merchandising Model Work For Cat Owners

Slate's 2004 defense of Jim Davis's soulless merchandising empire (Basically, "He never wanted it to be art and achieved what he was going for.") highlights everything I hate about both Slate and Garfield:
Davis's genius is that he's created the most widely syndicated comic strip in history—with the attendant profusion of plush toys, T-shirts, and themed Caribbean cruises—and yet, through careful brand management, he's largely managed to deflate the naturally occurring cultural counterattack.


Davis makes no attempt to conceal the crass commercial motivations behind his creation of Garfield. Davis has the soul of an adman—his first job after dropping out of Ball State, where he majored in business and art, was in advertising—and he carefully studied the marketplace when developing Garfield. The genesis of the strip was "a conscious effort to come up with a good, marketable character," Davis told Walter Shapiro in a 1982 interview in the Washington Post. "And primarily an animal. … Snoopy is very popular in licensing. Charlie Brown is not." So, Davis looked around and noticed that dogs were popular in the funny papers, but there wasn't a strip for the nation's 15 million cat owners. Then, he consciously developed a stable of recurring, repetitive jokes for the cat. He hates Mondays. He loves lasagna. He sure is fat.
Please remember that Slate is a publication that loves capitalism so much they (incorrectly) believed In Trade betting would be an accurate predictor of the presidential primaries (an event that provided a few excuses, but little soul searching).


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