Thursday, 28 June 2018

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT - Freak Out! It's the Jelly Terror!

Welcome back dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Well, summer is well and truly here with dear old Blighty sweltering in a heatwave and tabloid editors wondering if they can run that "COR WOTTA SCORCHER! " headline again yet. Well then chums, we are going to be keeping our cool with another visit to the cryogenic vaults of the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse and exploring once again the wonderful world of ice lollies... 

Now previously we have seen how in the 60s, 70s and 80s, purveyors of ice cold snackage successful prised pocket money from the nation's children by firstly linking their lollies to well known characters from film and TV. Later on, this marketing gimmick would blossom into branded icy treats, a wild world where characters as diverse as  the Daleks, King Kong, Bananaman, and the Mister Men would get their own lines of ice lollies. However these kind of tie-in deals cost money and could be something of a risky proposition, for the favour and fashions of the playground are fickle and hence while the Daleks conquered the chiller cabinets for several years, and during many of which they didn't cross paths with the Doctor on the telly mark you, no one was particularly rushing out to buy the Black Hole lolly when Disney's answer to Star Wars died a death at the box office. 

However, and let's be honest here, as makers of all kinds of tat have realised down the years, kids are bloody morons. If you can make something that is bright, colourful and sounds cool, even if it is a truly bloody awful product, you can create a playground sensation. Back in the '60s and '70s, no one had coined the term "viral marketing", but the concept that some products could magically capture the public's imagination was already well understood. And in the world of the ice lolly, if you could create a playground craze for your frozen wares, you were quids in. And hence many makers of lollies and assorted sweeties discovered that the right wrapper and the right name could outsell the biggest branded tie-ins.

Now, at first many lollies had just had names derived from their flavours - the all-time classics being the Orange Maid and the Mini Milk - but soon lollies with more inventive names started to appear such as Wiz, Rev, Woppa, and Mivvi. And this was a major breakthrough, as such names gave no clue to their flavours but still sold well because they sounded hip and cool. After all, what self-respecting junior hepcat wants a boring old Lemonade Fizz when you could discover what a Kinky tasted like? 

However while this advance in lolly nomenclature was a seismic shift in the way icy treats were sold, the novelty of giving lollies trendy and abstract names soon became normalised. And hence in the early 1970s, lolly branding was to evolve again, and various characters started appeared in the chiller cabinets that didn't exist anywhere else. Given the hazy and ephemeral nature of ice lolly history, I am not entirely sure who first made this next breakthrough, but a good contender is probably Lyons Maid who launched the Red Devil in April 1973. A regular in the freezers for many years, the Red Devil was a lolly comprising of an ice cream centre encased in fruity red ice. Some of us who remember this lolly may well be inclined to think that perhaps the name came from the fact that it was indeed a bit of a devil to eat, as all too often often the crimson ice you fall away from the ice cream and seek out brand new tops to stain and ruin.

However despite this lolly's propensity for getting kids in trouble with Mum, I suspect it was simply a case of the marketing chaps casting about for a suitable name that was a bit trendy and sounded cool without mentioning a flavour. But the real stroke of genius came when the graphics department designed a wrapper with a little cartoon imp on it. And in a stroke the concept of a brand name and an image coalesced into the idea of creating brand characters, for looking at Lyon Maid's production history, the Red Devil was closely followed by a range of lollies that crystallize this moment in marketing.

Now all of these lollies were united by the fact they they appeared at the same time but also were accompanied by a series of button badges to collect. A vanilla ice cream bar with chocolate chips was named Freckles, which clearly was the name of the cute cartoon spotted dog on its wrapper. Then there was Captain Cody, a old school cartoon hunter who lolly was cream soda flavour with a "raspberry kreem centre" apparently. However typifying the fact that lolly branding was a tipping point, the range also included Freak Out, a strawberry and lemon ice cream whirled together to allegedly "form a psychedelic pattern on a stick", whose badge featured a trippy vision of a long haired singer of indeterminate gender and sanity radiating acid drenched colours. However my favourite of this bunch was the brilliantly designed Jelly Terror.  The lolly itself comprised of a creamy vanilla shell, topped with chocolate, and entombing a strawberry jelly centre, but despite this generous combo of flavours the real draw was the titular Jelly Terror, a marvelous monster with fangs, swirling eyes and a great many legs/arms/tentacles/whatever they are.

Part of the success of this bunch which were launched back in April 1973 was down to the nature of the graphics themselves. Quite cleverly, Lyons Maid had opted for a style that was very kid-friendly. It was individual, energetic and lo-fi, but perhaps most importantly of all, generally the characters looked like something that a kid - admittedly a talented kid - had drawn on a school exercise book. Clearly they were on to something here, for the following year, they even launched a rival to their own Orange Maid, in the form of the Orange Dragon lolly, with a mythical fire-breather rendered in the same style. And in 1974 some new lines sporting more freshly dreamed up characters would appear too. And naturally other companies soon followed suit...

NEXT TIME - we round up more of these forgotten characters from the chiller cabinets and discovered the spookiest lolly of the early 1970s! 

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