“He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”
How old are you by the measure of a Life Cereal commercial? Are you…
- Old enough to be Mikey’s mom?
- Old enough to be Mikey’s brother?
- Old enough to be Mikey?
- Have no idea which means young enough to be Mikey’s daughter?
Chances are good that a major slice of the over 35 American population caught this advertising gem on television. Life Cereal’s “Little Mikey” commercials ran for over 10 years making it one of the longest-running campaigns in advertising history.
The campaign was the creation of Doyle, Dane & Bernbach Agency. They were tasked with appealing to children (taste!) and parents (health!) at the same time. No small feat in the history of… basically all time.
Enter real-life brothers Tom, Mike, and 3-year-old John Gilcrist, our eponymous picky-eater protagonist. The two elder brothers won’t try an allegedly “good for you” cereal without first sending in their littlest sibling as the royal taster.
To everyone’s surprise, he…wait for it…likes it! Kids can eat with confidence, parents can rest easy that their children are getting all kinds of whole-grain nutrients.
The campaign worked in its time for multiple reasons. The ads were simple and to the point with a memorable catchphrase. The Gilchrist brothers had an adorable fresh-faced middle-America look, even if the hint of a Long Island accent gives them away (as New Yorkers, no less!). The natural chemistry among the brothers brings the ad believability, and possibly more importantly, a relatable warmth.
Today the catchphrase “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” still lives in our collective memories and the ad often makes best-of lists for its longevity and appeal.
Life Cereal rebooted the campaign multiple times, once with the college-age John Gilchrist making a pitch to a new generation of picky eaters and later with entirely new sets of actors using the original script. None of these reboots garnered the same level of affection as a chubby-cheeked toddler who surprised the world by actually eating what was put in front of him. It has rarely happened since.
Trivia to make you look good on Game Night:
- An urban legend evolved around real-life Mikey, John Gilchrist, purporting that he had died from consuming the widely-known-to-be-deadly* combination of Pop Rocks and a carbonated beverage.
- Today the still-alive John Gilchrist sells… advertising!
*Not actually deadly but you go first.