Since German immigrants Oscar and Gottfried Mayer opened their small meat market on the north side of Chicago in 1883, they have been leaders in many forms of advertising and communications – including sponsorship of Polka bands in the 1890s, label enhancements, radio and TV ads, and for the last 83 years, the iconic Wienermobile.
Oscar was known to have had a flair for marketing, and launched early brand awareness of the meat market by sponsoring polka bands in German neighborhoods throughout Chicago, and with a sponsorship of a German exhibit in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
About a decade later, the company ran its first newspaper ads for their hot dogs.
In the 1920s, to make the brothers’ products stand out amid competition, workers at the Chicago plant began attaching the now-signature yellow bands that still wrap the hot dog packages today.
In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, the company introduced its first Wienermobile. The 13-foot long motorized hot dog was created to provide transportation for “Little Oscar”, the company’s new mascot, as he attended events and promoted hot dogs at parades, schools, and hospitals. Little Oscar and the Wienermobile were a hit, but taken off the road just a few years later, due to fuel rationing during World War II.
A landmark year in Oscar Mayer’s marketing timeline was in 1963, with the debut of the “I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener” jingle. The company had, a year prior, opened a contest seeking user-submitted jingles. Richard D. Trentlage, a former ad agency executive, learned of the contest the day before the deadline, and quickly went to work. He remembered one of his sons had used the term “dirt-bike hot dog” to refer to a cool kid and then said he wished he could be a dirt-bike hot dog. Trentlage was thus inspired and finished his submission in an hour. It won the contest, debuted in 1963, and remained the company’s signature advertising tune – in 21 countries – for more than 35 years.
An animated TV commercial followed in 1965.
Another milestone was marked in 1976 with the launch of the “Bologna Song” commercial. In this spot, adorable four year old Andy Lambros sings about bologna, which he loves to eat every day.
Back to the Wienermobile. 1986 marked its 50th birthday, and the company brought one of the vehicles back for a birthday celebration. Consumer response was so overwhelmingly positive that the company decided to build a new fleet, renewing the effort. In 1988, six new 23-foot-long Wienermobiles took to the road – equipped with microwaves, refrigerators, and sound systems that played Wiener Jingle – in 21 different music genres, including Cajun and Rap.
Fast forward to today, and Oscar Mayer is searching for its next set of six Wienermobile drivers to hold a year-long position, beginning this June. “Hotdoggers” will drive across the country and brand ambassadors, doing media interviews and appearing at events.
Resumes are accepted through today, January 31. Interested? Act soon! In 2004, Oscar Mayer’s contest awarding winners the Wienermobile for a day generated more than 15,000 entries.