The rise of puppets in advertising

We look into the use of live-action puppets in ad campaigns and the value brands are seeing in these characters, plus how their limitations can sometimes be their strength

Puppets in advertising are not a new phenomenon. In fact many brands are still remembered for their furry mascots, such as Flat Eric for Levi’s who first appeared in 1999, PG Tips’ Monkey (also used by ITV Digital), and Dolmio’s boisterous Italian family of puppets.

But for a while these types of hand-and-rod puppets (the kind used in the Muppets and Sesame Street) fell out of favour, partially due to improvements in CG tech which allowed brands to create characters out of thin air and manipulate them without the need of a puppeteer.

Of course, as with most things, trends are cyclical and there’s been a slow resurgence of live-action puppets appearing in ads. These include Marmite’s duo of puppets to attract a younger audience last year, Dice’s oddball brand mascot in its Weirdly Easy campaign (which won a CR Annual Award this year), and Hinge’s puppet app icons for its ‘Designed to be deleted’ campaign in April. So what’s brought them back now?