Ad Space – Happy Hot Dog Man

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Happy Hot Dog Man (plus Ketchup Critter and Mustard Monster!)

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
If you want kids to eat their hot dogs so they can grow up fit and healthy, you gotta use some showmanship!

I’ve been puzzling over why, exactly, Happy Hot Dog Man feels like such a bizarre and ridiculous product.

After all, specialty cookie cutters exist for making gingerbread men, or cutting sugar cookies into the shapes of snowmen and Christmas trees and the like. This is just applying the same concept to a different food product. Why, then, did I have to do a bunch of Internet research to make sure this was a real ad (not a parody) because my gut kept telling me, “This can’t be real”?

Maybe it’s the longevity factor. A cookie cut into a decorative shape can be left displayed in the kitchen for a long time, becoming part of the festive decor. But I would not advise leaving your Happy Hot Dog Man sitting out like that – or if you do, you’d better not eat it afterwards.

Or maybe it’s the mutilation vibes Happy Hot Dog Man gives off. A gingerbread man may be cut out of a larger sheet of gingerbread, but the finished product bears no signs of the cutting process. But with Happy Hot Dog Man, it’s so clearly a hot dog that’s been carved into a grotesque mockery of the human form, it gives body horror vibes.

Or maybe it’s just that desert foods like cookies carry an inherent sense of playfulness to them, something that seems to invite this blurring of the lines between food and toy. Taking the same approach to savory foods … it just doesn’t feel right. Like, giving Happy Hot Dog Man relish hair? C’mon!

Of course, I’m saying all this from my perspective as an adult. It’s possible, if I’d seen this ad as a kid, I’d have bugged my parents day and night till they got me a Happy Hot Dog Man, and then enjoyed the heck out of it … for at least a week before getting bored with it.