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Leo Burnett, Kellogg Canada create short film featuring a forgotten mascot

Starring a washed-up Newt the Gnu, the film was created by Kellogg’s longtime agency partner Leo Burnett to celebrate their 70-year relationship
Leo Burnett & Kellogg Canada newt the gnu
Photography courtesy Leo Burnett Canada

Newt the Gnu’s time in the spotlight was over almost as soon as it began. You might say it just gnever happened for him.

For a few short weeks in 1952, the wacky wildebeest was one of four candidates vying to be the face of Kellogg Canada’s new breakfast cereal, Sugar Frosted Flakes of Corn. He was up against characters named Ella the Elephant, Katy the Kangaroo and an upstart by the name of Tony the Tiger.

Newt even enjoyed a fleeting appearance on cereal boxes and some advertising. That’s him in a print ad that reads, “This fellow you are gazing at is known as Newt the Gnu. He’s almost as unusual as what Kellogg’s has for you.” His claim to fame was blowing a horn to herald the arrival of these Frosted Flakes of Corn. 

We all know what happened next: Tony went on to become one of the most beloved brand mascots ever, globally recognized as the face of the product that would become Frosted Flakes. Meanwhile, life wouldn’t be so gr-r-reat for Newt, Ella and Katy, who were never seen again.

But now, improbably, Newt is back in a gnu – er, new – short film created by Toronto agency Leo Burnett that celebrates its 70-year association with Kellogg Canada, a milestone practically unheard of in modern client-agency relationships.

“We all think [Kellogg and Leo Burnett] been a great relationship, we’ve done great work together, and that this is the best partnership in the industry, but we wondered if there were any haters out there,” says Leo Burnett’s co-chief creative officer Steve Persico of the inspiration for the commercial. “It’s based on a true story that Tony had stolen the role away from Newt, who probably thinks our 70-year run could have been a bit better.”

The film, which showcases some of the work Leo has produced for Frosted Flakes and other brands in the Kellogg’s family – including Rice Krispies, Mini-Wheats and Eggo – was screened at an anniversary party in Toronto last week.

It features Newt, now living in obscurity and unable to get over the fact that fame and fortune slipped through his hooves. He can’t resist taking a few shots at his famous rival (“He’s definitely had some work done,” he says of a buff-looking Tony), going so far as to throw darts at a picture of the famous tiger and his “they’re gr-r-reat” catchphrase.

Life hasn’t been kind to Newt, who, after his failed shot at the brass ring, found himself “mascoting” for (fictional) businesses like Jim’s Used Car Lot and Farm Fresh Tomatoes, but never quite able to let go of his past. “Think of all the success they would have had,” he says ruefully, before suggesting that he give Tony a call. “He’ll definitely remember me. His old pal, Newt the Gnu.”

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