Yabba dabba doo — PEBBLES Cereal is 50 years old!
PEBBLES Cereal is the first brand ever created around a media character. Inspired by Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, the popular lead characters from the TV series The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera (now part of Warner Bros.) established a licensing agreement in 1971 to create Post PEBBLES cereal. Even the name of the cereal is a nod to the beloved cartoon: Pebbles is the name of Fred and Wilma Flintstone’s daughter!
Grab your bowl and pour the milk! Here are some of PEBBLES cereal’s most historic (or should we say prehistoric?) achievements over the decades.
A Delicious First Impression
The earliest PEBBLES TV commercials featured voiceover work from actors Alan Reed and Mel Blanc. Reed and Blanc voiced Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble in the TV series respectively and continued their voiceover for the characters well into PEBBLES commercials.
Fruity PEBBLES originally debuted its crispy rice cereal in three colors: red, orange, and yellow. Fred Flintstone describes its taste as “a bowl of noisy fruit!” Meanwhile, Barney describes Cocoa PEBBLES as “cocoa, mocho good!”
Early commercial spots played up the fun tagline that putting sweet PEBBLES in your mouth would keep rocks out of your head. This point was later proved in a commercial spot where Fred and Barney rescue a caveman that fell down a well. How do they get him out? It’s simple: just lower two bowls of PEBBLES Cereal into the well.
Yabba dabba doo! The caveman gets a triumphant burst of energy from eating PEBBLES that propels him out of the well and into the crowd where he can share more PEBBLES with Fred and Barney.
“Watch Me Trick Fred!”
In 1978, Fruity and Cocoa PEBBLES Cereal grew to become Post’s second largest brand thanks to the “Watch Me Trick Fred!” ad campaign. This campaign was the brainchild of Alice Germanetti, former Creative Director for the Post Cereals account at Ogilvy & Mather. Germanetti wrote these campaign spots for 32 years between 1978 and 2010.
You probably remember a few of the “Watch Me Trick Fred!” storylines. How about the time Barney disguised himself as a lion? What about his stint as a “cocoaerobics” instructor? Or the multiple moments Barney impersonated Santa Claus for a bowl full of PEBBLES?
Germanetti describes Barney as the craver and Fred as the protector of the cereal. Barney believes he must do a crazy antic, like dressing up as a genie or an angel, to get a bowl of PEBBLES. These schemes are typically foiled, but it’s all in good fun. A bite or two after his identity is discovered, Barney dashes off with a witty pun. He believes his tricks are worth it because Fred’s cereal is so yabba dabba delicious.
“This campaign tells kids that the cereal must be pretty darn good if somebody is trying to take it all the time,” Germanetti says. “If Barney is willing to get all those costumes and go to great lengths to get the cereal, it’s communicating to the kids that this is great cereal.”
Keeping Fruity and Cocoa PEBBLES Cool!
As the decades progressed, so has the fruity flavor lineup in Fruity PEBBLES. Fruity PEBBLES added purple in 1985, lime green in 1988, berry blue in 1994, and Bedrock berry pink in 2005.
Which commercials are among Germanetti’s favorites? She has a soft spot for working on commercials that not only let Barney trick Fred, but spoofed pop culture trends during the 1980s and 1990s.
Remember how courtroom series, like Judge Judy, blew up on daytime TV? There’s a “Cocoa Court” spot that parodies those shows.
Or how rappers like MC Hammer exploded on the music scene? Meet Barney Rubble, AKA “The Master Rapper!”
“I would look at People Magazine and go to Toys”R”Us, watch music videos, and consume any music or cultural phenomenon that was currently popular,” Germanetti says. “I’d ask myself ‘What’s gonna appeal to the most kids?’ Then I would ask how we can make it funny.”
Germanetti’s all-time favorite “Watch Me Trick Fred” spot debuted in 1992. It was called “Fruity and the Beast” after the popular 1991 Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
In this spot, Barney Rubble is “The Beast of Bedrock.” Dressed up in a beastly disguise, he claims that only a cereal that is truly fruity will make him human again. Fred gives him a bowl of Fruity PEBBLES, but Barney throws his cape back and accidentally entangles Fred in it.
“Barney! You’re no beast!” Fred cries out.
“And you’re no beauty!” Barney cheekily replies before running away.
The Flintstones were a modern stone age family, spoofing modern families in the 1960s. Spoofing cultural events of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s not only refreshed the overall brands for Fruity and Cocoa PEBBLES. They made for a lasting, and memorable, ad campaign for children (and adults) of all ages.
And just in case you ever forget which commercials are part of the “Watch Me Trick Fred” campaign, Germanetti made sure to distinguish them from other PEBBLES commercials. Each one opens with Barney saying “Watch Me Trick Fred” so kids get the inside joke.
Expect for one delightful, and widely syndicated, holiday spoof from 1995. “Season’s greetings in our souls. Yummy Fruity PEBBLES in our bowls!”
Happy 50th birthday, PEBBLES — and thanks to Alice for imagining all of the adventures where we watched Barney trick Fred. The cereal brand wouldn’t be the same without her creativity!