Apr 05, 2012 • By

Bugles in the “Mad Men” era

The character of “Betty” on “Mad Men” is getting a lot of attention for her choice of a snack on the show’s most recent episode.

Did you see her eating Bugles?

Since I’m a big fan of the show – and Bugles too for that matter – I decided to look into its history in the “Mad Men” era, and in the spirit of the show how it was advertised.

Bugles and two other products, Whistles and Daisy*s, were the first snacks produced by General Mills.

According to some research in the General Mills Archives, the three corn-based snacks were first test-marketed and sold in their colorful boxes in 1964 in selected U.S. markets.

Here’s a 1966 ad that featured all three.

The president of General Mills at the time, General E.W. Rawlings, was quite proud in a January 1966 press release officially announcing the new products:

“General Mills is entering the snack field as a natural outgrowth of our research technology and because the field is one of the fastest-growing in the food industry.”

The snacks were the result of “12 years of uninterrupted research.” Rawlings called the development program “one of the longest, most intensive, and most expensive in our new product research efforts.” He also said Bugles, Whistles and Daisy*s had “distinctive shapes and superior flavor and taste appeal.”

Just ask Betty.

Bugles were introduced in New York, where “Mad Men” is based, in August and September 1966. Sunday’s “Mad Men” episode appears to have been set in July 1966, but we suppose it’s possible Betty found them in her grocery store.

The three snacks were first produced in our West Chicago plant, in a new 615,000 square-foot-addition. We also scheduled production in a new plant in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1966.

(Plant foreman Donald De Foy, 1966)

The advertising spent on Bugles, Whistles and Daisy*s was “the largest promotional budget the company has ever put behind a new product” and “the largest in the history of the snack industry,” according to our press release. It included direct mail, and television and print ads, like this.

Here’s another Bugles ad.

The boxes for each of the three snacks were notable as well. They had a “special inner bag” to seal in freshness. While on the outside, they had distinct designs and colors, all courtesy of S. Neil Fujita of Ruder, Finn and Fujita, Inc./Design for Communication.

Here’s the cover of the Bugles box that Betty was eating out of.

And check out what I spotted on the side of the box. The text asked “Who should eat Bugles?” And, underneath, it said:

“Anyone. Den mothers and cub scouts. Father and son bowling teams. Little leaguers. Garden clubbers. And teenage canteeners. Volunteer firemen. Baby sitters. Lions. Elks. Nine out of ten doctors. And everyone.”

How about housewives in New York?

The packages for Bugles, Whistles and Daisy*s were chosen for inclusion in the 1965 American Institute of Graphic Arts Exhibition. They also were awarded the “Marketing Gold Award” by the Folding Paper Box Association of America.

At one point they were even sold in cans, like these, that our Archives team showed me.

Today, Bugles remains one of our most popular products, all over the world.

Whistles and Daisy*s however, were discontinued. Daisy*s only made it to 1967. We stopped producing Whistles in 1972.