Wilkins Coffee Ads

August 22, 2008

I watched this ad on TV4U for Wilkins Coffee. It’s B & W 15 seconds long and features two puppets. The grumpy puppet says “I’m not going to drink any more Wilkins’s Coffee!” In response, a curtain slams down, a boom, and the curtain lifts right away. The happy puppet says “Now he’s not going to drink any more coffee!”

According to the MuppetWiki, Jim Henson made 179 of these short spots between 1958 and 1961 for the Wilkins Coffee company, a Washington, DC coffee distributor. The grumpy puppet was named Wontkins, and the cheery one Wilkins. Wontkins was the forerunner to South Park’s Kenny. He got blown up, stabbed, crushed and done in by any other means of death that Henson could think of. Cruel ads for the 1950s, but highly effective. YouTube has some other Wilkins ads. The Smithsonian has been hosting a Jim Henson exhibit.

I really appreciate these ads. They are very entertaining in a tight package. Advertisers and producers are thinking of ways to deliver short sharp videos to PDAs, here’s a thought. It’s also the debut of Jim Henson and his puppetry to a large audience.

Now the ads never mention anything about the virtues of the coffee itself, as was normal to do for their competitors (Mrs. Olsen??). What ever happened to Wilkins Coffee? There’s a Wilkins Coffee company in Birmingham, Alabama, but I don’t think that’s it.

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