Many Americans have felt the pressures of a challenging job market, and it turns out not even beloved cartoon characters are exempt.
Insurance giant Metlife announced Thursday that it would be letting go of Snoopy, the iconic Peanuts character that it used as its mascot for years. The enterprising cartoon pooch—Charlie Brown’s dog in the “Peanuts” comic strips created by Charles Schulz—appeared on Metlife blimps and other marketing material. He was axed as the company plans to spin off much of its U.S. life insurance business.
Snoopy, understandably, might be reeling from the shock of losing his job of more than three decades. While he’s likely got a solid nest egg (Metlife reportedly paid $10 million to $15 million each year to license his image), it’s still a scary world for one little dog who has previously enjoyed a high-flying position.
Luckily for Snoopy, he can turn for advice to plenty of brand ambassadors who were also shown the door by the companies whose products they peddled for years. From the Verizon guy to Dunkin Donuts’ Fred the Baker, here are some of the most famous brand representatives who have lost their jobs, and how they recovered from the blow to their careers.
Pets.com Sock Puppet
As online pet supplies retailer Pets.com grew in popularity in the early 2000s, its mascot—a sock puppet holding a microphone—attracted lots of attention. One person who took particular notice was Robert Smigel, the creator of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Smigel sent the company a cease and desist letter, claiming the puppet was based on his canine character. Pets.com responded by suing Smigel. For all its popularity, the puppet failed to help Pets.com turn a profit; the company spent close to $17 million on the pooch in a quarter when revenue hit just $8.8 million, Marketwatch reported. After Pets.com folded in 2000, auto loan firm Bar None purchased the rights to the puppet for $125,000 and shot multiple commercials with it, using the slogan “Everybody deserves a second chance.”
The Maytag Repairman dates back to 1967, when he first appeared in advertisements for the appliance company. Dubbed Ol’ Lonely, the character was supposed to represent the reliability of Maytag products. Though the Maytag man was never technically fired, he became somewhat of a joke to consumers, as the company he represented lost $9 million in 2004, in part due to quality issues. Ten years later, however, the Maytag man got his swagger back as actor Colin Ferguson was cast to play a version of the character who now performs the tasks of the appliances himself, the New York Times reported. In one commercial, Ferguson, in the familiar blue uniform, runs in place in the area where a refrigerator belongs, balancing groceries.
Verizon Test Man
Can you hear me now? Paul Marcarelli was the bespectacled face of Verizon for about a decade, advertising the cell phone giant’s reliability. Years after the Test Man parted ways with Verizon—which reportedly fired him via email—competitor Sprint launched its “Paul Switched” ad campaign during the NBA Finals in June. Now Marcarelli plays a similar character who points out that when it comes to reliability, Sprint and Verizon are actually separated by “less than a 1% difference. Does anyone even really notice a difference of less than 1%?”
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried long voiced the Aflac duck, quacking to endorse the insurance giant’s offerings. In 2011, however, he was fired over tweets he sent in the wake of a devastating tsunami in Japan, one of Aflac’s largest markets, CNN reported. His distasteful remarks included one-liners such as “Japan called me. They said, ‘Maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they’re all sinking.'” Gottfried’s career is far from sunk; since his termination, he’s had guest spots on Family Guy and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and was a contestant on Donald Trump’s reality show The Celebrity Apprentice, though he was fired in the third week.
Fictional supermarket manager Mr. George Whipple peddled Charmin toilet paper for more than two decades. He appeared in some 500 commercials and had the luxury of working only a few days per year. In 1999, after a 14-year hiatus, he returned to Charmin with a slew of reasons why he couldn’t retire, chief among them the fact that he needed to inform the public about Charmin. That need, apparently, was short-lived; the following year his character was replaced by the Charmin bears. Wilson died in 2007, at the age of 91.
Fred the Baker
Actor Michael Vale played Fred the Baker in Dunkin’ Donuts commercials from 1981 to 1997. His ads featured the character rising before dawn to make donuts, often accompanied by his popular catchphrase “Time to make the donuts!” Fred was so beloved among consumers that when Dunkin’ Donuts decided to retire him, they said in a survey he could only leave if he were treated like an honored friend. In response, the donut chain threw him an official retirement celebration, complete with a parade and a free donut day for 6 million people in Boston. When Vale died in 2005, Dunkin’ Donuts ran a commercial in his memory.
Taco Bell Chihuahua
Gidget, otherwise known as the Taco Bell Chihuahua, served as a figurehead for the fast food chain from 1997 to 2000. Her catchphrases “Yo quiero Taco Bell” and “drop the chalupa” (delivered in a male voice0 propelled the character to instant stardom, even leading to a cameo in the 1998 film Godzilla. However, the chihuahua’s heyday didn’t last for long: Taco Bell store sales plummeted in 2000, and the character came under attack by Latin American activists criticizing its use of cultural stereotypes. In response, the chain discontinued ads with the sombrero-touting pup. Gidget, however, still managed to salvage her carer. Before her death in 2009, the former Taco Bell spokesdog appeared in a 2002 commercial for GEICO and played Bruiser’s Mom in the 2003 movie Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.
Snapple employee Wendy Kaufman turned her love of answering fan mail into a new career. When the company’s advertising agency learned of her enthusiasm, they placed her in a series of ads in which she answered customer queries with witty responses. Her humorous ads played well among the beverage’s customers, and the company credited them for a jump in sales in the early 1990s. She was fired in 1994, after Snapple was sold to Quaker Oats, but came back as goodwill ambassador three years later when Quaker sold Snapple to Triarc Companies. The company changed hands again in 2000, and the Snapple Lady signed off for good.