I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. This issue will cover the Dolly Madison Zingers commercials from the ’80s.
The only childhood event that I associate with Halloween more than trick-or-treating itself is watching Halloween television specials. Of those, the most iconic is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I remember that there would be commercials for Dolly Madison Zingers aired during that special and that the Peanuts characters were featured on some of the Dolly Madison products back then. So I always connect Zingers to Halloween in my head.
Dolly Madison bakery dates back to 1937 making snack cakes and pastries owned by then Hostess parent company, Interstate Brands Corp. Zingers were originally created by Gretzinger Bakery (which is where the name came from) and later acquired by Dolly Madison. The Peanuts Sunday comics by Charles Schulz started in 1952, and its popularity resulted in promotional tie-ins including a partnership with Dolly Madison. The Peanuts characters were used in advertising and on packaging as the brand’s market share grew. The Dolly Madison connection to the Peanuts Halloween special began right from the start. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown debuted in 1966 and that first year it featured two sponsors, Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison, during the opening sequence. This was actually removed as a result of subsequent FCC laws precluding sponsor plugs in the context of children’s programs, but you can watch the original opening sequence here and see that the second scarecrow points out it was brought to you by “the folks who bake” Dolly Madison…
Dolly Madison was no longer in the official television special by the time I started watching it in the ’70s, but the Zingers commercials were sure there then and into the ’80s. I remember them very well. Available in chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry, Zingers snack cakes were a tender cake filled with cream and topped with either frosting or coconut. If you never had one, I would compare the Vanilla and Chocolate Zinger to a smaller Twinkie with a layer of hard frosting on the top. It was one of my favorite treats to find in my lunch box back in grade school.
Here is a Zingers commercial from 1980…
Then in 1981, they used the Peanuts characters in the commercials with Snoopy starring as the insatiable “Zinger Zapper”. These are the ones I remember the most. In this first spot, Charlie Brown is at Lucy’s psychiatry booth and complains that someone keeps taking his Zingers. Lucy regards him as having an irrational fear and attempts to eat a Zinger herself when Snoopy quickly snatches it before she can take a bite.
In another one from 1981, Lucy places some Zingers on a table lit by a single lamp as bait for the thief who keeps stealing them. Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown, Linus and herself are all there as potential suspects. Snoopy is hiding behind them until Lucy turns the light out, when he zaps the Zingers and is exposed as the culprit.
There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. The Dolly Madison brand (along with Hostess) were liquidated and sold in 2013 to Apollo Global Management. So, like Twinkies, Zingers do still exist, but they no longer have the same connection to Halloween that they did when I was a kid. But, back in the ’80s because of The Great Pumpkin and the Zinger Zapper, Zingers went with Halloween for me as much as candy and costumes.