Brand Promotion? New Product to plug? Call a comic artist!

Back in 1984, the corn-based snack food KP Outer Spacers was rebranded as KP Alien Spacers – and to promote them, alongside TV ads, 2000AD and Bogey Man artist Robin Smith was hired to draw a series of advertorial comic strips.

It’s one of many, many brands promoted using comics (alongside other medium, such as a comics-inspired TV ad) down the years.

1984 Promotional image for the Alien Spacers multipack
1984 Promotional image for the Alien Spacers multipack

Each flavour of KP Alien Spacers (including beef burger, chutney and pickled onion) was represented by a different type of spaceship which appeared on the front of the packet but was also the shape of the crisps themselves.

The campaign – highlighted by downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf on his Boys Adventure Comics blog recently, and on Bear Alley by Steve Holland, with Richard’s help, back in 2007, ran for several weeks. There were TV ads too.

Like ad campaigns drawn by other comic artists down the decades, including “Tommy Walls” in the original Eagle in the 1950s, initially drawn by Frank Hampson (examined here by Jonathan Crossfield), it was both distinctive and memorable.

KP Alien Spacers 1

KP Alien Spacers 2

KP Alien Spacers 3

KP Alien Spacers 4

KP Alien Spacers 5

KP Alien Spacers 6

KP Alien Spacers 7

KP Alien Spacers 8

 

That KP Alien Spacers – still on sale today from KP Snacks, as Space Raiders – got a comic strip launch isn’t that surprising. After all, KP Outer Spacers were launched the same way, with strips drawn by Frank Langford (featured here on Bear Alley), accompanied by a number of TV ads that were more Star Wars or Space:1999 inspired than the Alien Spacers promotions.

KP Outer Spacers Ad - Eagle cover dated 18th September 1982

KP Outer Spacers Ad - Eagle cover dated 18th September 1982

 

The promotional Alien Battle Fleet in this earlier campaign was yours for six packets and a few quid, you and the die-cast spaceships you got feature here on Moonbase Central – and Michael Carroll has an item on the posters here on his Rusty Staples site, three posters featuring some stunning art including this panel of British comic heroes, artist unknown).

KP Outer Spacers - Poster Art
KP Outer Spacers – Poster Art – via Rusty Staples

Comic strip advertorials were hugely persuasive when done properly (and continue to be so).

How many downthetubes readers of a certain age badgered their parents for a pair of “Clarks Commandos” after reading the ads in their favourite comic in the 1970s, drawn by Tom Kerr (featured over on Bear Alley)?

Which comic strip advertorial do you remember best? Why not comment below?

Bear Alley – KP Outer Spacers Ads

• Rusty Staples – KP Outer Spacers Free Space Posters

An Alien Spacers packet turned up in a beach clean last year

Wikipedia KP Snacks Page

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Michael Carroll and Richard Sheaf

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

2 thoughts on “Brand Promotion? New Product to plug? Call a comic artist!

  1. I’m sure there are others ad campaigns that I should be able to remember as well. Great minds think alike is all I can say with thee, me and Michael O’Carroll covering this story.

  2. I remember, and may still have, both the Alien Spacers strips above. I only ever managed to get one of the alien ships though (the one shown in the advert here).
    I also recall the Weetabix strips. The one that I’ve never seen anywhere again, because I don’t know how to start looking, was done by a holiday camp. It would have been 1979/80/81 and for Haven or someone similar. There was a comic strip in the brochure that ended with a cliff hanger. That only got solved if you went to the kids club at the holiday park. I have no idea if there was more than two episodes, or even who the artist would have been.

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