Spaceman Jax, Pitchman from the Stars

Curio & Co. looks at how vintage soft drink company Bunchy used classic 1960s animated TV character Spaceman Jax as a product spokesman. Image of Spaceman Jax Bunchy ad, from Curio and Co.

Even a galactic hero can’t say no to advertising money.

In the late 1950s, Bunchy was still a regional soft drink popular in the southwest. It was western-themed (hence the gold flakes) and used the tagline, “Rustle up refreshment!” But in the early 1960s, the US was focused on efforts to launch the first human in space, and Bunchy re-branded the beverage to capitalize on the Space Race (turning those gold nuggets into gold stardust). Although the company was distributing nationally by then, Alan Shepard or John Glenn were still out of range as brand spokesmen. But an animated one proved to be an even better fit.

As a pitchman, Spaceman Jax was perfect. He represented all of the excitement of space travel without any of the danger. Consumers could imagine a future living and working in outer space and meeting new alien races – just like on Spaceman Jax and the Galactic Adventures. But since Jax’s adventures were played for laughs and he never got hurt, the aliens and their weapons could be dismissed as not a real threat.

Looking back, Spaceman Jax also fit with those genuine simulated gold flakes – as ridiculous as they might seem today. He was a real outer space hero, saving planets in peril and defending the innocent from marauding Mantagons with Ultra-turbo-zap-guns. But as an animated character, he was part of everything that was good about the artificial (better living through plastics!). Why have real and expensive gold flakes in your soft drink when you could have simulated gold flakes created in a laboratory at a tiny fraction of the cost? (Why you should have gold flakes at all in your cola is another question altogether.) Spaceman Jax could be forever charming and funny for the simple reason that he wasn’t real.

Most importantly, however, Spaceman Jax was an ideal pitchman for Bunchy because he came with a built-in audience. He was on national television and then later comics books that had a wide appeal. And most importantly, that audience was made up of the demographic all soft drink companies want to reach: children. You couldn’t ask for better than that.

Fortunately for us today, a lot of the Bunchy ads using Spaceman Jax are still around – the art was well done and usually pretty funny. There are even a few specialty stores that carry the soft drink. So if you can get a few bottles, serve them ice cold and enjoy the genuine simulated gold flakes with a taste that’s out of this world!