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Sunday Stupid: Jacko sells Energizer batteries! Oi!

November 23, 2014

Energizer battery commercials are now synonymous with a pink rabbit with a bass drum and a cool set of shades, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, the immediate predecessor of the Energizer Bunny, who was knocked off the American airwaves by the coming of that unstoppable percussionist, was one of the more insane product pitchmen ever to blast out of a TV set. This post is in praise and remembrance of Jacko, an import from Down Under whose love of life shone though even when he was trying to get you to buy nothing more than a pack of D cells. Oi!

Mark “Jacko” Jackson was an Australian Rules footballer who transitioned into a degree of multimedia fame after his playing days ended — the litany of athletes broke and burned out in obscurity after the end of their playing days wasn’t going to be his fate. His first foray into pop music had a measure of success (more than Carl Lewis’s, certainly), with his debut single topping the Aussie charts(!) in 1985. Never has there been a truer song title than “I’m and Individual”:

Though his “singing” voice might not have been the most lyrical, his odd fusion of Devo and Billy Idol (or something) had a bizarre appeal. And his herky-jerky delivery in the video above, as he marches and screeches around the Australian countryside, presaged the role that would bring him his fullest measure of international fame. As soon as he slapped on an Energizer singlet and died his hair blond and held a giant battery aloft, there was no stopping him. (I should pause here to confess: I vaguely recall doing a Jacko impersonation when the ads were current, when I was still right around the single-digit age range. It was probably insufferably annoying to anyone within its blast radius — I can’t believe my family didn’t murder me where I stood.)

The ads with Jacko seemed to be omnipresent, popping up in commercial breaks no matter what the demographics of the show you were watching were. And you had to love them. Jacko’s manic energy, all fist pumps and hollering, was nuts and infectious — like the sort of laugh that makes everyone else crack up. His performance really had no bearing on whether or not the Energizer product was better than Duracell’s or others, but it may very well have tipped the scales in Energizer’s favor. Yeah, a few people probably picked up an extra blister pack of Energizer AAs. Because why the hell not, you know?

In 1988 he starred in a Super Bowl ad, a sure sign for any pitchman that he’s “arrived.” In it he took his high-energy air-punching and explosive volume to mass transit:

The ads even injected a note of self-awareness, another omen of catching fire:

Though by the early 1990s Jacko had been shunted to the side in favor of the Bunny, he lived on for several more years in Energizer commercials broadcast in his native Australia (they had a different set running concurrently with their American cousins). If at all possible they were even goofier (if more sedate) than those stateside, with some extra spice that might run afoul of our millennium’s PC censors — the same ones who’ve confined Speedy Gonzales to the back of the Looney Tunes rotation:

(Legit question: Can Australians offend against the same strictures that Americans risk every time there’s any parody of their neighbors south of the border? The Aussies are on the other side of the world after all, and don’t have a history of wars and border disputes and immigration rancor. And as a corollary, wasn’t Crocodile Dundee nothing but an antipodian Speedy Gonzales?)

In the years since his stint as Energizer’s global batshit crazy ambassador, Jacko has done some acting, some hosting, some touring, some celebrity boxing, some public speaking. (He also published an autobiography before he started selling batteries. Its title — Dumb Like a Fox — is apt.) He struck one in the ads as a man who takes a big bite out of life each and every day that he opens his eyes, and his resume would seem to back that up. Nothing lasts forever — except for his leporine replacement (every time I see him/it a little piece of me still laments how he/it took Jacko’s madness away from us) — but the airwaves of the world are better for once having had Jacko bounce around them. Too right! Oi!

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