Helping Hand - Disembodied hand (as if cut from the arm of
Disney's Mickey Mouse) that pitches the yummy goodness of Betty Crocker's
Hamburger Helper In essence, the Helping Hand is a walking, talking, gloved left
hand with four fingers that sports eyes, a mouth, and a red clown nose. He
debuted as the mascot for the Hamburger Helper product line in 1977. Minneapolis
actor, filmmaker and writer Patrick Coyle (author of the play "Detective
Fiction") provided the voice to the Hamburger Helper talking hand in the TV
Swanson Frozen TV Dinner products, Hamburger Helper (introduced to the American
public in 1971) offered a quick fix, no hassle dinner for those economy-minded
consumers who lived fast-paced lives.
Over the years, the Helping
Hand has hawked over 50 varieties of Hamburger Helper. In 1972, Tuna Helper was
introduced, followed by Chicken Helper in 1983.
To entice consumers into eating
the product, the Helping Hand character donned various apparel or accents to
advertise the "tastes" of the world available via The Hamburger Helper ready-mix
products. There was the western cowboy used to introduce Chili Macaroni, a
Mexican in a sombrero for Cheesy Taco Bake; an Italian gondolier rowing a boat
in Venice for Helping Hand Pasta; an tray-toting Italian waiter for Zesty and
Cheesy Italian; and a Russian Cossack in a black fur hat for the Creamy Sauce
Beef Stroganoff mix.
In 1991, the Helping Hand character was retired from TV
campaigns but continued to appear on product packaging.
In September 2001, the
Helping Hand returned to TV in the "Hint of Chicken" spot where he puts a funnel
on his thumb and pretends to be a chicken to inspire Mom to use Chicken Helper Homestyle Chicken and Mashed Potatoes for dinner.
In a second half-minute spot
entitled "Magnet," the Helping Hand rearranges a bunch of magnets on a
refrigerator door to read "value size" to influence the Lady of the House to
choose Hamburger Helper's Value Size Cheeseburger Macaroni.
These ads (created
by the Minneapolis-based Campbell Mithun ad agency) featured the tagline:
"Helping you make a great meal tonight." The original 1977 "Helping Hand" ad
campaign was the brain-child of DDB Worldwide in Chicago.
So, what is Hamburger
Helper? In general, each Hamburger Helper package contains all one needs
(Noodles, seasoning and powdered cheese) to turn a pound or two of ground
hamburger meat into a complete meal. Just brown the meat in a skillet, add the
ingredients provided and–voilá!–a nice tasty meal.
In 1998, Kraft Foods,
challenged General Mills share of the quick fix (dry-dinner-mix) meal market by
transforming their Stove Top Stuffing line into Stove Top Classics (meals made
by adding sauces and seasonings). And even though Campbell Soup (Prego Pasta
Bakes), Lipton (Sizzle and Stir) and Pillsbury (Green Giant Complete Skillet
Meals) also introduced similar products, Hamburger Helper and its Helping Hand
character remain one of America's most recognizable products.
Through its TV commercials, The Helping Hand has left an indelible mark on the
landscape of American popular culture. Late night talk show host David Letterman
has referred to the Helping Hand character in two of his "Top 10 Skits." The
February 21, 2001 "Top Ten United States Secrets Sold To The Russians" No. 3
entry read: "The Hamburger Helper hand is real and responsible for over 100
homicides"; and the April, 2, 2001 "Top Ten Effects Of The Giant Solar Flare"
No. 6. entry warned: "Hamburger Helper hand springs out of television and starts
Enthusiasts of the "Death/Grudge Match" phenomenon, too, have
teamed the Helping Hand with such competitors as Thing from "The Addams Family"
and Star War's Darth Vader. And the National Lampoon movie Vacation (1983)
featured Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie who said "Mmm! Mmm! MmmI I don't know
why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I
like it better than Tuna Helper myself, don't you Clark? To which Clark (Chevy
Chase) replies "You're the gourmet around here, Ed."
And, of course, where would
pop culture be without a wise-ass remark like "Masturbation is the Hamburger
Helper of sex. You already have the meat." As to the whereabouts of the Helping
Hand's fifth finger, some speculate it can be found floating in "a skillet full
of noodles!" See also -
Arby's Talking Oven