Monday, September 6, 2010

"People have confidence in the dog."

Named for his tendency to bite guests in the leg, Nipper was a real dog who lived in England in the late 19th century. The iconic image of Nipper listening to “His Master’s Voice” was originally a photograph of Nipper and a rare (even for its time) Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. A British artist replaced the unusual cylinder machine with a more common wind-up gramophone and tried to sell his painting for advertising purposes. He was rejected by Edison-Bell (supposedly told “dogs don’t listen to phonographs”) but later sold a modified version of his painting to England’s The Gramophone Company.

The American Victor company acquired the use of the trademarked image in the early 20th century, and RCA picked it up with its acquisition of Victor in 1929. Today, the trademark's ownership is divided among different companies in different countries. Global electronics giant JVC, for example, is actually the Victor Company of Japan and still uses Nipper in its logo and advertising, but only in Japan.

The original title of the painting was “His Late Master’s Voice”, but that was quickly determined to be a bit morbid as an advertising campaign.

In the 1990s, RCA produced a series of commercials featuring Nipper played by a real dog. Those ads also introduced a puppy, “Chipper”.

The Gramophone Company became so associated with the logo and slogan that around 1908 the company was renamed HMV. Today, more than a hundred years later, HMV is a popular global retail chain which continues to use the Nipper logo.

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