Exhibit / April 12, 2018
Object Name: Pogo Bal commercial
Maker and Year: Hasbro, et al., circa 1987
Object Type: Television commercial
Description: (K.E. Roberts)
Hasbro’s Pogo Bal made a splash in the States during the summer of 1987, becoming the third bestselling toy on the market after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Barbie. Invented in 1969 by two Belgians, Raphael J. Van Der Cleyen and Wilfried F. Ribbens, the updated pogo stick became “immensely popular” in Europe during 1985, where it was sold as “Lolo Ball” or “Lolobal.” Hasbro acquired the rights soon after, and the (barely) renamed “Pogo Bal” hit the US market in late 1986. While the fad was short-lived, the product and its marketing campaign are outstanding examples of late-’80s fashion, design, and commercial decadence.
The ad above is the highlight of that campaign. In it, we see a group of obviously contemporary kids pogoing aimlessly around a Renaissance-themed tower—marble walls, checkered floors, domed ceiling, Roman columns—decked out in the loud colors of the catchy Pogo Bal logo. The accompanying jingle, urging the audience to become “a Pogo Bal master,” is distinctly ’80s-obnoxious. The juxtaposition of these elements is downright weird, and the short animations—clouds racing across the perfectly blue sky, fish splashing up through the floor—add to the dream-like atmosphere. The high point comes when a giant, gnarled, corpse-colored hand intrudes through the window, attempting to capture our perpetual-motion heroes, who are too quick on their balls to be bothered.
What might the monstrous appendage have represented in the sublimated money-dreams of Madison Avenue marketing execs? The Russians? Wall Street reform? The encroaching turpitude of adulthood? The whimpering end of the toy revolution that started with Japanese robots and ended with gimmicks like the Pogo Bal? The device itself was insufferable: one’s ankles were in a constant state of shock and pain, and the effort to get off the ground was unimaginable—the bounce mechanism had all the power of a half-flat middle-school basketball. Perhaps the demon at the window is simply the tail end of a decade whose lifeblood was spent, the result of a collective cultural self-immolation to the altar of quick-fix accumulation and vibrant stupidity.