Left: from 1964 issue of Broadcast Magazine; right: Oily Bird packaging via: Ryan Feerer
Oily Bird: A Brooklynese play on words (i.e.: “early bird”) and an early 1960s “household lubricant” brand launched in 1963 by the Ronson Consumer Products Corporation.
Their packaging combined illustration with a stock oil can container to create a remarkably seamless simulated bird.
Not certain whose idea this was or who created the original trademarked bird illustration, but the news squib (on the top left) from a 1964 issue of Broadcast Magazine mentions “The Zlowe Company” in connection with a television campaign for the product.
Further research reveals that an animated television commercial for “Ronson Oily Bird” (Made by Stars and Stripes Forever Productions and entitled Squeak) won “Best Animation Design” in the 1965 “American TV Commercials Festival.”
Once I’d learned of its existence, I really wanted to find this commercial and include it here.
You might think you can find anything online, but some things are so obscure —(discontinued products, for instance)— that no one has felt the need to make it available.
No one had ever bothered to put up a streaming video of the animated “Oily Bird” commercial. (Until now.) The chances are good, I think, that the commercial below is the award winning “Squeak.” Judging by the style of the characters, the animator must certainly have been Stars and Stripes founder, Leonard Glasser. If so, I’m guessing that this is the first time it’s ever been posted online. (You’re welcome!)
(But wait! There’s more, after the fold…)
There are various species of “Oily Bird.” The original household lubricant packaging used a blue bird on a yellow background. The heavy duty electric motor oil’s packaging used the inverse of that the color scheme. A later evolution of the household lubricant’s packaging shows a different illustration of the bird from a 3/4 angle with an entirely different coloration.
1964 trademark for the container’s “fanciful bird design” (see also: Fanciful, Trademark-Infringing Tongue)
Initially the press had fun with “Oily Bird” as a product…
One of Ronson’s minor products is a lubricant, Oily Bird. Now what Nice Nelly scotched calling it Boid?
Sale’s Management, 1966
Ronson finds its switch-spout works with machine oil — so It hatches an “Oily Bird”
Business Week, 1964
“Oily Bird” is a new quality, all-purpose household lubricating oil. Packaged in a 4–1/2-oz. can with “switch spout“ pouring device designed to simulate a bird’s beak, the lubricating oil is priced at 29¢. A “Bird-House” counter merchandiser unit and a display which can be hung from walls or ceilings are available.
CSA Super Markets Magazine, 1964
I checked on eBay to see if I could find any photos of the “Bird-House” display box mentioned above…
I found this example of an intact Oily Bird “Bird-House” display box sold on eBay last April for $99. (The top of the display box appears to convert into a red-peaked-roof header card.) The “hanging” display must have been the “Bird Cage” display shown on the card below.
One thing that the brand probably did not count on: with the increased frequency of major oil spills in the 1960s, consumers must have certainly started associating the phrase “oily bird” with news images of oil drenched seabirds.