Advertising Greatness #1: The Nauga

It's the 60's in America, and UniRoyal have created a synthetic fabric called Naugahyde, that is used as an alternative to leather for covering furniture. The problem is that lots of other people have come into the market with similar synthetic leathers. UniRoyal, troubled with having to get its product to stand out in a crowded market, enlisted the help of legendary Art Director and ad-man George Lois.

Lois and designer Kurt Weihs came up with the idea of inventing an imaginary creature - the Nauga. The idea was that Naugas shed their hide each year - and the result was Naugahyde, the leather-like material used to cover furniture.
A Nauga

The cute Nauga became the face of a TV and print campaign to promote Naugahyde. A distinctive mascot that made UniRoyal's product stand out from the mass of me-too synthetics. It gave a friendly face to a faceless product, and personality to something that originally sounded a quite dull and scientific.

The Nauga worked as a mascot and personality for the product, but also was great as a way of bringing to life practical features of the material.

UniRoyal's competitors may have had the same qualities and benefits as Naugahyde, and could have communicated them, but the way that they were brought to life by the Nauga was what separated them from the competition. People remembered that the Nauga was indestructible.

One of the cleverest things they did with the Nauga was to give away miniature ones with purchases of the furniture...

In effect the Nauga itself became another reason to seek out Naugahyde specifically. Just as importantly, it became the swing tag on the furniture and a sign on stores that stocked Naugahyde-covered products. The advertising told people to move on if they didn't see the smiling face of the Nauga on the store or the product.

Like a lot of Lois' best work, the print executions have a very editorial quality to them. And the beauty of of the Nauga idea is that it allows him to do that. As we know, people instinctively avoid what appears to be advertising, so slapping big logos all over everything more often has the opposite of the desired effect - people flick on past without reading. However, with the Nauga, the product is the star of every ad, which means the brand doesn't have to strain to be heard. There's no need for a giant Naugahyde logo slapped in the middle of proceedings. This in turn means the reader is more likely to be drawn in by Lois' bold editorial layouts.

The Nauga was an idea much bigger than an advertising execution. It is the perfect example of a truly great advertising idea - something that raises the product or brand way above it's competition across all possible places where the man-in-the-street could come across it.

Unfortunately, in these awards-obsessed times, a lot of advertising creatives have become more concerned with filling spaces, creating clever or entertaining ads, rather than taking a step back and creating great advertising ideas.

UniRoyal are still using the Nauga, over 40 years on, to promote Naugahyde. The original Naugas have become collectors items. And of course, most importantly, the Nuaga helped UniRoyal overwhelm its competitors and become market leader.

That's what we call Advertising Greatness.

More on buying the Nauga here.

*FOOTNOTE: The Nauga was nearly canned before it got chance to run, but was saved by research - albeit some very on-the-hoof research. The Federal Trade Commission in the US claimed the Nauga might be mistaken for a real-life species, and as such could be deemed deceptive advertising. To prove this was silliness, Lois and staff from his agency went down to Fifth Avenue in New York with the Nuaga advertising and asked passers-by "Is this a real animal?". Not suprisingly, the results showed that good old Joe Public had more sense than he/she was being credit for by the Commission, and the Nauga got to live.


  1. This is fantastic. I love it.

  2. Came over from Mark Evanier. We actually have a Nauga. In Blue.

  3. Followed the link from newsfromme. Loved this page; added you to my reader!

  4. I was also sent from Mark Evanier. We used to say "Think of the poor Nauga's who lost their life for that chair.".... or more recently.... "Imaging how many endangered pleathers had to sacrifice their life for that ugly jacket."

  5. Never had one as a child, but I sure did want one! Thanks for the memories! Now I know I didn't just imagine it....

  6. Here is a picture of me and my nauga from the 60's.

  7. Hey Schwingding, that is a fantastic photograph, thanks for sharing.

  8. What's great is there's loads more about it here than you get in George Lois's book.
    Really, really good. Well done.

  9. Cheers Dave.
    We're huge Lois fans here.

  10. I'm a little late reading the NAUGA post.
    I have a Black one and I got it when I was working at a furniture store in the early sixties. I bought a lounge chair (with an employee discount) and got the NAUGA with the deal. I've had 3 ex-wives and each one of them tried to throw it in the garbage. Now it sits propped up on an end table with a lamp. It enjoys
    watching cartoons. It also hogs the remote.

  11. I saw a stuffed doll of that monster in a thrift store last year.
    I should have gotten it but they were overcharging... ;-;

  12. What I'D like to know is: Where can I get enlarged prints of the Naugahyde ads featuring the Nauga?
    I've just moved to Naugatuck, CT where Uniroyal was originally located and Naugahyde "discovered". In searching some history I've found that my house and neighbors' were originally built for the company's management and execs... I think it'd be neat to have some framed prints of these ads... especially the one with the cow!


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