Remembering El Tabador before sitcom stardom

A look back at the birth of a mascot

Koodo‘s tiny spokeswrestler El Tabador is getting his own show. Camillion Corp. has acquired exclusive global rights to the character originally created by Taxi 2, agency of record to Koodo’s parent company, Telus.

Camillion says El Tabador will get a half-hour sitcom presented in a mockumentary-style similar to The Office and featuring celebrity guests.

Marketing was there at El Tabador’s humble beginnings in 2010, and before this diminutive star gets to big for his singlet, we thought we’d remind him where he came from – a sketchpad – with this story we originally posted in 2011.

Early concepts for El Tabador (click to expand)

Like so many advertising icons, Koodo’s El Tabador was born from casual sketching and a little word association.

“It started off with a doodle of a Mexican wrestler’s mask,” says Jeff MacEachern, art director at Taxi 2, the Telus agency of record for Koodo. MacEachern, copywriter partner Mike Blackmore and creative director Lance Martin* were brainstorming ideas to promote Koodo’s Tab—a contract-free way for Canadians without a lot of money to get a new wireless plan (by starting a tab). They felt Koodo should be fighting for the little guy against painful contracts; fighting and “tab” let to “tap in”—a tagteam wrestling reference.

From there it wasn’t long before the Mexican wrestler was being discussed and made into a freedom fighter. They considered, briefly, the possibility of making him a real person before deciding animation would be best; it allowed them to make him really small.

“The idea that he is a little guy and he fights for the little guy, it made for a lot of comedy,” says Martin. Blackmore then wrote a full-page profile of the character, making him a little Antonio Banderas mixed with Jack Palance. “He is a bit of a ladies’ man. He is sly and confident. We wanted him to be tough and not too cute but with a bit of a self-deprecating sense of humour that would hit on the toy Barbie doll.” The key is not to make him too nasty, adds Martin. You likely won’t see him say anything mean about competitors.

Having settled on El Tabador, the agency pitched Telus less than two weeks later.

“We went in there with [just] one idea, but we knew it had legs,” says MacEachern. Telus agreed, and Taxi 2 commissioned Bent Image Lab in Portland, Ore., to bring the sketches to life.

Now a year old** and still going strong, Taxi 2 has produced nearly a dozen executions with El Tabador “super poking” friends, wrangling kisses at Christmas and, most recently, farting in public. MacEachern and Blackmore weren’t sure that idea would fl y, but based on Twitter and Facebook reaction, the spot has been very well received. One online commenter bragged that everyone in his house sings “Koodoooooo” every time he lets loose. How’s that for brand association?

* – MacEachern is now a creative director at Taxi 2, Blackmore is associate creative director, and Martin has moved to Union as a founding partner and ECD.
** – E.T. is now nearly four years old

An early mock-up of an El Tabador ad

El Tabador’s 2013 holiday TV spot

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