Mr. Snyder, Meet Mr. Six

Monday, August 22, 2005

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may have plans to turn Six Flags into an entertainment empire, but if he succeeds in his campaign to gain control of that collection of regional theme parks, one of his first decisions may be more prosaic: Should he fire Mr. Six?

That's the elderly man with big ears, oversized spectacles, a red bow tie and a tuxedo who does a manic dance in TV commercials for the parks. Critics have called the old guy annoying and even "creepy."

Internet message boards speculate whether he's really young or old, a man or a woman, a well-known actor in makeup or an unknown -- or some computer-enhanced combination.

Six Flags representatives won't provide many details about Mr. Six, but they say the company's "ambassador of fun" is a genuine, 80-something-year-old man who lives in a nursing home when he's not making commercials and public appearances.

His message, said Debbie Nauser, vice president of public relations, is that people should "get out of their overscheduled and boring days and come out for a day of fun at Six Flags."

David Banta, creative director at Doner Advertising of Southfield, Mich., which created the Mr. Six campaign, said he accompanied the Six Flags mascot on a trip to New York, where they were stopped on the street by "50 people with their camera phones wanting pictures of him."

Banta said Mr. Six is a big hit in surveys of consumer responses to advertising, "and he scores incredibly high with teens and with moms."

Perhaps Snyder disagrees. In a letter to Six Flags shareholders filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Snyder said the company needs to retool its "advertising and marketing strategies" because its parks are "skewed toward thrill rides catering to teenagers at the expense of families and young children. . . . To implement our strategy, we would employ smart, cost-effective targeted advertising (including direct mail) and focus on mothers (with young children) as well as youth."

But Snyder has not said whether Mr. Six fits into his vision for Six Flags. The sports mogul's SEC filings made no mention of a retention bonus for Mr. Six or a severance plan to ease him into retirement.

-- Larry Liebert

© 2005 The Washington Post Company