Entertainment industry trade magazine Variety wasn't on my radar as a source of old toy robot cartoon information so it was an awesome surprise when I found a great deal of Voltron ads in issues of Variety from 1984 and 1985. These weren't traditional toy or cartoon ads aimed at the average consumer looking for a toy robot to buy or a cartoon to watch. Since Variety's readership was people who worked in the entertainment industry these ads were created as pitches to television station program managers to carry the Voltron cartoon at their stations. Because programming decisions had to be made well in advance of the fall '84 cartoon season, these ads appeared many months before the Voltron cartoon hit the air and are some of the earliest appearances of Voltron in any media.
15 February 1984
23 May 1984
The earliest Voltron ad I found was from February 1984. I didn't look in any issues before that so there may still be some earlier ads. This February ad (above left) had to sell the Voltron show on just the concept alone and it's a pretty cool concept-a super robot show in stereo with lots of speical effects. Mention is made of it being a trilogy but there are no details on what was meant by that. The ad doesn't list any stations signed up and no ratings figures could be used because the show hadn't aired yet. Then in May of '84 the next ad (above right) appears and lists many of the first stations and cities where Voltron was scheduled to show.
10 October 1984
05 December 1984
The next two ads above appeared shortly after the show first aired and the initial ratings came in. Voltron would go on to be the #1 kids show in syndication in 1984 and the early numbers were really strong. One of the advantages to advertising in Variety was that it was a weekly magazine and if the ratings were good this information could be spread really fast in the hopes of getting more stations to sign on. The terminology used with these numbers is a bit confusing to me though. I'm pretty sure "share" is the percentage of how many televisions are tuned in to a show in a certain market at a certain time. Ratings points confuse the hell out of me and I think they mean how many televisions in all of America are tuned in to a show. Regardless, the ad above right is impressive when it states Voltron performed so well that it increased both share and ratings percentages by 50% over the same period a year earlier.
13 February 1985
11 September 1985
I think these last two ads are really pretty. They're both from 1985 after Voltron had enjoyed much ratings success. The February ad featured Voltron at the height of its popularity just before the toys began hitting the shelves. By the time the September 11th ad was published it was apparent that people loved the Lion Force and wanted more so all talk of a trilogy was out the window. The ad promotes the third "season" which would be the brand new episodes commissioned by WEP to continue the Lion Force story arc, all of which would be kicked off by the "Fleet of Doom" team up special which I thought was pretty craptacular. The ad is really cool, though, because it featured the Voltron characters breaking the fourth wall and talking about how great the new episodes were going to be. Unfortunately the viewing public wouldn't agree and Voltron's reign would be usurped in 1985 by another team of space cats, but this time not of the mechanical kind.