This Wizard Of Oz Star Was Lay's First Celebrity Spokesperson

These days, advertisements are littered with famous faces, and commercials for Lay's potato chips are no different. In 2023 alone, the brand has teamed up with Brazillian popstar Anitta, as well as a slew of sports icons — including Tom Brady and Lionel Messi — so the celebs can hawk the company's salty snack. But who was the first celeb to brandish that iconic yellow bag of Lay's on T.V.?

Though nothing short of a scaredy-cat in the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," the man beneath the lion costume was hardly camera-shy in his potato chip commercials. That's right, for its first celebrity spokesperson ever, Lay's nabbed the Cowardly Lion himself, Bert Lahr.

The late actor first stepped into the brand's spotlight in 1963 and continued to film commercials throughout the decade. Despite the big-screen work for which he was already known, Lahr never dressed up as the Cowardly Lion for Lay's ad spots; he did, however, play several other characters during this run, including the Devil in 1967. Still, what's arguably even more noteworthy than his various costumes was the tagline he read in each one: "Betcha can't eat just one."

Bert Lahr became known for his Lay's potato chip ads

If you're one of the people who can't seem to "eat just one," you're not alone. There's an actual reason why it's so hard to stop eating potato chips — according to researchers at Duke University (via ScienceDaily), salt can have an addictive effect similar to drugs. The lack of willpower many folks have when faced with a bag of potato chips helped Lay's "Betcha can't eat just one" campaign become one of the most infamous taglines in advertising history, with many still able to recall the phrase today. However, Lahr's small-screen appearances also made an impact on his career and legacy.

By the time his ads for Lay's became commonplace, Lahr had already found success in film, comedy, and Broadway. Yet, as his son John Lahr recounted in a 2011 piece for the New Yorker, a young girl once spotted the actor and said to her mother, "Look mommy — there's the potato chip." According to Lahr's son, the stage and screen actor was ultimately "proud of the campaign," but it is perhaps surprising just how greatly a series of potato chip commercials seemingly eclipsed Lahr's prior work in the public imagination.