"Memorable TV Commercials of the 1970s"
The editors of Advertising Age recently selected the best TV spots of the
past 50 years. Judged on the basis of their creativity, durability, and
longevity, these are commercials from the 1970s that made us laugh, cry, and
most importantly -- buy.
This classic annual TV Christmas card lives on as the beerwagon team of
Clydesdales trots through a picturesque snow-covered small town.
"Funeral" has a deceased tycoon reading his will as limos enter the
cemetery. He berates his spendthrift wife, partner, and sons -- whom we see
in limos -- and leaves them almost nothing. To his nephew, who's driving a
VW Beetle, he gives "my entire fortune of $100 billion dollars."
Bill Backer and Billy Davis's "I'd Like To Buy the World a Coke," sung by
young people from numerous nations on a hilltop in Italy in 1971, became the
pop song, "I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing."
LITE BEER FROM MILLER
Who more natural to turn a "female-oriented" low-calorie beer called Lite
into a manly brew? Ex-jocks. And with this long-running "Everything you ever
wanted in a beer -- and less" campaign, Miller Lite beer shot to the top of
Could Brother Dominick produce 500 more sets of his hand-lettered
manuscript? Yes, with the "miracle" coming from the Xerox 2000 copier.
Two brothers get their younger sibling Mikey to try Life and, surprise, he
likes it. "Hey, Mikey" entered the lexicon.
With competition from bank charge cards increasing, American Express began
its "Do you know me?" campaign to suggest empowerment through the Green Card.
For its Travelers Cheques, Karl Malden brought his Streets of San Francisco
detective persona to these AmEx commercials. But the spots ran far longer than
the TV series, and "Don't leave home without 'em" became embedded in the
collective American consciousness.
With an energetic crew cleaning and singing "You deserve a break today,"
McDonald's established two themes: (1) its outlets were not "greasy spoons"
and (2) mothers weren't short-changing their families by patronizing the
quick-service restaurant leader.
"In [what was then Soviet] Georgia, where they eat a lot of yogurt, a lot of
people live past 100," says one spot from a series for Dannon yogurt, which
fondly filmed a village of centenarians enjoying free samples. One ends:
"eighty-nine-year-old Renan Topagua... ate two cups. That pleased his mother
Possibly the funniest spot ever filmed, this one for a now-defunct airline
portrays coach-class travel as akin to transatlantic steerage, in contrast
to the Roman orgy going on in first class.
Geoffrey Holder's deep voice and a tropical setting were just the right
touches to introduce the "uncola nut," 7UP's answer to Coke and Pepsi's key
ingredient. A palpably refreshing point of differentiation.
Opens with an arrogant man saying, "I warn you in advance, I'm not going to
like your prunes." He says prunes are both pitted and wrinkled. A hand holds
out a box of Sunsweet prunes and the man discovers they don't have pits. He
finds them sweet and moist, but still complains about the wrinkles. Closing
stentorian VO: "Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles."
When Mariette Hartley joined James Garner for these repartee-filled spots,
Polaroid and its One-Step and SX-70 moved from novelty to mainstream in the
This 1979 work from director Ridley Scott was one of the first in a "new
wave" of highly visual "graphics" approaches that swept in from the U.K. A
woman lolls by a swimming pool; a man dives, emerges at her feet; an
airplane's shadow passes -- for the simple message: "Chanel... share the
- from People Weekly Entertainment Almanac (Little, Brown & Co., Boston,
- * -
"Lots Of Spots - Famous Commecials"
Here's a sampling of some of the decade's most memorable advertising moments.
* Keep America Beautiful: Cherokee Indian Iron Eyes Cody paddles his canoe
past smokestacks and debris-infested waters, a single tear down his
weathered face. (1970)
* Alka-Seltzer: An inmate (George Raft), disgusted by the lousy chow, pounds
his cup and leads his fellow mess hall prisoners in a thunderous chant of
"Al-ka Seltzer, Al-ka Seltzer!" (1970)
* Coca-Cola: Young folks of all colors and creeds gather on a sunny mountain-
side to sing the praises of the soft drink, to the bubbly tune of "I'd Like
to Teach the World to Sing." (1971)
* Quaker Oates: Two young brothers susupiciously eye a box of Life cerial,
refusing to try it 'til they test it out on their chubby-cheeked, picky
three-year-old brother: "He likes it! Hey, Mikey!" (1972)
* Crest: Talking teeth lament the departure of fellow member Harold, felled by
the owner's excessive "caramels, jaw breakers, pizza pies....If only we'd
been brushed." (1972)
* Xerox: After a rotund Franciscan monk painstakingly hand-letters a parchment
sheet, his superior asks for five hundred more. The monk buses to his local
copy shop, and upon returning with the goods his superior exclaims, "It's a
* Dannon yogurt: A choir of old men sings as scenes pass of weathered Russians
smiling and dancing, closing on one who's eating. A voice-over tells the
audience, "Temur Vanachu thought Dannon was really fine yogurt. He ought to
know. He's been eating yogurt for 105 years." (1976)
* Polaroid: Sparring lightly with Mariette Hartley, actor James Garner lauds a
camera "so simple to operate, even a woman can use it." (1977)
* BASF cassette tapes: An unlucky soldier receives a tape from home with bad
news: his girl's found another, his brother. As he sits stunned, a sergeant
snaps, "Play it again, John." (1979)
* Coca-Cola: Glowering Pittsburgh Steelers' lineman Mean Joe Greene chugs the
soda bottle offered by a young lad, to whom he gratefully tosses his jersey.
- from Book of Days: '70s, Harvey Solomon & Rich Appel (Metro Books, 2009).
- * -
TV affected us growing up more than our parents did (unless your parents
didn't allow you to watch TV). We learned how to spell relief, what to do to
stains, what to like and dislike, and what we wanted to buy. We innocently
sang and mimicked the tunes of Dr Pepper, Oscar Mayer, and meow meow meow meow
Meow Mix. Even if you try to avoid mainstream culture, advertising always makes
its evil way into the brain and replays itself anytime you need to use the
product, or during just about any moments of possible silence, through the use
of rhymes, reason, and bad show tunes. A few of these may seem as if they were
only yesterday: Morris the Cat (9-Lives cat food); I love my calendar cat;
Lauren Hutton and the Nestea Ice Tea plunge; "You've Got Ring Around the
Collar" (Wisk); Herb Albert music; "He likes it! Hey, Mikey!" (Life cereal);
"AIMs Home Loan to the rescue"; "And like a good neighbor, State Farm is
there"; "Do you know me?" (American Express); "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie,
and Chevrolet"; "Beef, it's what's for dinner"; little Rodney Allen Rippy
trying to take a bite out of the big burger (Jack in the Box); "You deserve a
break today"/"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles,
onions, on a sesame seed bun" (McD's); "Connect Four! Where?! Here, diagonally.
Pretty sneaky, Sis!" (game); "When you play Perfection, you gotta move on fast,
move on fast, before the pieces pop-up, before you put in the last, and that's
Perfection!" (game); "You sank my battleship!" (game); "I'm the Sole Survivor"
(game); battery on the shoulder of Robert Conrad, who dared you to knock it
off; O.J. jumping turnstiles in the airport (Hertz rental car); "Sorry,
Charlie!" (Star-kist tuna); margarine commercial where a crown suddenly
appears on someone's head (Imperial margarine); "It's not nice to fool Mother
Nature" (Parkay margarine -- "Butter!"); "You think it's butter, but it's not,
it's Chiffon"; "Pepto biiisssmmmoool"; "One spicy meatball"/"I can't believe
I ate the whole thing"/"Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is fast
fast _fast_" (Alka-Seltzer); "How do YOU spell relief? R.O.L A.I.D.S."; "You
get a big delight in every bite..."/Fruit Pie the Magician and Twinkie the
Kid (Hostess); "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie
Pop?"; "If you believe in peanut butter, clap your hands" (Peter Pan); "Choosy
mothers choose Jif"; "Leggo my Eggo" (Eggo waffles); "When it rains, it pours"
(Morton salt); "4 out of 5 doctors recommend chewing Trident"; "pick a pack of
Juicy Fruit -- off the Juicy Fruit tree"; "Who wears short shorts?" (Nair hair
removal cream); "I'm gonna wash that gray right outta my hair"; "Gee, Your
Hair Smells Terrific!" (shampoo); Mom... do you ever get that... not-so-fresh
feeling? (Massengil); pretty girls washing off a face full of cold cream
(Noxema); "Calgon. take me away!" (bubble bath); scrubbing bubbles; Mr. Clean;
Old Spice; Irish Spring; lots of Jay Ward; "Look left, right, and left again"
(public service announcement); "Ancient Chinese secret. huh?"; "You're soaking
in it" (Palmolive); "Adee-do" (plumbing and heating); "Hi, Emma! Hi yourselves,
cuties! Whatcha doin' in my laundry basket?"/"Hey, it's the Fruit of the Loom
guys!"; "Attention, shoppers, this is a stick-up... no, _this_ is a Stick Up"
(air freshener); Chiquita banana with dancing banana lady; stewardess offers
"Coffee, tea... or a flick of my Bic"; Jane Russell with the eight hour
girdles; fast-talker John Moschitta (Federal Express); "It's Cal Worthington
and his dog, Spot" (car dealerships); "You call that kid a Cracker Jack";
Uncle Sam offering the world a good car for only a buck (Matchbox);
Frankenberry and Count Chocula argue about who is scarier and a cat scares
them (cereal); the Quaker Oats guy; "I coulda had a V8"; "Hey, Kool-Aid!";
"A&W root beer's got that frosty mug taste"; "Doin' it Mountain Dew"; "I'm
picking up good vibrations" (Sunkist); "I believe in Crystal Light, and I
believe in me"; "I'd like to teach the world to sing" (Coca-Cola); Mean Joe
Green "Tab for beautiful people"; "From the land of sky blue water" (Hamms
beer); Spuds Mackenzie (Budweiser); "Thanks for your support" (Bartles &
Jaymes); "Libbys Libbys Libbys on your label label label, you will like it
like it like it on the table table table"; silver cleaners; Ginsu knives;
Ronco; Donna Dixon on that Beautyrest bed; "When E. F. Hutton talks, people
listen"; Please don't squeeze the Charmin" (with Mr. Whipple); "You asked for
it, you got it, Toyota" (with people jumping in the air); "If you want to be a
model, or just look like one" (Barbizon); "Double A (honk, honk) M.C.O."
(transmission shop); "Who's sorry now, so sorry now" and "Lipstick on your
collar..." (before infomercials, one of the longest commercials of its day was
for this stinkin' Connie Francis Collection); Chun King; "Muncha buncha
Frito's go with lunch" (Frito's corn chips); "Here, kid, have a Life Saver"
(dad tries to make it up to his son by offering this candy); "Take a bite
outta crime" (McGruff, the creepy raincoated beagle); "Only you can prevent
forest fires" (Smokey Bear); "Anytime is the right time for milk"; "Riunite on
ice... so nice"; "Sugar in the evening! Sugar in your -- vitamins?"; "Nothing
comes between me and my Calvins"; "Heard it through the grapevine" (California
Raisins); Wheat Thins with Sandy Duncan in fields of wheat; "I don't have a lot
of time, I don't want to spend a lot of money" (Sizzler); "Kibbles and Bits!
Kibbles and Bits! I'm gonna get me some Kibbles and Bits!"; "Healthy is the
High Pro Glow" (dog food); Toss Across with the dog; "My Buddy, My Buddy, My
Buddy and me!" (My Buddy doll); "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down";
commercials brought to you by the Church of Latter-Day Saints; "I got it from
Sandy, who got it from Paul. Paul got it from Ernestine who could've got it
anywhere at all. And with my love, I gave it to you. Now that we've got it,
what're we gonna do? VD is for everybody" (public service announcement).
- from Retro Hell (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1997).
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