Humorous comparison of today's ads with ads from the 1970s
|“Pepsi-Cola hits the spot. Twelve full ounces-- that's a lot. Twice as much for a nickel too. Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you." My dad likes to rattle off this little ditty from his childhood. He also has one that is not as catchy about not putting bananas in the refrigerator, “oh, no, no, no...” I wouldn't have even thought there were advertisements when he was a kid, and the fact that he remembers them is amazing because that was a really, really, really, really long time ago.
I grew up in the 1970s, which I feel was the heyday of advertising. I actually liked watching commercials. Coke had a very peace-love-70's ad that featured an internationally diverse group of people singing "I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love--with apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves. I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I'd like to buy the world a Coke to keep it company." I'd like to do those things too! The group New Seekers actually turned this song into a pop single, and the ad ran for almost the entire decade. Another memorable song had an adorable little guy singing, "My bologna has a first name it's O-S-C-A-R, my bologna has a second name it's M-A-Y-E-R, Ooh, I love to eat it everyday and if you ask me why I'll say, ‘cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A." It was cute and educational! No kid would ever get that word wrong at a spelling bee.
Products had memorable slogans like “Have a Coke and a smile!” “You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to McDonald's.” “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!” We knew which coffee was “good to the last drop” and which one was the “best part of waking up.” We knew which battery was “the coppertop” and which one kept “going and going and going and going...” Any kid could tell you the exact ingredients of a Big Mac: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. And if you preferred a burger your own way, go to Burger King and the fry cooks will sing “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us.”
Everybody recognized the finicky cat Morris and little Mikey who didn't like anything except Life cereal. Madge the manicurist spent a lot of time with her hands in the Palmolive dish detergent. And Mr. Whipple constantly implored, “Please, don't squeeze the Charmin!” I mean it when I say everybody knew these people. In 1978 Mr. Whipple was the third best-known American, just behind Richard Nixon and Billy Graham.
Medicine ads were few at that time, but for heartburn we remembered “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!” Alka Seltzer would do the trick even if you “ate the whole thing!” Most medicines had boring ads, though, with lots of serious information and lofty talk about doctors who recommended their use. I probably can't remember them because they weren't aimed at kids.
Maybe everyone thinks the ads from their childhoods are the best ever. I can sing lots of jingles from the ads of the seventies. But the only one I ever find myself humming today is “Biggby Coffee jingle: “Oh, that first taste of Caramel-Marvel is so dreamy, with roasted coffee goodness and whipped creamy! Drink it all down, not leaving a trace 'cause Biggby Coffee is my happy place! When I've had a bad day, I know things will get better! It's my favorite coffee shop and my favorite letter! Biggby Coffee is my happy place!” Maybe I'm just a sucker for the songs about idyllic places.
Today's slogans leave a lot to be desired. Instead of “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” we get “Win against the winter cold.” Instead of “Where's the beef?” shouted by a grouchy grandma at Wendy's fast food competitors, we get “You know when it's real.” Coke dumbed down their “Have a Coke and a smile” to “Coke. Enjoy.” And the Big Mac is now simply “What we're made of.” What does that mean? I know what you're made of: two all-beef patties, special sauce....! Maybe Ronald McDonald forgot! The “coppertop” Duracell, is now just “trusted everywhere.” The competition is going with “Now that's positivenergy.” I don't know what to buy. I miss the pink bunny with his big bass drum.
Some companies realized they had to get back to their old slogans or something close to it so we'd remember what they were trying to sell us while promoting modern values. The 9 Lives cat is still finicky, but this time he's “finicky about nutrition.” And Trix are still for kids, but this time they added “Grow up strong.” And Maxwell House coffee sellers tell us “Be good to the last drop.” Are they talking to me? Or the coffee? It made more sense before you messed with it. I vote we bring back “Cora” (aka the wicked witch of Oz) to set them straight. “Get it right, my little pretties!”
The slogans I've noticed recently on television ads don’t really evoke the images of the right products. For example, “Go confidently” immediately had me thinking of Pepto Bismol, not a Tom-Tom GPS navigation device. “Enjoy the go!” seemed like it should be a Tom-Tom ad slogan, but this time it really was referring to going to the bathroom. This ad grosses me out on several levels. The cute cartoon bears seem to be sharing an intimate moment with a Barry White-ish romantic song playing “every time, it’s so right, well, it feels so good!” Doesn’t sound like toilet paper to me. Sounds more like “anytime can be the right time.” I fully expect to see Mama and Daddy Bear sitting on a deck in twin clawfoot bathtubs at the end with a voiceover warning: if you have an erection that lasts longer than four hours, call your doctor. Why? To brag?
Kotex ad writers must be members of the Republican committee on women’s issues. Their newest brainstorm is: Have a happy period! Happy period? Really? Maybe the girl who has a late period and is unprepared to be a mother will have a “happy period;” otherwise, it sounds like an oxymoron. And couldn't they be a little more subtle? I have to say that each one leaves me longing for a simpler, more innocent time ... a time when Kotex pads were referred to as “feminine napkins,” eliciting images of dainty flowered kitchen accoutrements on which to place the good silverware--napkins that were evidently awesome for absorbing spills, especially of blue liquids. And girls were so happy about it that they did cartwheels in white pants and rode horses and went swimming! Those girls weren't real. Real girls don't have “happy periods.” Boys are dumb.
Finally, while the Pepto Bismol ad gets to the point, “Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!” hardly seems like a great tagline. And I’d rather they treat it with a little more subtlety. I prefer the term “occasional irregularity” to seeing people dancing around while holding their stomachs and covering their rear ends chanting this mantra. It looks like something middle-schoolers would invent. Yuck!
I liked the old mascots and spokespeople best: Cocoa Puffs’ Sonny the Cuckoo, the Pillsbury doughboy, Poptarts’ Milton the toaster. Now we have a traveling garden gnome, the annoying Aflac duck, and Mucinex’s animated gobs of talking mucus. And the worst mascot award goes to: the creepy, stalker, fiberglass Burger King. You won’t see him in ads anymore because the king is dead! (Not Elvis—who I think visits the Kalamazoo BK and who would’ve made a much better spokesperson even as dead zombie Elvis.) I can’t believe the BK executives agreed that this monstrosity was the best form of mascot for their company. Maybe they were copying Big Boy, who is adorable and would never creep under your covers. I pictured the Burger King stalking and killing the fun-loving Ronald McDonald in his sleep. Good riddance, King!
Many of today’s ads entertain, but do they accomplish their goals? Can you identify the products? I suppose the lady muttering endearments to her kitty while escorting a raccoon into the house is a cute way to advertise an eyeglass company, but I can’t tell you which one. The husky Russian customer service rep “Peggy” is humorous, but what credit card is being advertised? The “Jake from State Farm” ad does accomplish its goal of being both entertaining and helping customers remember what's being advertised. I laugh every time I hear the accusing wife ask, “What are you wearing, 'Jake from State Farm?'” “Uh, khakis.” replies Jake. "She sounds hideous," the wife says to her husband, who replies, "Well, yeah. 'Cause she's a guy." Nice one, State Farm! Definitely rivals, “We are Farmers, bum-ba-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!” Yeah, ba-dum-dum-dumb.
Speaking of dumb, but I'm going to risk offending a bunch of fans of the AT&T ads. (Oh, how I long for the days of the Ma Bell monopoly!) What’s with the nerdy guy polling the kids about which is better--fast or slow? Doing one thing or two things? It’s just lame. I know some people think the kids are adorable and spontaneous. I think they're poster children for why we need more school funding. One kid demonstrates how he can bob his head up and down and flap his hand around at the same time. His parents must be so proud. And I cringe when I hear the little girl respond with a rambling answer about “it's better to be fast to not be beaten by a werewolf and then you'll be turned into one and you'll have to stay in and then and then you have to get [shaved], because you’ll be too hot. And then you’re like 'rarararara' which means 'I wish I was back to a human.'” Excuse me, I need to go find an absorbent sanitary napkin to wipe away my tears.
I have a big problem with prescription drug advertisements encouraging us to ask our doctors if they’re right for us. These encourage people to self-diagnose and demand their doctors give them the advertised drug. I guess the warnings about side effects don’t register since they are always rattled off by a speed-reader. (This product may cause anal leakage, growth of man boobs, and unibrows. You may develop excessive eye boogers. It may cause your urine to glow in the dark. You may want to kill yourself or your neighbor's cat or the makers of this pill. You may have the urge to gamble, have a romantic relationship with William Shatner, or watch a 24-hour Bridezillas marathon. It may cause addiction to Nascar, karaoke, or conga line dancing. It may cause you to watch Fox News and believe it's “fair and balanced”.)
Maybe you just remember best the commercials from your youth. Maybe today’s young people will fondly recall the spontaneous little nincompoops darlings from the AT&T ads and the zombie who wants to get Sprint phone service. They’ll talk about Flo and Jake and the little Australian gecko. They’ll spread rumors about the demise of the E-Trade baby. All their friends will join in when they sing “This is a car that loves to have fun, mile after mile, to and from. Now there are four for all to use. Tell the neighbors, your friends, everyone the news. Let’s Hum Hum Hum Hum, Hum Hummm--A Prius for everyone.” They’ll think the ads from their youth were fantastic. They’ll be wrong…because the 1970s had the best ads ever!
Interesting ad facts from Wikipedia:
One 1970s campaign for Maxwell House featured the actress Margaret Hamilton, the former wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz, as Cora, the general store owner who proudly announced that Maxwell House was the only brand she sold.
By the 1930s the Maxwell House was running advertisements that claimed that former President Theodore Roosevelt had taken a sip of their coffee on a visit to Andrew Jackson's estate in 1907 and he proclaimed it to be "good to the last drop."
The Life cereal ad that featured the picky eater “Mikey” started in 1972 and ran for over 12 years, making it the longest running ad campaign in history. A few years after the commercial appeared, a false urban legend spread that the actor who had played Little Mikey, John Gilchrist, had died after eating an unexpectedly lethal combination of Pop Rocks (a type of carbonated hard candy) and a carbonated soft drink, which caused his stomach to inflate with carbon dioxide. However, the legend is false, as Gilchrist lived into adulthood.