Two years ago, we published a list of the top five commercials of all time. The list, developed based on phrases from the commercials being adopted into the vernacular of Americans, included the following TV spots:
- Verizon Wireless: Can You Hear Me Now?
- Budweiser: Whassup?
- Wendy’s: Where’s the Beef?
- Bud Light: Real Men of Genius
- Lysol: Now It Smells Like Fish and Roses
A number of our readers have emailed comments to us regarding this post, with most of the feedback related to the Lysol spot. “Now It Smells Like Fish and Roses” is unfindable online. But this campaign is well remembered by the right generation.
Shortly after receiving the latest reader feedback email, we decided it was time to write another article highlighting commercials that have changed our vernacular. As explained in our original article, this list is about commercials that have “become part of our lives, part of our vernacular and part of how we think about things. These commercials have entered the zeitgeist and have become corner stones of our cultural experiences.”
Uh Oh SpaghettiOs
Launched in 1965, SpaghettiOs were designed to be convenient for parents and fun for kids. Eaten with a spoon, the Os were easier to slurp down than regular spaghetti and less likely to make a mess.
The 1980s commercial, which includes a young Jaleel White (before his Urkel days), shows kids finding numerous ways to make a mess with SpaghettiOs, each time saying “uh oh SpaghettiOs.” Although this concept seems contradictory to their mess-free selling point, the spot resonated well with children and the “uh oh” catchphrase is still being used today.
Just for the Taste of It
In 1982, Coca-Cola had the top-selling soft drink in the U.S. but diet sodas sales were growing at three-times the pace of sugared sodas. After much research, Coca-Cola leadership determined it was time to introduce their first-ever trademark extension: Diet Coke.
Targeting both men and women, with the “just for the taste of it” message, Diet Coke was launched as a great-tasting soda that also just happened to be free of sugar. By the end of the following year, Diet Coke topped the ranks for diet soft drink sales in the U.S.
I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid
With the recent closing of all Toys R Us stores, vintage Toys R Us commercials can almost bring tears to the eyes. In their heyday, Toys R Us represented fun and desire to kids. From the tower of balls to the rows of bicycles, adventure was around every corner. Now, Toys R Us is just a memory.
Here’s the message on the Toys R Us website today:
Thanks to each of you who shared your amazing journey to (and through) parenthood with us, and to every grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister who’s built a couch-cushion rocket ship, made up a hero adventure or invented something gooey. Promise us just this one thing: Don’t ever grow up. Play on!
Born in 1989, the battery-powered Energizer Bunny has been going strong ever since. In 1999, Advertising Age named one of the top 10 brand icons of the 20th century and “the ultimate symbol of longevity, perseverance and determination.” In 2008, a survey confirmed the Energizer Bunny was recognized by 98% of American consumers, and in 2017, he was inducted into the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame.
More than most mascots, the Energizer Bunny perfectly matches what he is with what he portrays. For generations now, “like the Energizer Bunny,” is the phrase used to describe people with speed, grit and tenacity.
Move Over Bacon
Sizzlean, a “healthy” bacon alternative, was introduced in 1978 with the questionable promise that it was leaner than bacon. Comprised of ground meat products pressed into a bacon shape, Sizzlean had consistent sales throughout the 1980s and 1990s before it was discontinued in 2005.
The most famous commercial for Sizzlean started with the announcer saying, “Move over, bacon, now there’s something leaner!” Despite the rest of the commercial being pretty standard for the 80s, “move over bacon” is a phrase that has entered the vernacular of many who grew up during that era. Our children likely wonder why we’re always calling them “bacon.”
Note: The Sizzlean trademark is now owned by Quality Brands, LLC, a company that acquires and licenses recognized brand names. Perhaps we’ll see Sizzlean again sometime in the future.
I’ve Fallen, And I Can’t Get Up
In the late 1980s, LifeCall launched a campaign for their safety pendants that allowed seniors to seek help with the push of a button. Using the phrase, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” a woman was able to get the life-saving help she needed.
The LifeCall campaign was never intended to be humorous, but the catchy line combined with bad acting resulted in fodder for comedians across the country. In the end, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” became a meme before memes were a thing, appearing on t-shirts, magnets, mugs and more.
Realizing their unexpected success, in 1992, LifeCall obtained a trademark for “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” That trademark is now owned by Life Alert. Though “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” is a phrase understood by Siri and Alexa, meaning voice search and voice-activated devices are giving Life Alert a run for its money.
Advertising campaigns that resonate with their audience have the ability to impact brand perception and sales for generations to come. Do you have additional commercials to add to this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share!
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