Welcome to the tenth edition of Five Retro TV Commercials. Since I’m just now noticing that milestone, I can’t say that I have anything special planned. Just more old commercials.
Crest Toothpaste! (1980s)
As crazy as this one is, every kid-targeted toothpaste commercial was just as boisterous back then.
I guess they had to be. It was hard to get kids excited about toothpaste when they were being inundated with ads for video games and fruit snacks at the exact same time. You had to be over the top. You had to include hot pink yetis.
In any event, the commercial is a nice reminder of a time when I picked my toothpaste simply based on which one tasted the most like bubblegum. Nowadays I’m just like, “Which one of you fuckers is the most akin to corrosive bleach?” Getting old sucks, but at least I get to shout bizarre things in the dental care aisle.
Fruity Bubble Gum Hi-C! (1990s)
If not for Ecto Cooler, Fruity Bubble Gum might’ve been the most kid-friendly Hi-C flavor of all time. It was meant to taste like Bubble Yum, or at least a bootleg version of Bubble Yum. Yummy Bubble, perhaps.
The flavor was sooo easy to market, making this commercial’s failure to effectively do so all the more shocking. Here we learn that some random kid’s stomach is manned by a team of super tiny children who use leftover props from the old Captain Power TV series. A lot of work went into it, sure, but it all feels terribly off-brand for a flavor like Fruity Bubble Gum.
I mean, if there was ever a time for anthropomorphized strawberries, this was it.
As (very) longtime readers know, I managed to find a sealed can of this stuff, waaaay back in 2002. Even by that point, it was ten years past its expiration date. It’s since been emptied, but I still have the can, and it still smells vaguely of bubble gum that’s been left to putrefy like Roman garum.
Heinz Ketchup! (1980s)
I completely bit the hook on Heinz’s “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait” campaign, and honestly believed that the ketchup tasted better if you let it exit the bottle on its own time. I used to drive my family nuts with this, never shaking the bottle, and considering the “butter knife trick” anathema.
Maybe that was just my subconsciousness trying to join the cool club. After all, anyone who remained patient in a Heinz commercial was rewarded with fast cars and at least three new girlfriends.
PS: I love this commercial’s odd sense of time. It’s 1955 going on 1987. The It Follows of ketchup commercials.
PPS: OMG, THOSE FRIES. I distinctly remember watching this ad as a kid, and it’s all because of those big, thick steak fries. They’re the kind of fries normally only encountered at iffy diners or boardwalk pizzerias, and if you’ve never had them, OMG SO GOOD.
When cooked correctly, the outsides become a crunchy “shell,” while the innards turn into a hot, potato-flavored Slurpee. Then you can bite off the tops and literally slurp up the potato innards, as if each fry was a straw, a glass and a drink, all in one. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Pretend it’s just a gag.
Power Rangers Contest! (1990s)
Oh, man. Only a local affiliate’s in-house team could get away with breaking so many rules. From my own work experience, I can tell you that having children’s characters interact with their associated retail products is usually a no-no, but this one goes thirty steps further.
Dubbing over Zordon footage with a Zordon soundalike is bad enough, but making Zordon talk directly to kids about Power Rangers toys? I dunno if you can really do that, guys.
Still, this low-fi contest promo packs a lot of charm. Check out that shot of the old Titanus toy, which was apparently filmed on their office carpet. And then there are those random clips from Tiny Toon Adventures, which were almost definitely borrowed from a prior contest. So awesome.
Sega Pocket Arcade! (1990s)
Sega’s Pocket Arcade was a line of handheld games with flip-out screens, which made them safer to carry around and easier to sneak into places where video games weren’t welcomed.
To illustrate that second point, we see three boys avoiding conflict with the horrible dean of their horrible school by pocketing (Oh hooo!) the games before she can spot them. A billion other kiddy commercials used the same tired idea, but what separated this one was THE BOX.
See, Mean Old Dean warns the kids that she’ll confiscate any banned paraphernalia on sight, and gleefully toss it in THE BOX — a trunk full of sweet ass toys that other students had stupidly smuggled into school. I don’t remember anything about these Pocket Arcade games, but I’ll never forget that shot of THE BOX:
How f’n cool is that? An undead pirate’s treasure chest filled with with a thousand bucks’ worth of toys!
Back when this commercial aired with some regularity, I’d desperately wait for this shot of THE BOX, hoping to identify more than the skateboard and the Tiger Electronics-style handheld. (The latter being an obvious dig at a competitor whose handheld games weren’t so easily hidden.)
Now that I have the ability to pause, zoom and brighten, I see that it was a pretty pitiful selection, and that the best “toy” was actually THE BOX itself. My kingdom for an accursed trunk with Jawa eyes! Forget video game systems made to look like crude beepers — sell me that shit, Sega.
Thank you for reading about old commercials.