Let’s forget our troubles with grainy videos of cheesy ‘80s commercials. Here’s the latest edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, featuring everything from robots to Skeletor to space aliens. (Times were good!)
He-Man & Quik Sweepstakes! (1980s)
Back in ’84, Nestle teamed up with Mattel for a Masters of the Universe sweepstakes, where a lucky few kids would win the entire set of He-Man toys. Contests like this were TORTURE!
This wasn’t the only time that a complete set of He-Man toys was used as promotional bait. Every time it happened, I’d lose a week to daydreams about a roomful of playsets and action figures. I’d imagine a parade of mailmen carting the presumed 50+ shipping boxes into our house and up the stairs. It was glorious.
Kids are optimistic to the point of detriment, and I never entered a contest without being 100% sure that I was gonna win. Naturally, I never did. The fantasies would then turn to nightmares, and the plastic Eternians that had so recently been my muses became mocking gods.
Bright side: If I played my cards right, I could parlay that visible misery into a trip to Toys “R” Us. Sometimes, it was easier for Mom to spend five bucks than deal with me. God, I wish I could still get rewards for crying.
Hi-C Candy Apple Cooler! (1980s)
For as much as I rant and rave about Ecto Cooler, Hi-C used to give all of its weirder flavors the royal treatment.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Hi-C continually rolled out peculiar flavors that went far beyond the confines of simple fruits. They almost always gave these flavors their own television commercials and comic book print ads. Junk food has celebrity status in a kid’s universe, and by the time we saw the newest Hi-C flavor in stores, we weren’t sure whether to drink it or take pictures.
Candy Apple Cooler was a great example of that phenomenon. The flavor would’ve been bizarrely fetching on its own, but the fact that we correlated it with big budget TV commercials and a silly jingle made the drink a must-buy. It was an event.
PS: Yes, that’s a young Alyssa Milano playing one of the background singers!
Nintendo Entertainment System! (1980s)
This early Nintendo commercial focused on R.O.B., the “Robotic Operating Buddy” that helped establish the NES as something far more complex than our old Ataris.
I never had R.O.B. as a kid, but my best friend did. We could never get the robot to work as advertised, and besides, putting that much effort into goddamned Gyromite hardly seemed worth it. My friend’s frustration led him to chuck R.O.B. across his bedroom more times than was really reasonable, because that’s happens when you’re eight and .005% of your life sucks.
I saw more value in R.O.B. as a straight-up action figure, anyway. He would’ve been the supercomputer/oracle that my He-Men and G.I. Joes talked to in times of need. And then on a gloomy Sunday morning, maybe I’d cut up one of my t-shirts and give R.O.B. a cape. Ahhh, fake memories.
McDonald’s McDLT! (1980s)
I hate that I grew up in the era of the McDLT, yet never tried one. In my defense, you didn’t get any Happy Meal toys with that burger, and what is life without a skateboarding Garfield figurine?
If I can believe Wikipedia, the McDLT still exists as today’s Big N’ Tasty, though I can’t imagine that it’s the same without the awesome compartmentalized container. That was the whole draw!
The McDLT was purportedly discontinued to reduce environmental waste, which is believable enough since its container technically could’ve fit twice as much food. Course, it was only environmental waste if you threw the containers away. Personally, I would’ve kept them as futuristic star cars for my action figures. “Look out, Shredder — it’s Usagi Yojimbo in his McMillennium Falcon!”
NBC Television Promo! (1980s)
I’m a huge fan of the original V miniseries, which spawned a second miniseries before becoming a regular weekly series. If you’ve never seen V, it’s about alien lizards in human costumes who want to literally eat mankind. (Yes, it’s great.)
My love affair with V didn’t begin until I was in my twenties. As a kid, the very idea of V terrified me, and it was all thanks to promos like this. They’d pop up out of nowhere, and NBC had zero misgivings about showing you the nastiest shots during even their most kid-friendly blocks.
At the time, I was convinced that V was the scariest thing in the world. It was pretty scary at points, but V was hardly the hourlong flesh feast that I imagined as a child. Even seeing the logo — a simple, spray-painted “V” that I spent years mistaking for blood — was enough to make me sleep with the lights on.
I miss being able to be so affected by so little!