By the time you watch the old commercials I upload, they’re just old commercials, no different from the millions of others on YouTube.
What you miss is the curation. Most of the ads I’ve put up were rescued from dusty VHS tapes, long ignored by their prior owners. Some of those tapes spent literal decades in strangers’ garages, edging so close to oblivion that it was a miracle they still played. (On that note, I’ve lost several VCRs to tape mold.)
Some of the ads were found at the ass-ends of otherwise fruitless six-hour tapes. Even with loaded tapes, I rarely know what’s going to be on them until I start scanning. It’s time-eating grunt work, but rescuing old TV commercials feels weirdly meaningful.
I know that this series of articles runs the risk of seeming like filler, but behind every commercial is a tiny adventure.
On that note: Off we go with Five Retro TV Commercials, Part 23!
Cherry Cola Slice! (1986)
Cherry Coke debuted in 1985 and immediately became a “fad food,” as popular for its hip newness as its taste. (Watch enough sitcoms reruns from the mid ‘80s, and you’re sure to spot cool teenagers ordering Cherry Cokes in diners and dives.)
Pepsi wanted to compete, naturally, but there wouldn’t be an official cherry Pepsi flavor until 1988. Instead, the sword fell to Slice — a soda brand owned by Pepsi yet otherwise distinct from it.
Cherry Cola Slice arrived in 1986, complete with an anti-Coke ad campaign. While I can’t remember trying it myself, that sure wasn’t on purpose. I loved Slice as a kid, and a cherry cola version that used real actual cherry juice was doubtlessly the best thing on the market. I want one so bad.
G.I. Joe Cobra Terror Drome! (1986)
Action figure playsets ruled my world, but I was only able to get new ones on special occasions. Since Santa clearly had a “one playset per year” rule even if he never articulated it, quite a few playsets fell through the cracks.
Of all the playsets I didn’t have, the Cobra Terror Drome stings most. Picture the Roman Colosseum mixed with Shredder’s Technodrome. I didn’t need hands-on experience to know that the Terror Drome was a game-changer.
It was basically a high-tech version of Jabba’s Palace, completely enclosed and virtually impenetrable. Making action figures defend their fortresses was my favorite childhood pastime, and it was just so obvious that the Terror Drome would’ve meant months of war-themed joy.
Dodge Daytona! (1987)
I normally skip car commercials, but this one is special. It was very obviously inspired by The Wraith, to the point where I initially mistook it for one of that film’s TV trailers. Everything from the colors to the lighting to the VO dude’s cadence was just so Wraithy.
The Wraith famously featured a Dodge Turbo Interceptor as Charlie Sheen’s supernatural car. This commercial tried to present the Dodge Daytona in a similar light, but it’s worth noting that another character from The Wraith actually drove a Dodge Daytona!
Bonus points: Car commercials often ran late at night, and this one added a nice creepy ambiance when you were up past your bedtime. Nothing made sleep more attractive than the fear of being awake.
Ninjor and Clamp Champ! (1987)
Ninjor and Clamp Champ were late additions to the Masters of the Universe collection, which by that point was losing steam. Clamp Champ was just kinda “there” for me, but I was all about Ninjor.
Ninjor totally didn’t “feel” like a Masters of the Universe character. At least in appearance, he was just a stereotypical ninja, who might’ve seemed more at home fighting Rambo or Chuck Norris. (In fact, I’m betting Mattel brought him in because so many other action figure lines featured similar ninjas.)
There were other “pure human” MOTU characters, of course, but rarely did one seem so much like an earthling. The simplicity actually worked in Ninjor’s favor, because there really weren’t any other MOTU figures quite like him. In a sea of freakish monsters, this guy popped!
Corn Pops w/ Leon Neon! (1986)
Back in 1986, specially marked boxes of Corn Pops came with teensy Leon Neon toys. I seem to be the literal only person who remembers Leon Neon, which was a line of glow-in-the-dark “wires” made by Mattel.
The idea was that you could twist the wires to form glasses, bracelets and other glow-in-the-dark accessories. I absolutely loved those toys as a kid. The wires had such a severe glow that they felt borderline radioactive. Like lightsticks that never lost their juice.
The cereal prize versions of Leon Neon were more of the “sample” variety, smaller and thinner than the sets sold in stores. Watch the commercial closely: That’s a pre-Wonder Years Fred Savage doing the demonstration!
Thanks for reading about more old commercials.