Happy 2019! One of my resolutions was to dig up as many old TV commercials as possible before my collection of home-recorded VHS tapes degrades any further. Expect a lot of these articles this year.
…granted, “these articles” were never strong performers for Dino Drac, so maybe you’re not as excited about that as I am. What can I say? Even after all of these years, rescuing TV spots from thirty-year-old recordings of Growing Pains is still my favorite hobby.
Below: The 29th edition of Five Retro TV Commercials.
Dr Pepper’s “Doctor Doctor” Song! (1987)
In what still ranks as my favorite Dr Pepper commercial, a dude busts into a parody of the Thompson Twins’ Doctor! Doctor!, all while dancing across a laboratory that looks like one of the guest suites from Cloud City. PERFECTION.
The song parody is so good that I initially wondered if the Thompson Twins recorded it themselves. That doesn’t seem to have been the case, but it’s still catchy enough to add to all of my playlists. (In any event, Dr Pepper must’ve paid a licensing fee, since the parody’s beats run so close to the original song.)
Also, five bucks if you can tell me who that actor is. I know I recognize him from somewhere, but it’s just not coming to me, and as much as I want to believe it’s the guy from Killer Klowns, that’s plain wishful thinking.
Honey Smacks w/ Mad Scientist Kits! (1987)
Skip to the last ten seconds and you’ll see one the best cereal premiums of the ‘80s. Like, not on the level of a Wacky Wall Walker or a Kellogg’s StarBot, but it was definitely in the Top 20.
So you remember those old Mad Scientist toys, yes? The ones that let you mess around with various slimes to construct and destroy hideous monsters? Those toys were too robust to scale down as cereal prizes, so Mattel did the next best thing: Recreated them in sticker form!
Each kit came with a fold-out Monster Lab, plus assorted body part stickers that let you create mutants of your own design. It was the exactly the sort of thing that’d get kids who were on the fence about Honey Smacks to take the plunge.
Hi-C Double Fruit Cooler! (1986)
I love Hi-C lore almost as much as I love Kool-Aid lore. Ecto Cooler sucks up most of the attention, but there are tons of discontinued Hi-C flavors that are worth mindlessly tweeting about at 2 in the morning. “Double Fruit Cooler” is certainly among them.
From what I can tell, Double Fruit Cooler debuted in 1985 and lasted until 1997. Throughout its long life, Hi-C seemed determined to never outright state what “Double Fruit” referred to… even if the apples and grapes pictured on the juice boxes made it kinda obvious.
Honestly, the shadowy marketing makes sense to me. I never would’ve chosen an apple/grape juice if that’s how it was pitched to me, but you call it “Double Fruit” and I’m all the fuck over it. If you’re not buying that, just think back to all of the cocktails you ordered on name alone.
McDonald’s 1st Monopoly Game! (1987)
Behold, the first commercial for the McDonald’s Monopoly game, which started its annual run in 1987. I cannot overstate how big of a deal that game was in its first few years, before everyone understood that finding the rarest pieces was akin to winning a state lottery. You’d get Park Place and be totally convinced that you were just a few fry containers away from Boardwalk.
Sure, it helped that I was still a kid at the time, not just willing to believe in the impossible, but to actively count on it. It was still fun to play after we all knew the score, but man, at the start, I used to treat those paper Monopoly boards like unsigned checks.
My friends did, too. We’d trade pieces like it actually mattered, when all we were really doing was rotating the same “commons” that would never get us anything. On the bright side, when you’re eight years old, even a free Coke is reason enough to flip out — and we got plenty of those.
Side note: If we’re to judge based on this one commercial, NOBODY uses more hand gestures than Rich Uncle Pennybags. This is a thirty-second spot, and I counted nineteen distinct gestures. One every 1.5 seconds! (Sorry, I had to share this with someone.)
Side note #2: Yes, I’m aware of the game-rigging scandal, which I’m only mentioning here to avoid having 20 strangers ask why I didn’t.
U.N. Peacekeepers vs. DEMONS! (1987)
I genuinely wonder if the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces really set out to create such an unbelievably spooky TV spot, or if they just kinda ended up there and had to roll with it. Jesus Christ, this is EXTRA.
So the idea is that these forces help keep enemy nations away from each other, right? Well, to illustrate that, we have a soldier marching down a dimly-lit corridor, stopping along the way to push back on all of the HAUNTED HANDS AND FACES protruding through elastic metal. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when this was pitched!
As you’d suspect, this commercial terrified me as a kid. It was like Jacob’s Ladder meets Aliens, but starring Guile. It’s way scarier than it needed to be, but I can’t say that it wasn’t effective. (Though, was this supposed to be a solicitation for new soldiers? Good luck getting anyone to sign up for that.)