The weeks before and after the Super Bowl are halcyon days for marketers.
Instead of annoying the American TV audience, these commercials spark visceral reactions—viewers love
the Doritos spot and hate
the GoDaddy.com ad. A Chrysler commercial divides the nation politically (like that’s
some great feat), and an H&M spot provokes a homophobic tweet that will probably cost a pundit his job.
Perhaps the only ads to inspire equally intense reactions are the ones from our childhood. Ever find an old VHS cassette of a sports milestone or movie of the week? The commercials are usually the best part.
In the spirit of nostalgia, we compiled 10 commercials from our childhood—the ’80s and ’90s. We’ve undoubtedly left some off that you remember fondly (or not so fondly); let us know about them in the comments section.
1. G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier (1985)
The introduction of this 6-foot-long aircraft carrier taught me the meaning of the word covet. My older brother and I wrote lengthy pleas to Santa, insisting we’d been good and begging him to schlep it in his sleigh on Christmas.
It seems we weren’t good enough that year. Santa brought us something else, and I was forced to play with the magnificent aircraft carrier at the house of a friend whose parents actually did
love him. Here’s the ad that started it all:
2. My Little Pony (1986)
Something terrible happened last month when The New York Times
’ correction about My Little Pony made the rounds—I got the damn My Little Pony jingle in my head. Watch the ad, and start humming along with me. Resistance is futile, my friends:
3. Pizza Party board game (1986)
Speaking of maddening jingles, I still wake up some mornings with this tune in my head. Never had the game; didn’t know anyone who did. But mention the word pizza, and I’ll start whispering the words to this tune:
4. Micro Machines (late ‘80s)
The advertising and public relations around this line of tiny vehicles—basically miniature Matchbox Cars—is both record-breaking and legendary. Spokesman John Moschitta Jr.
is credited in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s fastest talker, clocking in at 586 words per minute.
In 1993, Micro Machines unveiled a line of “Star Wars” vehicles, and one blog dedicated to the movie franchise and mini-vehicles—yes, there is a blog for everything—published a breathless story on … wait for it … the first known press release
announcing the toy line.
“This press release,” writes the SEO-friendly Star Wars Micro Machines
, “is more than an obscure bit of ‘Star Wars’ ephemera. It is a historical document, a snapshot from a time not that long ago, but far, far different from today.”
It may not compare to the press release, but nevertheless, here’s the Micro Machine spot:
5. Teen Time Skipper (1988)
My wife’s conservative parents didn’t want her playing with that floozy Barbie and her smug beau Ken. She could, however, play with Barbie’s little sister, Skipper—the wholesome choice.
6. Mall Madness (1992)
The ad begins, “Got your credit card?” How many of you are still digging yourself out of debt because of this game?
7. TurboGrafx 16 (1989)
The late ’80s were a heady time for video game consoles. After the reign of Atari and Intellivision, Nintendo emerged, sparking a host of competitors that flooded the U.S. market. The most viable was Sega and its Genesis game system (great ad for it here
, by the way). But gamers at the time will recall that they had a choice to make: stick with Nintendo, switch to Sega, or try the upstart TurboGrafx 16. Bet right, and you’re on the ground floor of something big—bragging rights akin to owning the first Apple computer. Place your money on the loser, and you’re left with an obsolete game system, commiserating with the folks who bet on Beta tapes and laser discs.
If you went with TurboGrafx 16, rest assured that someday there will be a hipster revival for this game system. Then, you’ll have the last (ironic) laugh. Someday.
8. Domino Rally (1996)
Finally, a game to take the frustration out of lining up your dominoes manually. Of course, there’s no way this game actually worked.
9. Lite Brite (1980s)
If this ad aired today, it would spark a social media firestorm, with people tweeting about its inherent racism, launching Facebook pages to boycott Hasbro, and signing petitions to get it pulled.
As for the actual toy, I couldn’t do sh*t with my Lite Brite—blame it on my total lack of artistic talent. See that amazing “Happy Birthday” sign they create in this ad? I tried that and failed miserably. I ended up giving the Lite Brite pieces to my neighbor and watching him load the things into his BB gun and shoot G.I. action figures. Ah, boys.
10. Cabbage Patch Kids (1985)
Before Tickle Me Elmo and Zhu Zhu Pets, there were Cabbage Patch Kids. Parents stayed up late fretting about how they could score one for their kids, creating a pre-eBay black market for the dolls that bore their creator’s name (Xavier Roberts) autographed on the butt. (Kind of weird.)
To fuel the frenzy, there was a sing-along album
, Cabbage Patch babies, and a Christmas special
I was one of the lucky ones. My Cabbage Patch Kid was named Dallas, and for about six months we did everything together. If I’d just kept Dallas in the original packaging, he could have funded my retirement (or at least paid for a fancy dinner). Let’s be clear about this, OK? It wasn’t a doll; it was a … umm … well, you see …