Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Top Ten Favorite Commercials

Being a cordcutter for some time now, I wouldn't say I miss commercials interrupting my television programming, but I have become nostalgic for some of the ads themselves. And why not? I spent a lot of time with those ads over the years, and many of them were made by talented, creative people. Everyone has those handful of favorite commercials that they actually look forward to seeing. Please note that the ads below have not been included due to quality, but because they managed to stick in my memory and still be associated with positive feelings for years. And if that's not a good measure of effective advertising, I don't know what is.

C&H Sugar (1985) - One of the very earliest ads I can remember was the C&H Sugar ad where a little boy trades a big, shiny marble for a cookie from a bakery. I fixated on those marbles, not having access to any myself at that age, and wondered for years what the bakery did with them all. When I recently stumbled across the ad again, it was exactly like I remembered, right down to the sugary tagline.

Pillsbury Doughboy (1990) - The antics of chubby little Pillsbury mascot Pop 'n' Fresh kept many stop-motion animators employed for years, including Henry Selick, until the inevitable switch over to CGI animation in the 1990s. Frankly, the Doughboy never had quite the same charm after that. My favorite of his spots was one of the last stop-motion ones, where he has a snooze on his recliner, just like my Dad used to.

Cadbury Bunny (1994) - My fondness for this seasonal ad seems to come simply from dependability. They're still running this thing in the late winter and early spring months, like clockwork, decades after it initially premiered. While I initially thought the "try-out" gag was silly, the gently clucking bunny was always a very reassuring presence, and I was happy to see him come back around every year.

"Twins" (early '90s) - I'm not clear on which television station actually originated this, but one of my local syndicated stations regularly aired this sing-along promo for "Twins" and the one for "Born in East LA." in the early '90s. Something about the ridiculous lyrics and the Arnold impersonator hamming it up is just priceless. This is the kind of throwaway ephemera that you've just got to see to appreciate.

Got Milk? Trix (1995) - Everyone remembers the famous Aaron Burr "Got Milk?" ad directed by Michael Bay, but my favorite was always the variation on the familar "Trix" cereal commercial, where the Trix rabbit disguises himself as Harland Williams. Alas, the effectiveness of this ad was undermined somewhat by a Trix campaign a few years earlier where kids voted to let the rabbit have his Trix and eat them onscreen.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1996) - The juxtaposition of the gleeful dad and his scowling offspring always got me. Television tended to be a little overly nice to kids in those days, and seeing this ad being just a little bit mean to them was a lot of fun. Like many of the others on my list, this was also a seasonal ad that cam back every year, with variations. Even Alice Cooper joined in the fun at one point.

St. George (1996) - Not being from the UK, I saw this in a college lecture in the early 2000s. I don't remember what the class was, but I remember the ad and the product it was selling. Because I knew there was a pasty middle-aged British man who was willing to fight me if I didn't like it. Famously, most of the budget for St. George was spent of on the production of the ad, and it only aired on television ten times.

Wes Anderson for American Express (2004) - As a film geek, how could I not love this? Wes Anderson roundly mocks himself and his own filmmaking style, with rapid-fire humor and cameos by famous friends. And the Anderson parodies were suddenly everywhere after this, almost as though the director had given permission to the fans to come play in his own, peculiar universe.

I Love the World (2008) - Sing it with me now. Boom-de-yada, boom de-yada, boom de-yada, boom de-yada...

Jack Box (2013) - I hadn't realized how long the CEO Jack ads had been going, until suddenly the campaign ended in 2015. Jack was voiced by Richard Sittig, his creator, in every appearance since 1994. He provided a more knowing, tongue-in-cheek alternative to the other fast food mascots, which was very appealing. My favorite of his ads was this epic flashback to his hair metal rocker days in the 1980s.


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