Yesterday, I was lamenting where had all the great television commercials gone and that got me to thinking – could I, just randomly off the top of my head, reel off my favorite ten commercials of all time?
That’s a lot of selective memory retention at work there. Having been in the business for more than 30 years and having been a fan of TV commercials since I was in grade school, I am quite sure that the list I’m about to provide is overlooking some huge favorites.
If I wanted, I could probably break the list into several different categories. Favorite local commercials of all time. Favorite beer ads, soda ads, car ads, phone ads, candy, cereal – on and on it could go. And maybe it will.
But right now, I gave myself ten minutes to write down ten commercials that I can remember – whether they were made last year or 38 years ago. That’s a pretty long time span and I must admit, this list skews a lot more toward present day.
I can already think of many, many good commercials that I have left off the list. But lists are for debating, right?
So here are mine. Enjoy!
10. Coca-Cola “Mean Joe Greene” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xffOCZYX6F8 – Have a Coke and a smile. This commercial totally delivered on that line.
9. ESPN Sportscenter “Albert the Machine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY_N2ewiCsQ – I could easily do an entire post on ESPN SportsCenter commercials. The writing on these has been tremendous year after year. I chose the one where Albert Pujols is revealed to be a machine. I also chose it because I think “the Machine” is beginning to show some wear and tear this year.
8. Alka-Seltzer – “Spicy Meatball” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErgdUhZteqw – Mama mia, that’s a spicy meat-a-balla. Cut. Take four. Take eight. It was a commercial that made fun of commercials and was totally focused on delivering the product benefit. Too bad people 40 and under have probably never seen it.
7. Snickers – “Betty White” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXL8QPWLbBo – Snickers is another brand that has done some wonderful, memorable commercials. Who can forget seeing Betty White tackled into a puddle of mud? You’re not you when you’re hungry. What a great thought, brilliantly delivered.
6. Old Spice – “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE – Great casting, great writing and a continual onslaught of messing with you, shifting from one scene to another – all for a brand that was all but dead several years ago and has been completely brought back to life thanks to brilliant advertising.
5. Skittles – “Taste the Rainbow – Everything turns to Skittles” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxItH0I6xmQ – Again, the Skittles ads have been absolutely brilliant. So twisted. So strange. Here we see a man who is tormented by the fact that everything he touches turns to Skittles. Why? Who cares – it’s a candy.
4. Honda – “Mousetrap” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOJIE4S5uaY – In this 60-second commercial a Rube Goldberg type contraption entirely made up of Honda parts takes you on a journey that is tremendously fascinating to watch, all done in one take and ending up with the actual vehicle. I loved watching it over and over and was glad it was available online.
3. Apple – “1984” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8 – Yes, this commercial has to be on the list. It stunned everyone back in 1984 when it ran on the Super Bowl and generated even more buzz because it never ran again (at least on TV). It was the perfect messaging for Apple and the line of, “see why 1984 won’t be like 1984” was perfect.
2. Federal Express – “Fast Talking Man” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeK5ZjtpO-M – FedEx has consistently produced some of the best commercials of all time but this one for me is a personal favorite, featuring the fastest talking man in the world, John Moschitta delivering about 3 minutes worth of copy in a 60-second commercial. The writing in it was so brilliant that I printed out the script and memorized it and used to see if I could deliver it as fast as John. It was the ultimate tongue twister and full of such inane talk that most of it flew over everyone’s heads including when he addressed Jim, Bill, Bob, Carl, Fred, Don, Dick, Dork, Tatham and Ted. (Please forgive me if I got the order wrong as I’m going on memory here!)
1. Alka-Seltzer – “Prison Riot” http://www.experiencefestival.com/wp/videos/alka-seltzer-prison-protest/sq_DUHObE6M – Anyone that knows me well knows that this was the landmark commercial that made me decide that I wanted to get into this business. It opens on a bunch of prisoners being marched into their dining quarters. They sit down and commence eating. One man is not happy. He picks up his tin cup and slams it on the table. Then does it again. The other prisoners join in and begin chanting, “Alka-Seltzer! Alka-Seltzer!” Next they cut to a wide shot of the entire prison dining room and they’re all going nuts, all ready to riot, all slamming their cups and screaming, “Alka-Seltzer! Alka Seltzer! Alka-Seltzer!” The name Alka-Seltzer is supered over the rioting lunchroom. No need to say anything else.
That’s my Top Ten. How about you?