"Hey Whitey, I Thought You Were A Lefty?"
One day last week, I dropped my cell phone and it exploded into three parts on the floor at a client's studio. Said client asked if the phone would work again, and after I pieced it back together and fired up the power and saw that it worked, I said: "Bounces back wash after wash."
This resulted in a short conversation about old commercials ... "Ancient Chinese secret" ... "You call it corn, we called it maize." Soon I was on YouTube, looking up some of my favorite commercials from the old days. I was delighted to find Right Guard's "Hi Guy" and Schmidt's "Big Jim's coming!"
At this point, I was going to go into rant mode on the state of modern TV commercials. Only Allstate's "Mayhem" campaign and Sonic's "Two Guys" goofballs at the drive-in are must-see TV for this guy. Too often I instead see the ever-present Flo for Progressive and Mike Rowe for almost everything else. Oh, and whatever idiotic "idea" Bud Light is running with these days. (And as you are probably aware, there is a new annoying pitchman on the scene: "Scott" the Scotsman who is saturating the airwaves trying to convince you that you need more for lawn care than a Lawn-Boy and a sprinkler. I'm so glad I don't own a house.) But hey ... I'm sure there was a lot of crappy commercials back in the old days, I've just forgotten them.
So here's one man's list of three vintage commercials he wished would hit YouTube:
1) Bob Uecker "Front Row" commercial for Miller Lite, circa 1984. How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy in the summer of '84 memorized it and repeated it over and over again. I can still recite most of it from memory:
Uecker (finding his seat at a baseball game): Hey sports fans, I love ya! The great thing about an ex-big-leaguer? Freebies to the game! Just call up the front office and BINGO. Another great thing? Lite beer from Miller. It has a third less calories than their regular beer, plus it tastes great.
Heckler: Down in front!
Uecker: Ha! I love 'em!
Usher: C'mon buddy, you're in the wrong seat.
Uecker: Must be in the front rowwwww!
(Cut to Uecker in noseblood seats in the outfield upper deck.)
Uecker: He missed the tag! He missed the tag!
How great was this commercial? Not only is "Uecker seats" now a euphemism for crappy seats at a game, the ad convinced me to drink Miller Lite for a few months before I moved onto Schmidt.
2) Jeff Altman for Valvoline, circa 1988. Altman is a hyperactive standup comedian. I knew him from his frequent appearances on David Letterman's show. One of his bits at the time was to describe his father, and in the crotchety manner he treated Altman as a child. This commercial featured Altman in both the role of father and child shopping for motor oil. The child speaking to Valvoline's quality and the father saying: "Quality, schmality. I just want whatever's cheapest." The ending is the child saying something like "there's a rebate", and the father responds with: "Would you just get the Valvoline like I told you? Or I'll sink you like a three-foot putt."
How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy (same guy from summer of '84!), briefly left our table at a bar to get closer to a TV when the commercial aired during the Saturday afternoon MLB game of the week.
3) Amoco "The Road Worrier" commercial, circa 1984. This was a takeoff on The Road Warrior movie. It features The Road Worrier, a grizzly Mel Gibson-like tough guy with a few day's growth who drives an Amoco tanker truck. He pulls up to a house, walks to the front door. A man answers the door, announces to his daughter that her date is here. Dad engages the driver in conversation:
Dad: "How's it going Road?"
(Editor's note: I love that the Dad feels he has a great vibe with his potential son-in-law and calls him "Road"!)
Road Worrier: "I'm worried."
Then Road expands on his anxiety, something about how subpar gasolines clog fuel lines, damage carburetors, etc. and that Amoco has the highest-quality gasoline. He and the girl prepare to drive away.
Dad: "So where you headed?"
Road: "North Dakota. There's an Amoco station there."
I first saw this while in school at the University of North Dakota. Imagine my great delight when while visiting my parents, who at the time lived in Illinois, and I saw this commercial and it still mentioned North Dakota. I had been worried that Amoco changed the name of the state for whatever market they were airing the commercial in. It wasn't Road Worrier-like worry, but I was concerned nonetheless.