Monday, July 04, 2005


The site In the '80s has an intriguing section devoted to "Favorite Commercials From Television and Radio in the Eighties", where readers share their memories of the commercials they saw and heard in that already-distant decade. Because all the contributions (indexed alphabetically by product) are from different readers, some are more informative than others, but they're a great trip into the golden age of cheesy commercials, a time when even commercials produced by big agencies looked pleasantly low-tech and low-budget, and when wacky jingles and memorable advertising characters ruled our commercial breaks.

One '80s commercial they left out of this site was one for, I think, Sinutab. As I recall, it featured two motorcycle cops standing by their bikes, and one of the cops looks very unhappy. "What's the matter?" his partner inquires. "OH!" the other cop moans, stroking his head and looking in the mirror on his bike. "I've got a terrible headache! There's pain around my eyes, and my nose is stuffed up!" His partner recommends Sinutab, and we dissolve to an "after" shot of the two cops happily working, headache free.

I always kind of liked commercials like this, silly as they were, because, again, they were so low-tech: it's just a couple of scenes of two guys, shot and edited as cheaply and unobtrusively as any '80s prime-time TV drama. Pretty soon commercials would get bigger, faster, louder, with more editing tricks but fewer opportunities to connect with the characters in them. Me, I still say "There's pain around my eyes and my nose is stuffed up!" every time I have a sinus headache.

Another '80s commercial that is not on that site, probably because it's only been shown in Ontario, is the Marineland commercial. Somebody came up with a jingle that Marineland -- the aquatic equivalent of The Simpsons' "Discount Lion Safari" -- has been using in all its commercials ever since, making it probably one of the longest-lived commercial jingles of all time. It's gone through several versions, but it usually goes more or less like this:

Everyone loves a holiday,
Watching the whales while they swim and play,
They jump in the air
Splashing waves in your hair,
Everyone loves Marineland!

In Niagara Falls, Ontario,
It's always a fun place to go,
Seeing friends you miss,
A great big kiss,

The "great big kiss" line was accompanied by a shot of a whale kissing a little girl. I don't think they use that line, or that shot, anymore since a beluga whale nearly bit a girl's hand off at Marineland a few years back, but they're still using the jingle, and they will probably continue using it until Armageddon.

Oh, and the agency that created perhaps the most memorable cheesy commercial of the '80s, the Hefty Cinch Sak campaign, has a brief audio excerpt on its website. Though you really need to see the commercial (I couldn't find a video, alas) to get the full effect. Suffice it to say that there is no limit, none, to the applications of that commercial. In doing a Google search for references to this commercial, I found this post from an argument about Marxism:

Most of the arguments I've heard against democratic centralism, appear to be of an individualistic, undisciplined, middle class (notice how I didn't say petit-bourgeoisie) nature. The whole thing can best be summed up by major trash bag manufacturers TV commercial during the 80's: Democratic Centralism-HEFTY, HEFTY, HEFTY! Anti-democratic centralism-wimpy, wimpy, wimpy"

Now that's a universally applicable commercial.

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