11 Popular TV Commercials from the 1970s You’ll Totally Remember

The 1970s were a golden era for TV commercials, with memorable ads that left a lasting impact on popular culture.

These commercials didn’t just sell products; they told stories, introduced catchy jingles, and featured unforgettable characters.

Whether you were watching cartoons on Saturday morning or tuning into your favorite prime-time show, you were likely to see ads that still stick in your memory today.

Why do these commercials stand out even decades later? The answer lies in their creativity, their ability to tap into the cultural vibe of the time, and their knack for creating catchphrases that people would repeat long after the TV was turned off.

From iconic soda commercials to unforgettable taglines, these ads are a nostalgic journey back to a simpler time when television ruled entertainment.

1) Coca-Cola’s ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’

In 1971, Coca-Cola aired one of the most famous commercials ever.

You might remember the catchy jingle, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” It became a hit almost immediately after it was released in the U.S.

The ad featured a group of young people from around the world standing on a hilltop.

They sang about unity and peace, hoping to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Bill Backer, a creative director at McCann Erickson, came up with the idea.

He was inspired during a flight delay in London.

The concept was to bring people together with a simple bottle of Coke.

The ad was so popular that it generated over 100,000 letters to Coca-Cola.

Radio stations got flooded with requests to play the song.

It even led to a full-length song called “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” which became a hit on its own.

Even today, this commercial is often cited as one of the best in advertising history.

It wasn’t just about selling a product; it was about promoting global unity and peace.

2) Alka-Seltzer’s ‘I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing’

In 1972, Alka-Seltzer released a legendary commercial that became an instant hit.

The ad featured Ralph, a man who overeats and then groans, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” His wife, annoyed by his grumbling, advises him to take Alka-Seltzer for relief.

This commercial was a pioneer in creating memorable catchphrases.

The phrase “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” quickly became part of everyday language.

It was clever, relatable, and funny, making it stick in viewers’ minds.

The advertisement’s success contributed to Alka-Seltzer’s lasting popularity.

It’s still talked about today and often rebroadcast during holidays.

For many, it brings a sense of nostalgia and a reminder of the golden era of TV commercials.

3) Toni Twins’ ‘Which Twin Has the Toni?’

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Toni Twins were featured in ads for the Toni home perm kit with the catchy tagline, “Which twin has the Toni?”

One twin had her hair permed professionally, while the other used the Toni kit.

Viewers were invited to guess which twin’s hair was done at home.

The ads highlighted that you could achieve salon-quality results at a fraction of the price.

The professional perm cost about $15, while a Toni kit was only $2.

These commercials became memorable because they played on the curiosity of audiences.

The twins’ identical looks made it hard to tell who used Toni and who went to the salon.

The “Which Twin Has the Toni?” slogan stuck with viewers.

It showed that affordable home beauty products could deliver impressive results.

This campaign successfully used twins to demonstrate the quality and value of their product, making it a standout advertisement from that era.

4) Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef?’

You might remember Wendy’s famous “Where’s the Beef?” commercial from 1984.

It featured a little old lady named Clara Peller looking at a huge bun with a tiny patty, asking the memorable question, “Where’s the Beef?” This catchy phrase quickly became a pop culture sensation.

Back in the ’80s, burgers were a big deal.

Wendy’s wanted to highlight how they had more beef in their burgers compared to competitors.

The commercial was simple, funny, and got the message across really well.

People started using “Where’s the Beef?” in everyday conversations.

It even found its way into politics.

The ad was so successful that Wendy’s saw a huge boost in sales and brand recognition.

5) Life Cereal’s ‘Mikey Likes It’

Life Cereal’s “Mikey Likes It” ad is one of the most famous commercials from the 1970s.

It debuted in 1971 and quickly became a hit.

The commercial features three brothers, with the youngest being Mikey, played by John Gilchrist.

In the ad, the older brothers try to convince Mikey to eat Life Cereal.

Mikey is a picky eater, but when he tries it, he likes it.

This surprises his brothers, and one exclaims, “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”

The charm of the ad lies in its simplicity and relatability.

It became an iconic part of American pop culture, and the phrase “Mikey likes it” is still sometimes used today.

The commercial was so popular that it stayed on the air for over a decade.

It’s an excellent example of how a catchy slogan and a relatable scenario can make an ad memorable.

6) Oscar Mayer’s ‘My Bologna Has a First Name’

If you watched TV in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably remember the catchy Oscar Mayer jingle, “My Bologna Has a First Name.”

The commercial featured a young boy, Andy, spelling out “O-S-C-A-R” with great enthusiasm.

Launched in 1974, it quickly became unforgettable.

This jingle was quirky and fun, making it stick in your head.

It combined a simple tune with easy-to-remember lyrics.

Kids and adults alike couldn’t help but sing along.

The ad showcased Oscar Mayer’s bologna, a popular sandwich meat.

By personalizing it, the brand gave a fun twist to a simple product.

It also made the brand feel friendly and approachable.

The 1970s had a lot of memorable ads, and this one stands out.

Commercials like this define the era, blending catchy music with clever marketing.

If you say, “My bologna has a first name,” don’t be surprised if someone replies, “It’s O-S-C-A-R.”

The charm and simplicity of this ad make it one of the most iconic commercials from the 70s.

7) Keep America Beautiful’s ‘Crying Indian’

Keep America Beautiful’s “Crying Indian” PSA is one of the most memorable commercials from the 1970s.

In this ad, Iron Eyes Cody, an actor in Native American attire, paddles a canoe down a river filled with trash.

As he steps onto the shore, you see pollution all around.

A tear rolls down his cheek, showing his sorrow for the environment.

This image stuck in people’s minds and played a big role in raising awareness about pollution and littering.

The ad aired for the first time on Earth Day in 1971.

It was created by the Ad Council and Stay America Beautiful organization.

At the time, pollution was a growing concern, and this ad came at the right moment to push for cleaner surroundings.

Iron Eyes Cody, who appeared in many Hollywood movies, became known for this iconic role.

His tear became a symbol of the fight against pollution.

Even though he was actually Italian-American, many viewers identified him as a real Native American.

The “Crying Indian” ad is often listed among the greatest commercials of all time.

It connected emotionally with audiences by mixing powerful imagery with a simple message: Take care of the earth.

8) Palmolive’s “You’re Soaking in It”

In the 1970s, Palmolive brought us the unforgettable slogan, “You’re soaking in it.”

These commercials featured actress Jan Miner as “Madge the Manicurist.” Madge would show her customers how Palmolive dish soap could soften hands while doing dishes.

The ads became a hit because they combined humor with a clever twist.

Viewers loved the idea that a product used for tough dishwashing could also be gentle on hands.

The catchphrase “You’re soaking in it” became iconic.

People still remember it today, showcasing the ad’s lasting impact.

Every time you washed dishes, you could hear Madge’s reassuring voice.

These commercials were part of many households in the ’70s.

It’s a perfect example of effective advertising from that era.

9) Marlboro’s ‘Marlboro Man’

You can’t talk about 70s commercials without mentioning the Marlboro Man.

This rugged cowboy became a huge icon during that time.

He was first introduced in the 1950s but really hit his stride in the 60s and 70s.

The Marlboro Man was always shown in picturesque landscapes, usually with a horse, giving off a tough, rugged vibe.

It made you think of freedom and the Wild West.

The images were powerful.

You could almost smell the fresh air and feel the cowboy spirit.

The whole idea was to tell you that smoking Marlboro could give you a piece of that life.

The Marlboro Man wasn’t just one guy.

Different models took on the role over the years, like Darrell Winfield, who was one of the most iconic.

His face became almost as famous as the brand itself.

These commercials were everywhere.

Whether it was on TV or in magazines, you couldn’t escape the allure of the Marlboro Man during the 70s.

10) Charmin’s “Mr. Whipple”, “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin”

In the world of 1970s TV commercials, Mr. Whipple became a household name.

Played by actor Dick Wilson, Mr. Whipple scolded customers for squeezing Charmin toilet paper.

He would always catch people in the act but often squeezed the Charmin himself when no one was looking.

This character first appeared in 1964 and continued to charm audiences until 1985.

The catchphrase, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” was created by ad executive John Chervokas.

It quickly became a favorite among viewers and created a lasting impact on advertising.

Mr. Whipple’s commercials were a big deal.

They aired frequently, keeping Charmin in everyone’s mind.

The blend of humor and a relatable authority figure made the ads memorable.

You might remember the playful tone and how it made you smile.

In these ads, the supermarket setting was familiar and comforting. Mr. Whipple’s constant pleas and eventual sneaky squeezes made the audience laugh, keeping the brand lovable.

This made Charmin a go-to name for toilet paper.

11) Trix’s “Trix are for Kids”

Trix cereal hit the market in 1955, but the 1970s commercials made it iconic.

You might remember the slogan, “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!”

In these ads, the Trix rabbit, always bright and animated, tried to trick children into giving him cereal.

The kids always saw through his disguises and reminded him that Trix was just for them.

These commercials ran frequently on TV, and they left a lasting impression on many viewers.

The playful tone and catchy tagline became a hallmark of the brand.

Even today, people still associate Trix with childhood and those memorable TV spots.

The Cultural Impact of 1970s TV Commercials

TV commercials in the 1970s were not just about selling products.

They mirrored cultural values and trends, shaping future advertising in many significant ways.

How TV Ads Reflected Society

During the 1970s, TV commercials were a snapshot of the era’s social and cultural atmosphere.

Ads often showcased the growing emphasis on individuality and personal freedom.

For instance, Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial promoted unity and peace, reflecting the decade’s social movements.

Another example is the Hovis bread commercial, “Boy on a Bike,” directed by Ridley Scott.

This ad evoked nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time, and resonated with viewers during a period of rapid change.

The focus on everyday life and relatable scenarios helped people connect with the products being advertised.

Influence on Modern Advertising

The 1970s laid the groundwork for creative and engaging advertising strategies that are still used today.

Ads from this era popularized the use of catchy jingles and memorable taglines.

The Norelco electric razor ads, for example, used humor and a strong narrative to leave a lasting impression on viewers.

Modern ads continue to draw inspiration from the storytelling techniques and emotional appeals used in 1970s commercials.

The approach of tying products to emotional experiences or cultural values is a lasting legacy.

This era taught advertisers the power of connecting with consumers on a deeper level, focusing on shared human experiences.

Visual and Musical Styles Unique to the 1970s

TV commercials in the 1970s had distinctive visual and musical elements that made them memorable.

They often featured colorful imagery and catchy jingles that stuck in viewers’ minds.

Colorful Imagery and Fashion

Commercials from the 1970s were known for their bright and vivid colors.

The use of bold, eye-catching visuals was a strategy to grab your attention.

Advertisements like Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” showcased cheerful scenes with people from different cultures.

Fashion from the era often played a significant role in these ads.

The 1970s were marked by unique styles such as bell-bottoms, vibrant patterns, and leisure suits.

These fashion elements helped make the commercials visually distinct and reflective of the times.

One popular ad, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” used striking special effects combined with nature imagery to leave a lasting impact.

Overall, the combination of lively colors and trendy fashion made these commercials a true reflection of the 1970s.

Jingles and Catchy Tunes

The 1970s was a decade where jingles became a powerful advertising tool.

Many TV commercials used catchy tunes that you could easily sing along to.

For instance, the jingle from the Coca-Cola commercial, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” became iconic.

It featured a group of people singing in harmony, which made the message more engaging and memorable.

Another example is the “Ancient Chinese Secret” commercial for Calgon, which had a catchy tune that played in the background.

These jingles often had simple, repetitive melodies that made it easy for you to remember the product.

Even fast food chains like McDonald’s used jingles in their commercials. “You Deserve a Break Today” is one such jingle that became widely recognized.

The use of catchy music helped ensure that the advertisements stayed with you long after they aired.

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