7 Most Memorable TV Commercials of the 60s, 70s, and 80s That Defined an Era

TV commercials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s have left a lasting impact on pop culture.

These ads were more than just sales pitches; they became part of everyday conversations and even shaped certain cultural moments.

Some taglines and jingles from these eras are still recognizable today. You’ll see how these commercials influenced not just buying decisions but also the way people communicated and connected with each other.

You’re about to go on a trip down memory lane as we look at some of the most iconic commercials from these decades.

These ads did more than just sell products; they entertained and became part of our collective memories.

Whether you were growing up during these times or just love classic ads, you’ll appreciate the creativity and cultural impact of these memorable commercials.

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

Back in 1971, Coca-Cola launched a commercial that would become one of the most iconic ads ever.

You might have heard of the catchy jingle, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

It all started when Bill Backer, a creative director, was stuck in a London fog.

He turned his frustration into a brilliant idea.

Along with songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, he crafted the memorable tune.

The ad features people from various cultures standing on a hilltop, singing together.

It was a simple plea for peace and unity, symbolized by sharing a Coke.

The message was clear: Coca-Cola brings people together.

The “Hilltop” commercial became an instant hit.

It resonated deeply with viewers, making them feel a part of something bigger.

The song was so popular that it even became a hit single.

When you think of memorable TV commercials, this Coca-Cola ad undoubtedly stands out.

It has stood the test of time and remains a beloved piece of advertising history.

2) Apple’s ‘1984’

Apple’s “1984” commercial is one of the most famous TV ads ever made.

It aired during the Super Bowl on January 22, 1984.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the ad introduced the Apple Macintosh computer to the world.

The ad takes inspiration from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the commercial, you see a woman running through a gray, oppressive setting, carrying a hammer.

She throws the hammer at a large screen displaying a Big Brother-like figure, shattering it.

The message was clear: Apple was different.

They positioned the Macintosh as a tool for breaking free from conformity and control.

The ad suggested that using a Macintosh would make you unique and innovative.

Even if you don’t remember the ad itself, you’ve probably felt its impact.

It changed how companies approached marketing during big events like the Super Bowl.

This commercial showed that ads could be dramatic and memorable.

“1984” set a high bar for future ads.

It became a cultural touchstone and is still talked about today as a game-changer in advertising.

3) Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’

Cadbury’s “Gorilla” ad from 2007 became an instant classic.

It’s hard to forget the sight of a gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” The ad opens with a close-up of the gorilla, gradually zooming out as it gets ready to play.

This ad was created by Fallon London for Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

It’s unique because it focuses on pure entertainment.

Instead of directly showing chocolate, it gives you a fun and memorable experience.

People loved the ad for its creativity and humor.

It became one of YouTube’s early viral hits.

Even today, it’s remembered as one of the best TV commercials.

This commercial showed that ads don’t always need to be straightforward to be effective.

4) Marlboro Man Commercials

You probably remember the iconic Marlboro Man.

These commercials aired from the 1950s to the 1990s.

They mainly featured rugged cowboys riding horses through beautiful, wide-open spaces.

The Marlboro Man was all about toughness and independence.

This image made smoking Marlboro seem like a symbol of freedom and adventure.

In these ads, you’d often see a lone cowboy lighting up a cigarette in a stunning landscape.

The background music always set a dramatic tone, emphasizing the cowboy’s rugged lifestyle.

While many people loved these ads, they were clearly aimed at men.

For years, the Marlboro Man remained one of the most memorable figures in advertising history.

Sometimes, the commercials even sponsored popular TV shows like “Rawhide” and “Mission Impossible.” This helped them reach an even bigger audience.

5) Toys ‘R’ Us’ ‘I Don’t Want to Grow Up’

If you were a kid during the 80s and 90s, you definitely remember the Toys ‘R’ Us jingle.

That catchy song, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” could get stuck in your head for days.

It wasn’t just a song; it was a feeling.

The jingle was all about staying young and enjoying the massive selection of toys at Toys ‘R’ Us.

You could almost feel the excitement of exploring the aisles filled with everything from action figures to video games.

The commercials often featured child stars like Jenny Lewis and Jaleel White.

Seeing these familiar faces added to the magic and made kids feel like they were part of a big, fun club.

Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t just a store; it felt more like a playground where imagination ran wild.

Every time you watched the commercial, it reminded you of the joy and endless fun that awaited.

The hip-hop style of the jingle made it super cool and relatable.

It turned shopping for toys into an adventure, making every visit to Toys ‘R’ Us something to look forward to.

6) Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef?’

Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” commercial first aired in 1984.

This ad became a huge hit and is remembered by many.

The commercial featured three elderly ladies examining a burger.

One lady, played by Clara Peller, asks, “Where’s the beef?” as they were surprised by the small size of the meat patty.

This catchphrase quickly turned into a cultural phenomenon.

People began using it in everyday conversations to call out anything lacking substance.

The phrase even made its way into politics.

It became so popular that it helped boost Wendy’s sales significantly during that time.

The commercial’s success can be attributed to its humor and simplicity.

The straightforward message resonated with viewers.

Clara Peller’s performance and the catchy slogan made it memorable.

Even decades later, “Where’s the Beef?” is recalled fondly as one of the most iconic ads in TV history.

7) Nike’s ‘Just Do It’

Nike’s famous “Just Do It” campaign kicked off in a big way in 1988.

The very first ad showed Walt Stack, an 80-year-old running legend, jogging across the Golden Gate Bridge.

This simple yet powerful message inspired many people to push their limits.

This campaign wasn’t just about selling shoes; it was about motivation and drive.

Nike featured iconic athletes like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Andre Agassi in various ads.

They showed these athletes using their talents in unexpected ways, like playing different sports.

The “Just Do It” slogan became a symbol of perseverance and ambition.

It resonated with a wide audience and became one of the most recognizable taglines in advertising history.

This slogan encouraged people to achieve their personal best, no matter the obstacles.

Nike’s collaboration with the ad agency Wieden+Kennedy helped create these memorable commercials.

They used eye-catching visuals and powerful storytelling to connect with viewers.

This partnership continues to produce some of the most impactful ads in the industry.

The “Just Do It” campaign’s success is a testament to its universal appeal and the strength of its message.

It’s not just a slogan; it’s a call to action.

Impact of Television Advertising

Television advertising has had a massive impact on both our culture and the economy.

It shaped trends, introduced memorable characters, and drove consumer spending in ways that are still felt today.

Cultural Influence

TV ads in the 60s, 70s, and 80s have had a huge role in shaping culture.

Think of the jingles that got stuck in your head or the slogans everyone repeated.

For example, McDonald’s “You deserve a break today” started in the 70s and became a part of everyday language.

Ads didn’t just sell products; they sold lifestyles and dreams.

Coca-Cola’s “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercial, which aired in the 70s, promoted harmony and togetherness.

The cultural impact is clear: these ads became part of the social fabric and influenced how people saw themselves and their world.

Economic Impact

TV ads also had a significant economic impact.

They boosted sales for companies and were a critical part of marketing strategies.

The 60s saw the beginning of TV commercial advertising, but it really took off in the 70s.

Companies noticed that TV could reach millions of people at once, leading to a dramatic increase in advertising spending.

For instance, the investment in TV advertising has continually grown, with record spends noted as recently as Q1 2024 in the UK.

This rise in ad spending reflects the importance of television in driving consumer purchases and supporting business growth.

Moreover, major events like the Rugby World Cup often lead to even higher ad investments, further underlining TV’s economic significance.

Behind the Scenes: Making of Iconic Commercials

Creating iconic TV commercials involves two main aspects: the creative process, where ideas come to life, and technological advances, enabling those ideas to be visually impactful.

Creative Process

The magic in memorable TV commercials often starts with brainstorming sessions.

Creative teams gather, tossing around ideas until a concept sparks.

For instance, the famous “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” Alka-Seltzer ad came from a simple idea: make the product’s use fun and memorable.

Writers craft engaging scripts featuring catchy slogans or jingles.

These slogans become the heart of the commercial.

Think of Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” campaign.

Simple, catchy lines make ads stick in viewers’ minds.

Visual design also plays a huge role.

Storyboard artists sketch out scenes, envisioning how each frame will look.

Directors then bring these frames to life, selecting the right camera angles and lighting.

Technological Advances

Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, making a commercial was quite different from today.

Early commercials were shot on film, requiring meticulous editing by hand.

This often involved physically cutting and splicing film strips.

Advances like chroma key (green screen) allowed for more creative backgrounds without changing locations.

Think of the psychedelic effects in 70s commercials.

Computer graphics also started making an appearance in the 80s, paving the way for more sophisticated visuals.

Sound editing evolved too.

Enhanced audio technology meant jingles could be recorded with better sound quality, making them clearer and more appealing.

This was crucial for memorable jingles like Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

The Evolution of Advertising Strategies

In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, advertising transformed significantly.

The shift from print to television introduced new ways to capture audience interest, and changes in consumer behavior influenced how ads were created and presented.

Shift from Print to TV

In the 1960s, ads were mainly found in newspapers and magazines.

Businesses relied on catchy headlines and bold images to attract readers. Radio also played a key role, but it wasn’t as visually engaging as print.

With the rise of television in the late 60s and 70s, advertisers saw an opportunity.

TV allowed for dynamic visual storytelling and sound.

Ads could show products in action, which led to more engaging campaigns.

TV became a primary medium for advertising by the 80s.

Commercials used jingles, slogans, and memorable characters to create lasting impressions.

The visual and auditory elements made TV ads more effective than static print or radio spots.

Changes in Consumer Behavior

In the 70s, advertisers began focusing more on the consumer.

There was a shift from promoting just the product to creating a connection with the audience.

Ads became more emotion-driven.

Companies used relatable scenarios and narratives to make products seem like part of everyday life.

This approach made consumers feel understood and valued.

By the 80s, this consumer-centric strategy continued to evolve.

Technology improved, making ads visually richer and more sophisticated.

Data gathering started to play a role, helping brands tailor their messages better.

Advertisers aimed to tap into consumers’ desires and cultural trends, making their products not just necessities, but parts of a lifestyle.

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