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TVparty is Classic TV on the internet!
TV Commercials of the 1970s
by Billy Ingram
with thanks to Justin Kaplovitz

TVparty! presents some of the greatest ad campaigns of all time. The 1970s was a most fertile time for clever ad jingles and unforgettable slogans. From "Flick My Bic" to "Bet 'cha can't eat just one," these are the classic commercials that excited American consumers thirty years ago.

WARNING: Many of these video clips were in terrible condition, so it is what it is.


Ultra Ban 5000
Ban Deodorant for men, which came in a vaguely phallic bottle, launched this aggressively phallic product design in 1971.

Retail price of a can of Ultra Ban 5000 in 1971 - about 69 cents. The laugh you got from seeing this barely disguised dildo in your friend's bathroom - priceless.



Miller Lite
"Everything you ever wanted in a beer. And less."

Launched in 1973, Miller Lite was the first of the so-called light beers. They quickly built a strong following by using humor in their ads with durable phrases like, "Tastes Great, Less Filling."

Miller has a grand tradition of stunningly funny advertisements. Early on, they began using celebrities in their commercials, people who resonated with the Joe Sixpack crowd, blue-collar stars like Rodney Dangerfield, Billy Martin, Bob Euker, Rosie Grier and other assorted sports and bar room heroes.

In this second ad, trick pool player Steve Miserak demonstrates his mastery of the table.

Surprise, confound, delight, and entice the viewer - that was the Miller Light strategy, the most successful product launch of the decade.


Orson Welles Paul Masson commercial 1970s outakes

Paul Masson

For more than a decade before his death in 1985, Orson Welles intoned, "We will sell no wine - before its time" with that authoritative, luxurious voice and the vino flew off the shelves.

Fortunately, no one noticed that Welles was half-crocked when he filmed the darn things.


Lowenbrau Beer
"Tonight is the night, the night is kind of special, tonight - let it be Lowenbrau."
These commercials positioned Lowenbrau as the quality, safe imported beer, the suitable brew for male bonding.


Bic Lighters
Cheap, disposable lighters were a totally new concept in the early-seventies. Bic dreamed up a campaign to sell people on the idea and the phrase "Flick my Bic" entered the American lexicon, becoming one of the most repeated slogans of the day.

Encouraged by the commercials, it wasn't long before "flick my Bic" became a sexually suggestive notion.


American Express Card
This campaign was so successful for American Express ("Don't leave home without it") they've employed variations on it ever since. In this very popular series in the 1970s famous people would stare into the camera and ask, "Do you know me?" - then extol the virtues of the card with their name on it.

Speaking of durable campaigns, Alka-Seltzer (which has been around for almost a century now) was still using their "Speedy" character on TV in the seventies, he made his TV debut in 1951 but wasn't utilized much after 1964 - until recently. This 1950s ad features comedy legend Buster Keaton.

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"K-Mart is your savings store, where your dollar buys you more."

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Dr. Pepper
"I drink Dr Pepper and I'm Proud. I'm Part of an Original Crowd..."

Dr. Pepper was the oldest of the major soft drinks but the last to go mainstream. Their breakthrough came with some of the most effective advertising campaigns imaginable.

In the sixties, Dr. Pepper was a fringe product, almost a cult beverage. They took advantage of that public ambiguity by marketing the drink in the seventies as, "so misunderstood" and, "the most original soft drink ever in the whole wide world."

Dr. Pepper really entered the mainstream after an advertising blitz in 1977 that asked Americans, "Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?"

David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) played the original Dr. Pepper kid; in subsequent commercials celebrities were clumsily inserted into the vibrant song and dance numbers for added endorsement. In the late-seventies, the torch was passed to a younger Dr. Pepper kid, who got around on Roller Skates (which was enjoying a resurgence at the time).

Dr. Pepper

"How can sugar free taste so sugar full, what a great taste this one's got - Sugar-free Dr. Pepper, tastes fattening but it's not."

Because Dr. Pepper had such a distinctive taste, selling people on a sugar-free version was fairly easy. Everyone knew what a Pepsi or Coke tasted like, and that their Diet knockoffs were no match for the original. Relatively few people had tasted Dr. Pepper in 1977, so Sugar Free Dr. Pepper was accepted on its own merits, resulting in a spectacularly successful product launch.

As with the other well received Dr. Pepper campaigns, musical numbers were employed to get a simple message across.

In this late-seventies spot, Coca-Cola saluted the great comedians of the past.

Coke was so ubiquitous by this time they didn't need to tout the product in every commercial, instead they demonstrated how Coke is an integral part of the very fabric of this nation, as American as apple pie and Jackie Gleason.


In a similar vein, McDonald's always unleashes a fresh bunch of holiday commercials each year, most are touching family portraits to solidify their wholesome, down home image. Here's one of the best from 1975.


"Our L'eggs fit your legs, they hug you, they hold you, they never let you go."
In this 30 second spot, Sue Ellen from Dallas is stung by an insult from her daughter, prompting her to seek out a better fitting panty hose.


Lays Potato Chips
"Bet 'cha can't eat just one" was a slogan that got decades of use for Fritoy Lay. The sad sack pitchman in these commercials was Jack Gilford, a familiar supporting player on hundreds of TV shows in the sixties and seventies.


Kraft Macaroni
and Cheese

"Please, make some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese," another masterful jingle that led to kids singing along and mom's buying the product. Kraft was taking a lesson from McDonalds - if you have a chorus of kids singing your jingle on TV, a chorus of kids at home will join them.

Secret Deodorant
"Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman."

In this spot, the husband is shocked - shocked - that his wife insists on taking her own deodorant on a trip.

Secret did such a great job of marketing their product to women that most men would do without deodorant rather than use Secret for fear of some kind of hormonal transfer that might take place, like they would grow boobs or something.

Irish Spring
Deodorant Soap

"It's manly - but I like it too!" That catch phrase served as the hook for Irish Spring deodorant soap from the late-seventies through the eighties.

First Colgate-Palmolive had to establish the product as "manly" - they did that with spots like this one that showed two buff guys wrestling around, stripping off their shirts to display masculine, hairy chests.

Colgate-Palmolive did so well with this product launch, they decided to broaden the soap's appeal by luring women with the "I like it, too" angle.

Smitty Perfume
"When you're feeling so free, everybody can see, Smitty did it!" - sort of like saying, "The Devil made me do it."

This was Coty's fragrance for the disco scene. Why is this girl running around like a kitten in heat? "Smitty did it!"

Snack Cakes

Growing up in the seventies, I lived just down the block from my grandmother. Every few days she would walk down the sidewalk to our home with a basket in her arms, covered by a calico cloth. Under that cloth were cakes, pies, biscuits and other assorted goodies she had just baked for us. She was the old-fashioned, matriarch personified. That was the beauty of growing up in the seventies, life still offered those long gone opportunities.

Contrast that with this commercial for Hostess in the seventies, where the Mom cheerfully tells us that, "Sometimes a Mom has to say no" (attention modern parents!). That's why she only serves wholesome Hostess snacks for her family. After all, like the lady says, "Freshness never tasted so good." Which you could take two ways...


TV Guide
This venerable publication made major circulation gains in the 1970s not with a jingle or a slogan but with an odd repetitious tone that made you sit up and take notice. These spots ran weekly for more than five years.

Advertisers often use unusual sound cues like this one so that you will associate those tones with the product, triggering a subconscious response that forces you to think about that product.

Activision Games
On television today, you'll find the most sophisticated ad techniques on display in the latest video game commercials. Often, they'll blend a live action sequence with their not-so-live action game graphics to give you the impression that the game is more sophisticated than it really is.

Here's an early example for Activision which started making games for the Atari Game System in 1978. Twenty-five years ago, in the era of Pac-man, this Skiing game was as good as home video gaming got. (Look for a pre-SNL Phil Hartman in this spot.)

Popular Activision games today include Spider-Man and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

Classic Commercials on DVD

Car Battery Charger
"Richness worth a second cup." A wife and husband are seen leaving a party when a blond saunters up and asks if they'd stay for another cup of coffee. The wife politely declines, explaining that her husband never has a second cup. Surprise! Suddenly he wants a second cup!

And the wife's reaction? "Jim never has seconds of my coffee..." That blond knows what the housewife doesn't. It isn't the coffee that keeps your husband at home, it's the grind.


One of the most frequent classic TV questions I get is - "What was that commercial that talked about an 'Ancient Chinese Secret?'" It was an ad for Calgon laundry detergent in the early-1970s, here it is from You Tube:

Kind of reminds one of "Ring Around the Collar!"


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