As a general rule, I don’t care much for TV commercials, except as an excuse to grab a snack or run to the bathroom.
However, I love commercials about food and restaurants. I’ve learned a lot about life, people and American culture by watching some old commercials.
Some of my favorites included jingles that I still can sing along with today, like Coca Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” Pepsi’s “Generation” jingle was OK, but what I really liked was their Mountain Dew commercial — “Yahoo, Mountain Dew!” It tickled my innards.
Hardee’s had a commercial featuring a Yosemite Sam look-alike called Gilbert Giddyup who sang, “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charcoal-broiled.” To this day, I can’t visit a Hardee’s without hearing that jingle from the depths of my memories banks.
Do you remember Florida’s push to sell more oranges? It only made sense to me that a day without orange juice was a lot like a day without sunshine. It didn’t occur to me I was being programmed to buy a product produced in the Sunshine State. I was less naive when it came to commercials about beer and cigarettes, although I liked Budweiser’s bullfrog commercials. Mostly because I like bullfrogs.
Oscar Mayer produced a couple great commercials in my younger days. I feel somewhat remiss in not mentioning their bologna commercial that featured a curly-haired kid spelling out everything.
“My bologna has a first name; it’s O-S-C-A-R. My bologna has a second name; it’s M-A-Y-E-R. I love to eat it every day, and if you ask me why, I’ll say, ’Cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.”
An even-better Oscar Mayer commercial depicted a bunch of cartoon kids marching along as they sang: “I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I’d truly like to be. ’Cause if I was an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.”
My favorite part of that commercial was the nonconformist kid who led his own one-kid parade while singing, “I’d hate to be an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is something I’d never want to be. ’Cause if I was an Oscar Mayer wiener, there would truly be nothing left of me.”
I think I liked these commercials because I was a curly-haired, bologna-loving kid, and from age 12, I struggled not to conform to this world.
Not all food items on ads are selling food products but remedies for those of us who tend to overindulge. Alka-Seltzer delivered a couple of winners.
One featured an overeater sitting at a table with a platter of spaghetti with meatballs. “Mama mia, that’s a spicy meatball” is what he was supposed to say in what you quickly realize is a shooting for a TV commercial. Sometimes, he’d say it right but without the Italian accent. Sometimes, he’d forget his lines entirely. It was clear with each take that he was getting full and in need of relief via Alka-Seltzer.
Another Alka-Seltzer commercial featured a similar overeater, saying repeatedly, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” I’ve said that more often than I’d like to admit.
Who remembers Bill Cosby’s Jell-O Pudding commercials? I loved those. And Oreos! God bless them. One of theirs I still sing depicts a little boy walking through a park, singing “Little girls have pretty curls, but I like Oreos.”
The message was clear that Oreos were better than girls. I actually believed that — until I got a little older.