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The 50 Best Commercials: Hard-sell Hall of Fame

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BEST RUN-ON SLOGAN: A tie! McDonald’s ”Two-all-beef-patties- special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun” (1975), and NyQuil’s ”The nighttime-sniffling-sneezing-coughing- aching-stuffy-head-fever-so-you-can-rest-medicine” (1983).

MOST OVERRATED COMMERCIAL: Sure, it was groundbreaking and had gold-standard production values, but Apple’s Clio-winning ”1984” spot takes itself a little too seriously. It’s just a freakin’ ad, for Pete’s sake! (1984).

BEST SEXIST AD THAT UNSUCCESSFULLY TRIED TO CO-OPT FEMINISM: Revlon’s 1980 spot for Enjoli, which made many women very un-hap-py with its celebration of a working woman (”I can bring home the bacon,” she coos) who, nonetheless, lives to please her man with a frying pan. In 1982, to keep up with the changing times (hell-O!), Enjoli was obliged to add a line to its ridiculously infectious jingle: ”But once in a while you’ve got to give me a hand.”

BEST AD THAT SUCCESSFULLY CO-OPTED FEMINISM: Nike’s ”If you let me play” spot, featuring young, sports-loving girls who just want a chance to break a sweat (1995).

CELEBRITY WINNERS: 1. Magnavox’s wryly skeptical John Cleese (1991); 2. Orson Welles, looking like he’d done some extensive research to praise Paul Masson wine (late ’70s); 3. Karl Malden’s authoritative (if nosy) spots for American Express (1973); 4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, making lotsa nice and easy money flouncing her tresses for Nice ‘n Easy hair color (1993); 5. Yul Brynner’s creepily effective anti-smoking ads (released four months after he died of lung cancer in 1985).

CELEBRITY LOSERS: 1. Jonathan Pryce’s pretentious ramblings for Infiniti (1993); 2. Candice Bergen’s (left) phoned-in appearances for Sprint (1990); 3. Eleanor Roosevelt’s (no lie) stodgy stumping for Good Luck margarine (1959); 4. Nancy Walker’s abrasive Bounty waitress (1970); 5. John Houseman’s fatuous ”They earn it” spots for Smith Barney (1979).

CELEBRITIES WHO PROBABLY WISH THEY’D PASSED ON THE ENDORSEMENT: Martha Raye for Polident (1986); June Allyson for Depend adult diapers (mid-’80s); George Kennedy for BreathAsure (1996).

STRONGEST CHEESE: They were neither PC nor subtle, but they got the job done: Nair’s ”Who Wears Short Shorts?” campaign (1975); Wind Song’s ”I Can’t Seem to Forget You” theme; ”Nothing Beats a Great Pair of L’eggs,” with Juliet Prowse; Calgon’s ”Take Me Away.”

BEST UNINTENDED CATCHPHRASE: ”I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” for LifeCall’s medical-alert device (late ’80s).

WORST USE OF A POP SONG: ”Y.M.C.A.,” employed by Old El Paso (s-a-l-s-a; it’s not even the right number of letters!) and Pepsi (P-e-p-s-i; can’t ad people count?) (both 1996).

BEST EXAMPLE OF AD LIFE IMITATING ART: Vicks Formula 44’s ”I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV” (1984).

FICKLEST TASTE BUDS Ray Charles, who in 1969 endorsed Coke, then duplicated his performance for cola rival Diet Pepsi some 20 years later.

MOST IMAGINATIVE SELLING POINT: “Rich Corinthian leather,” Ricardo Montalban’s smarmily seductive description of a Chrysler interior—even the car company doesn’t know where this stuff comes from! (1975); and “coffee-er coffee,” which Savarin’s El Exigente—”the demanding one” (played, oddly enough, by Carlos Montalban, Ricardo’s brother)—was forever in search of (1960s).

MOST SELF-CONSCIOUS ATTEMPT TO BE POSTMODERN: Dick, Miller Lite’s fictional advertising genius (1997).

WORST POP-CULTURE RIP-OFF: Clairol’s nod to When Harry Met Sally…. A woman has a very public orgasm while using Herbal Essences shampoo. Yuck (1995).

DIRECTORS WHO SHOULD MAKE ART-HOUSE MOVIES AND SPARE US THEIR MISE-EN-SCENE: The auteurs behind all those overwrought black-and-white Calvin Klein spots (mid-’90s).

LAMEST ATTEMPT TO CAPITALIZE ON A MUSICAL TREND: The rappin’ Pillsbury Doughboy (1990).

SLOGAN THAT MUST HAVE TAKEN 10 MINUTES TO THINK UP: Dodge Neon’s “Hi” (1994).

MOST BLATANT ILLITERACY: Artic [sic] Ice beer (1994).

AND WE’D LIKE TO MEET: That one out of five dentists who didn’t recommend sugarless gum (1966). We’d also like to know what that 56/100 percent of Ivory soap that isn’t pure is made of…