The AD(dictive) 90s

Long before Isaiah Mustafa preached his message “Smell like a man, Man” to the world, you probably remember a damsel awaiting the return of her man from sea, because unlike others, “some would rather just sail into life with the unmistakable sense of Old Spice.”

The 90s didn’t have Facebook to kickstart a social media campaign like Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice or a microsite for something like the Subservient Chicken. Commercials  couldn’t be monitored or shared though YouTube or other social networking channels.

What they did have, though, was some of the most memorable and brilliant advertising to be found in the print, television, outdoor and radio mediums. Yes, even radio, a form that’s well on its way to extinction today.

The MTV “baggage screening” promo is perhaps one of the most well-known to be associated with the brand. The 90s picked up on the emerging trend of MTV advertising that surfaced during the late 80s: something that prompted viewers to tune into the cable channel for an advertisement, rather than brands hoping to catch a viewer’s attention during a program on television. The Super Bowl commercials, for instance, sometimes attract more attention than the Super Bowl itself.

The 90’s gave faltering giants new hope and new stories to tell, propelling them into the megabrands that they are today. Nike’s “Just Do It” rescued the brand from its competition, Reebok, in the 80s and paved the way for huge celebrity endorsements by the likes of Andre Agassi, Bo Jackson and the eventual face of the brand, His Airness, Michael Jordan.

Apple ad: Think Different

Apple ad: Think Different

The Mac wasn’t so cool at the start of the 90s. But advertising, such as the world’s first infomercial style sitcom, The Martinetti’s Bring Home a Computer, and the inspirational “Think Different” campaign got the world talking and Microsoft sulking.

The decade also had its share of shock advertising. Controversial campaigns such United Colors of Benetton and a series of print and television advertisements from Calvin Klein created a big outcry among people, causing the ads to get banned or taken off the air. However, they’re still talked about to this date.

With all that was happening on television, the print industry remained on par with genius work by the likes of FCUK and Wonderbra. Moreover, advertisers weren’t afraid to flex their writing muscles with some of the most commendable long copy advertisements–something that seems to be lacking as of late, and probably even dying out.

Of course, advertising during that time did have to experience the beginning of the very debatable wrath of bans on alcohol and cigarette promotion, which only helped bring about a more creative approach (advertisement) to portray these brands. While free from bans, there were some rather interesting pieces of work from alcohol and cigarette brands.

Budweiser Frogs

All in all, it was a decade that produced advertising that was funny, interesting, memorable and most of which broke thought the clutter. (Who could ever forget the Bud frogs?) The ending of the 90’s shaped advertising as it is today, with breakthroughs in the internet medium.

And now, to leave you with a few of some rather interesting commercials from the 90’s that may just ring a bell.

Joshua Newnes I'm a copywriter from Mumbai, India. When I'm not writing advertisements, I'm scribbling down for my blog, a play or perhaps prospective short film or graphic novel (I'm a graphic novel freak!). Any form of art works for me. There's just something amazing about it. I can't live without movies and music. The latter is a part of me. The rest of the time, I'm just a regular fun-loving guy, looking to make sense of rather interesting world.

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2 Responses to “The AD(dictive) 90s”

  1. Tom Bardacky

    Awh man! I miss 90s commercials. The Coke vs Pepsi commercials. Creepy Crawlers. The 1800 collect commmericals were always entertaining. Sunny D. I can’t believe its not butter! With Fabio.

    ToyRus with their “I don’t want to grow up I’m a Toys R Us Kid…” That will be forever 90s culture.


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