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Featured Article

Rad Retro Ads

By: vkimo



We can't help it, advertising has a huge influence on our growing up. Especially as vulnerable kids. Companies would spend millions bombarding us with promises of excitement, tempting us with delicious morsels and all around conditioning us to beg our parents for their crap. How many of you were watching GI Joes contently without a care in the world until you saw a commercial for the Nerf Bow XP900 and couldn't figure out how on earth you coped with living for the last 7 years without it? In this article I pillaged the interwebs and selected magazine print ads that really capture consumerism in the good 'ol days. Together we'll go through them and discuss the ads themselves. I'll also be adding my biting commentary to dissect and diagnose the underlying social issues that plagued yesteryear...sheesh calm down, I was only kidding. So enough yappin'... lettuce begin...



The PowerGlove was out of my budget. I taped my regular NES controller to one of my mom's dish washing gloves with mixed results.

So much potential, so much promise...wasted. No, I'm not quoting my dad, I'm talking about the Power Glove. It singularly captured the hopes and dreams of kids around the country. This ad signifies that with its simplicity. Just a picture of the product and bold type. The ad tells you just enough about the Power Glove to leave you acquainted but needing to know more. Kind of like passing a beautiful girl down the street.


My brother had an Audi with a sub woofer that took up the whole trunk, he was on a first name basis with the police.

Audi was big in the 80s. The first car manufacturer to successfully implement all wheel drive made them hugely popular. I think this ad is very well done. Reading the features on the car alone you'd think it was produced today, even though this is 20+ years old. My 2009 Cobalt doesn't have half the features this 80s Audi does!


Gerber, saving the general population from public breastfeeding since 1944.


Times are different. This ad prominently shows its age with the once ubiquitous Mail In Offer. Due to technology, using snail mail is an increasingly obsolete method to communicate. Also notice the Caucasian baby. Marketing today has become very clever in using babies with mixed nationalities to reach out to a broader demographic. I really want to print out that mail order form and send it in, just to see what happens!


I'm REALLY curious as to what book the girl on the left is reading.

This ad seems remarkably conservative by today's standards. I'm sure though at the time of publishing this was sensational. But now, I see middle aged women at the YMCA swimming pool with more risqué bathing suits. Alcohol advertising has always been cutting edge though and even today some of the most memorable ad campaigns were by BUD...WEI...SER..


This is what happens when accounting gets a shot at marketing.

This ad is boring. The only thing noticeable for me is that this is an early Jolly Rancher. But why on earth do we need to know the cost/flavor retention ratio? I'm a 6 year old with grass stains on my knees and snot running down my nose. Do I look like I'm concerned with the economical advantages of this sweetened candy product?!


5.00 per hour? That's like 35 dollars to stream Gone with the Wind, RIPOFF!

I actually found this ad very prophetic. Widespread internet use wasn't seen until the mid 90s and this ad seems to predate that almost a decade. Technology advances at such a rate that what seems possible today is laughed at a year from now. The statements in this ad though are pretty relevant even today, I wish I could say that for the decor. You'd have to hand out Raybans to guests on poker night!


Cute huh? That's actually my mom back in 86 turning to lewd modeling to pay for my braces. Perv.

They say that sex sells. That may hold true to an extent but I feel that even with clever marketing, women wouldn't feel brazen enough to sport pants with arrows emanating from their glutes. This ad is for jeans and looks to appeal to men as a ploy to buy the product for their wives or girlfriends in hopes of getting the same result as in the picture. Good luck!


I could have sworn I saw these for 2 dollars at the thrift store today.

Fashion is an endless circle. What's in becomes out becomes hot becomes cold etcetera, etcetera. This ad really showcases that for us. At the time these shades were haute couture but now they resemble my grandma's prescription driving glasses. I'm sure though there's a hipster out there who's sporting a pair though.


My mom made me wear the light up models to prevent me getting ran over. Til I was 15.


This ad really captures the 80s California vibe. Everyone wanted to live in "The Valley." Karate Kid, The Lost Boys and several other movies popularized the sunny beach town vibe and LA Gear appeals to that longing. If you were down at the soda fountain and wanted to be hip, you better be sporting these shoes. But don't conform too much, as the famous Huey Lewis stated, "It's hip to be square!"


My cousin Sherry gained 12lbs after she started using these.


This product seems like a gimmick. However similar items can still be found today. This seems to be aimed at adolescent girls and the bright funky colors really make the product stick out. We can see that in 87, grandma glasses were still en vogue. Rizzo, go eat your heart out.


The pyramid of awesomeness or Triangle of isolation, works either way.


Now this ad has a lot going on. It really makes you want to get close and dissect everything being featured. Tons of exciting looking game titles and out of this world accessories really bring out the material blood lust. No kid wanted to be the only one not playing the latest Mario game or missing out on Zapper gun enabled titles. Atari? That's so 1983, get with it!


Salmon Pink is the adopted son of the 80s.

Time keeps on slipping into the future. There's a handful of items that are instantly identifiable with the 80s and the Swatch Watch is one of them. They were released in tides. Tons of colors, styles and sizes were available. So basically anyone could find a Swatch Watch to suit their personal style. As seen in the ad wearing multiple watches was encouraged. They even had special edition designer models so preppy brats could one up their less affluent friends.


In my day I had to walk 8 miles to school, and scan for 20 seconds to get to the next song.

A symphony in your pocket. I remember that's how my teacher in high school described his first Walkman. If there's one thing that's becoming clear that back then color options were a must. We can see how today most cellphones and electronics only come out in 2 colors. Here though we have a large variety. This ad is showcasing one of the more streamlined Sony models. I hope you kept yours as these are quite valuable now days!


I'll have it my way and go to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries.

Sometimes simple is good. This ad is pretty straight forward. Burger King is letting their burger speak for itself. Fact is though that fast food companies employ food artists to prepare dishes for photo shoots. This burger is likely not edible. If I opened my box and the burger looked like that I'd probably wouldn't eat it and take it back and have the manager sit on it so it resembles what I'm used to.


I'd like to thank you for reading and leave the comment section open to some of your favorite ads growing up. Also, I included a video of a HBO special called, Buy Me That TOO! It's a great special geared towards kids talking about the deceptive ploys companies use to lure you into wanting their stuff. It's a great special and retro in its own right.



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IRISHJENN Posted on Oct 07, 2015 at 09:28 PM

OK

kronohs Posted on Aug 21, 2015 at 07:09 PM

I love retro ads.

shakin steak Posted on Jun 19, 2014 at 09:53 PM

How did I miss this article before. I love it. Thanks vkimo.

MissM Posted on Feb 18, 2014 at 07:47 AM

I loved Buy Me That Too! I had tried for the life of me to remember what that show was called a few weeks ago. I thought it was just mind blowing. Nice choice of ads too! Really fun.

echidna64 Posted on Feb 10, 2014 at 09:12 PM

There needs to be a 10X modifier to all retro ratings. You amaze me vkimo, all of your articles, even the older ones are all of superb quality!

vkimo Posted on Feb 08, 2014 at 12:44 PM

They should have used the LEGO approach with flags which was a piece of stiff cloth with a hole at either end of the top on bottom. Simply slide the mast down the holes and done! Placing stickers or decals on toys is an article unto itself!

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 08, 2014 at 05:32 AM

You know it!!! And while we're talking about it, another thing that caught my eye was the Castle Greyskull flag. That flag was constructed by simply wrapping the sticker around the pole, and the two sides would adhere to each other. You only got ONE shot to get it right, or your flag would be messed up forever. I didn't get it right.

vkimo Posted on Feb 08, 2014 at 02:30 AM

Haha excellent call. Only a certified retrodazer would have caught that one.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 08, 2014 at 01:22 AM

I noticed in that ad, that Zodac is hanging out in Snake Mountain with the baddies. They apparently were dividing them up based on the titles given them by Mattel, and not by the roles they played on the cartoon.

vkimo Posted on Feb 08, 2014 at 12:38 AM

I forgot to mention it, but the MOTU ad at the top was pretty shameless in exploiting a mother's love for her child. "While he's still a child"?!

pikachulover Posted on Feb 07, 2014 at 07:39 PM

I remember Kissing Koolers. They weren't that great for a lip product. I remember I saw some for sale in a catalogue and begged my mom to buy me one.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 07, 2014 at 07:30 PM

Exactly! That was the epitome of those types of ads! :D I forgot about that one.

vkimo Posted on Feb 07, 2014 at 06:39 PM

And who can forget Fabio gracing the cover of Iron Sword.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 07, 2014 at 04:24 PM

Sweet! I love all these old ads. It's strange how obvious it is to us, when we see some of these, what time period these are from.

EVERYTHING... from the colors and content, to the clipart and design, are almost painfully 80s. And I love it. It surprises me that marketing companies have not caught up with manufacturers, the film industry, and the gaming industry, in bringing back what worked in the 80s and 90s. One would think that having the attention of our demographic through our desire to feel nostalgia would be a great thing for marketing. Maybe that's why I'm not a marketer though. :D

I always liked the gaming ads of the 80s and early 90s. They tended to try and add some form of realism to the game via the casting and photographing of somebody wearing similar clothes to the main character of the game doing some exaggerated pose.

For example: http://www.digital-polyphony.com/TMNTArcadegame.jpg

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