5 Groundbreaking Classic TV Commercials From The ’80s

Monday, October 31 by C. Stamford

80s Commercials

The 1980s are known for many things like Madonna, Michael Jackson, MTV and Pac-Man, but this era is also known for 5 groundbreaking, classic TV commercials. These commercials are one we old folks in our late 20s to early 30s will remember.

The classic “Where’s the Beef?” campaign perpetrated on the public by fast food giant Wendy’s.

Where’s the Beef.jpg

Three old ladies in a restaurant open up a huge bun only to find an extremely small hamburger. After looking perplexed, one of the old ladies (Clara Peller) asks the now-catch phrase, “Where’s the Beef?” After a series of commercials, the campaign ended in 1985 after Peller appeared for Prego pasta sauce referencing the catch phrase.

The second commercial was run by Anheuser-Busch advertising Bud Light.

Spuds MacKenzie bud light ad.jpg

This series of commercials features a dog known in pop culture history as Spuds MacKenzie, which first aired during Super Bowl XXI in 1987. Spuds would usually experience and display the "good life" of food, relaxation, women and beer. Spuds became a franchise as tons of Spuds merchandise was sold on the market. The commercials aired into the late 80s.

We can’t talk about famous 80s commercials without mentioning the “Great Taste…Less Filling” series of advertisements run by Miller Lite.

Great Taste…Less Filling miller lite.jpg

This comedic series of commercials featured males engaged in debate while drinking Miller Lite. The men become hostile to each other as one side argued that Miller Light had “Great Taste” and the other side argued that the beer was “Less Filling.” The camps would come close to blows until being diffused by some comic relief, usually from Rodney Dangerfield. The series featured many of the top athletes and celebrities of the era. 

In the mid-1980s, the Coke company decided to experiment with a new brand entitled “New Coke,” which was sort of a Coke part 2.

New Coke ad.jpg

To advertise this new concoction, they recruited the venerable 1980s pop cultural icon, Max Headroom. To make a long story short, Max Headroom was simply a computerized head within a television that specialized in making sarcastic puns while stuttering. Coke ran several ads featuring Headroom, who continually praised the brand while usually bashing Coke’s main competitor, Pepsi. Suffice to say, New Coke failed; rather, it failed badly and was a marketing plus financial disaster for Coke.

McDonald’s ran a series of commercials that would imbed itself in the national consciousness of America.

Mac Tonight ad.jpg

The series was known as “Mac Tonight.” Mac Tonight was a McDonald’s mascot that was revealed to the world in 1986, distinguished by his large, crescent moon head, zuit suit, sunglasses, piano and saxophone. He sang the song “It’s Mac Tonight,” an alternate version of the Bobby Darin song “Mack the Knife.” The ads ran on TV for about a year, from '86 to '87. Since this campaign, Mac Tonight has been mostly retired, with sporadic appearances in various McDonalds’s chains and products.

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