First off, thanks to the reader who donated a full recording of what we're about to see tonight. I mentioned how bafflingly hard it is to find tapes of the Super Bowl despite it being the biggest sports event of the year. Generally the earlier you look, the harder it becomes. That's why this find is so startling: it's a complete Super Bowl that traveled from the year 1985. GREAT SCOTT!
Contrary to what you're used to, this is going to be a VERY different experience. Advertisers didn't begin creating ads specifically for the Super Bowl until 1984, when Apple's ad of the same name got instant buzz and shot sales of their new Macintosh computer to the moon. Because of this, you could say 1985 was the very first attempt at the Super Bowl ad festival we know today. And what was the big lesson corporations took away from 1984?
COMPUTERS! Boy, will you EVER see computers. I am not
exaggerating when I say there is at least one computer ad
in every break. It just doesn't end. You will see boxy
80's machine after boxy 80's machine way more than you
will see a single beer bottle.
After Apple cleaned up with their ad, every other company wanted to duplicate their success. This was especially critical because it was around the time in human history when all sorts of businesses, including smaller ones, were purchasing their first computers for the office. The future was here, and the buyers were watching. Computers....get used to 'em.
Another thing you're going to have to get used to is how....normal so many of these ads are. For the most part there are no sight gags, no cartoon antics, no adorable animals, no crotch shots and no bikini babes. Like I said, this was the beginning, and the formula for a Super Bowl ad was still forming in the womb. It would take a few years, but the Super Bowl would not see the likes of Andrea Giles, Sinus Sufferer again.
The McDonalds ad in this break is the closest it comes. They apparently had some BIG furries in their ad department. Having uploaded this, I expect to see a few dozen drawings on Chad Rocco's Deviantart next week of the fox-women, both sporting GIGANTIC butts.
|Not much to say about this Michelin ad
-- it's like every other Michelin ad in the entire world.
But this Sharp catastrophe -- wow! It's too beautiful for words. You will weep.
Between this break and the next, none other than the President himself (Reagan) appeared to give a live speech (via satellite) to the crowd in attendance. "May no one suffer any injuries, may the best team win, and may no one have regrets." He missed a huge opportunity to end it with "Win one for the Gipper."
|The Budweiser Clydesdales go ALL the
way back, don't they? Bud has gotten sidetracked with
other critters over the years, but it looks like their
horses were a part from the beginning.
If you didn't know the Nissan corporation was once called "Datsun," now you do. It's a Japanese company, so don't ask me why one Japanese word was better than another.
|Man, if I had a dollar for every ad
ever made in which somebody gets dumped in favor of a
sandwich. Why does this keep happening?
But this one is new to me: his girlfriend is a mermaid. Where does he expect to find another one of those? Ad people are the dumbest in the world.
The end of this break contains the first of many promos for ABC's 1985 Super Bowl Bump choice: a new cop show called MacGruder and Loud, about two police officers who are secretly married (because their precinct forbids this). There's about ten minutes of MacGruder and Loud on this recording before it ends. Shows like this live or die on the chemistry of their leads. From the tiny bit I saw, the female (Loud) was able to pull it off. MacGruder was not.
|If you've never seen this kind of ad
before, this was not the first time Bud Light used the
"I'll have a light" joke, nor was it the last.
My theory is that they wanted to discourage people from
asking for a "light" because odds were good
they would get a Miller Lite, which had the word in giant
letters on the can. Can't have that!
Speaking of Miller Lite, they only had one entry and it was excellent. But more on that later.
AND speaking of repeat performers, it's time for Master Lock to get its one annual Super Bowl ad in. If you knew someone who liked to break the locks off boxes with a shotgun, this would be the product to deter them with.
|The amount of money companies would spend on a Super Bowl ad would only ramp up. This was one of the earliest examples -- these special effects had to be expensive for 1985. Hyatt Hotels was outbeat in post-Bowl chatter by someone else, though, even though by modern standards the Hyatt ad (with its practical effects) has aged better.|
|Nothing to say about this first one.
It's nearly identical to every Advil ad that would run
for the next ten years. Strangely Advil would pop back up in 2016's ad crop. Next!
This car ad doesn't offer much in the way of interest either. Moving on!
Third in the lineup is Radio Shack, which joins the computer party by promoting its new Tandies. You're probably expecting me to bash this one like I've bashed every appearance of the Trash-80 every time it appears. Sorry, but I have no way of knowing if the computers shown here were any good (they could run MS-DOS, so that's a plus). I actually owned a Trash-80 and I have reasons to fire shots every time Radio Shack shows me one.
|This ad break is even worse than the last one. A bland ad about a copier (starring "Felix" from The Odd Couple) leads things off, and this cheese thing is just embarrassing. There's a reason ads from 1985 never end up in "Best Super Bowl Commercials Ever" compilations.|
|This is another Tandy ad, and this is another car ad. I might as well use this blank space to point out why I don't use the word "Super Bowl" in the titles of these videos: it's a registered trademark of the NFL and might result in their being deleted. Of course, this also prevents people from finding them in search engines, but that's what these articles are for.|
|You might be wondering which of these
ads was the most talked-about in 1985. Well, you're
looking at it now.
When I mentioned another ad stole the Hyatt ad's thunder, this is the one I was referring to, though you'd hardly know it looking with modern eyes. At the time, this was some astonishing CGI -- brought to you by the Canned Food Information Council, who was getting nervous that the rising use of plastic packaging was going to put an end to canned food forever. The point of this ad was to convince viewers that cans were timeless.
Several advancements in computer animation were created just for this ad, and it's regarded as an important milestone in CGI history. You can find out more about it by watching the making-of video.
|Computers were becoming so widespread
that there had to be -- gasp -- an entire STORE just for
them. An entire store that sold nothing but computers?
This was madness!
It's always nice to see George Burns, who gets away with some blatant innuendo in the second ad, because he's George Burns and can do anything he wants.
|This Sharp ad isn't as wacky as the previous one, but it's worth pointing out that microwaves didn't originally come with turntables inside. The food stayed stationary and didn't cook right (as demonstrated here). There was an era where people had to buy turntables separately, wind them up and stick them in their microwaves to spin.|
|By now you may have noticed IBM used
Charlie Chaplin -- or at least an impersonator -- a LOT.
Wonder what would happen if someone used this kind of
campaign today. Most people still know who Chaplin was,
but they would still probably get complaints that
"Hitler is endorsing computers."
IBM was a big computer manufacturer in the 80's, mostly used by businesses (homes stuck with Apples or Commodore 64s). A big selling point of software was if it was "IBM Compatible." If it couldn't run on their computers it would lose a lot of money.
|Can you believe it took this long to
get to halftime? There actually seem to be MORE ads in
this broadcast than there are now -- that, or it just
feels this long. Fortunately, a lot of the ads begin
repeating in the second half, so we're actually over the
As for what halftime WAS, ho-boy. The current standard of using a popular musical act was not originally the case. Instead halftime shows would usually be handed to an ultra-dorky performance troupe called Up With People. That was still happening in 1985, and the theme this year was "The World Of Children's Dreams." It's such a radical contrast from what halftime would become that it's unbelievable. I'm not uploading it. You don't deserve that punishment.
|Yes, that IS OJ Simpson in the third
ad. He had a deal with Hertz Rent-A-Car that lasted up to
the time he was caught, and he was in their ads as late
as 1993. In addition, OJ was actually part of the ABC
sportscasting crew this year, and provides commentary on
the game at several points.
If the completely different style and tone of these ads doesn't convince you how long ago this was, a hamburger for 39 cents will definitely do it.
|Now that this is the fourth time we've seen Charlie Chaplin shill for IBM, you might be wondering just when Apple is going to show up. Fresh off their victory from '84, Apple was now suffering from Casey at the Bat syndrome. Apple's ad was the very last one to air, and this might have been intentional. Nobody would intentionally buy the very last spot TODAY, because you can't predict how the game will go, but they did it this time figuring everyone would wait for them.|
|In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Apple ran spots hyping that spot, telling people that if they missed Apple's 1985 ad, which was SURE to top their 1984 ad, they would forever regret it. "Don't get up, don't reach for those snacks, and DON'T use the bathroom..." Super Bowl 19 is drowned with Apple's competition. Would this one ad really be enough to make people forget all that? You'll find out soon. Right now it's time for more car and copy machine ads.|
|Just when you thought you'd seen the last of these chagrin-inducing McDonalds ads, here's another one. It doesn't have people dressed as mermaids or giant bears, but it does encourage you to "do the handwarming dance" while waiting for your food, because it's January and it's cold out. Okay.|
|Here's a special guest you never thought you'd see during the Super Bowl: Frank Herbert, author of Dune! He makes some fairly accurate predictions about the future of phones. He slips up toward the end, though, by stating "These things will give us more freedom, more time, and a chance to be more human." Wrong on the first two, and if by "being more human" he means insulting strangers because you can get away with it, then he was right, but he would have preferred to be wrong.|
|These are a bunch of fourth-quarter also-rans, so let's blow through 'em.|
|Finally, a whopping 23 ad breaks
later, THIS IS IT! This is Apple's follow-up to the most
influential Super Bowl ad of all time! It's called
"Lemmings"! It's creepy and terrible!
After letting so many competitors' baseballs whiz past them while uttering "That's not my style," Apple thought they could nail this with one blow -- and Mighty Casey has struck out. It's mainly due to a complete misinterpretation of why the first ad worked. "1984" was dark because the book it was based on was. But it was also grand and epic and got your adrenaline going -- plus, it told a complete story by only showing a portion of it. "Lemmings" does none of those things.
I also have no idea how they got Disney to license out "Heigh-Ho" for something like this. Then again, it was Disney that started this rumor of lemmings jumping off cliffs by staging it for the camera. "It's about people killing themselves, but hey, you're not blameless in this." "Good point, Jobs."
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