Our Favorite TV Ads from Childhood: The Pens Weigh In

Now that The Hired Pens is four Pens strong, we thought it would be fun to do the occasional roundtable discussion. Our plan is to tackle all the important, life-transforming issues of the day. Like our favorite TV ads from our childhoods. Enjoy …

The Energizer: It’s Going to Surprise You (Dan)

It’s 1987, and I’m a freshman in college. My roommate Chris and I are up late watching Letterman. Without warning, this ridiculous commercial comes on. “Jacko,” a muscled Australian lunatic with spiky, dyed blonde hair, is screaming at us about the merits of Energizer batteries. His eyes bulge out. He sings while holding a giant battery over his head. He rhymes “Energiz-ah” with “gonna surprise ya.” He punctuates the jingle with a demonstrative “Oi!”

All of this couldn’t have been any funnier to Chris and me. Too bad they switched to that damned Energizer bunny just one year later. Jacko, I guess the advertising world just wasn’t made for muscled Australian lunatics like you.

Just One Look … and America Fell So Hard (Anna)

Commercials are better now. I think as a nation, we’ve gotten funnier. Or at least more comfortable with using humor to sell things. I like that.

But let’s be honest. There’s one thing that sells better than humor. That’s right: Cindy Crawford. This 1991 Pepsi commercial does everything a good commercial should: It gets your attention. It’s fun to watch. And it makes you want the product.

Back then, girls like me hoped one day to be as glamorous as Cindy. And the boys we loved hung posters of her on their wall, hoping we would, too — or that we’d at least outgrow our training bras. We all drank a lot of Pepsi. Since then, this ad has been imitated many, many times. It still works.

I Wanted to Like You, Mikey (Karen)

You were cute, in a chubby-faced underdog sort of way. Your older brothers seemed like real a-holes, forcing you to try that cereal no one wanted. As one of seven kids myself, I could relate.

The thing is, Mikey, you let your brothers have all the lines. I didn’t feel like listening to them anymore than you did. “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” So grating. I’d run for the TV and crank the dial to another channel before they said it, and still that one stupid line would stick in my head all day.

I wanted to root for you, Mikey, but you could’ve shown a little self-respect. You could’ve said no to the cereal. And while your ad ran for 12 years and was considered a huge success, I think America agreed with me. Hence the rabid rumors of your untimely death by Coke and Pop Rocks candy.

I was glad to read recently that you’re alive and well, working as an ad man for a New York radio station — but a little sad to learn those jerks in the commercial were your real-life brothers. I hope you’ve found happiness, Mikey. I really do.

I Hanker for a Pair o’ Kneeees (Zach)

It had serpentine, boneless legs. It had internal rhymes and an elective cane. It even had a recipe: crackers and cheese; serve stacked.

“Time for Timer” was part of a frankly bizarre PSA campaign to combat … hunger? Cogency? I know it received heavy airplay throughout my childhood (WLVI-56!), and somehow that little bolus in boots stuck with me all this time.

Call it the power of context-free marketing, or perhaps a testament to some memorable jingle writing. Point is: I eat cheese constantly today, and I almost never don’t think of Timer. He was an extremely tiny part of my life, and it breaks my heart to see what’s become of him.

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