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Season Five: The Commercials You Grew Up With

This week on the Age of Persuasion, we talk to baby boomers and take a look at the commercials they grew up with. From the toy and game commercials that inspired your lists to Santa, to the soft drink ads you can still sing along to 40 years later, to the ad for your first underarm deodorant, to the commercial for your first perfume, to the ads aimed at Mom but were still got burned into your memory bank. So put on your pajamas and gather round the radio.

And remember - you have to be in bed by the time Bonanza comes on.

Listen to this episode as streaming audio (runs 26:30) Or subscribe to the podcasts by RSS or by iTunes.

Click through for more visual elements from this episode.

When you think of all the millions of things you see, hear and experience in your life, it's remarkable what you are capable of storing in your mind. One thing we all seem to remember is the commercials from our childhood.

If you were a boy growing up in the 1960s, you will fondly remember G.I. Joe. Creator Don Levine knew boys wouldn't play with dolls, so he called it a "moveable action figure." Even if you haven't heard this jingle since 1968, I bet you will remember every word:



When I was a kid, television was a big part of my life. I watched it after school, in the evenings, and on the weekends. Every Sunday night, my family would gather to watch The Ed Sullivan Show. Right after that, Bonanza came on. To this day, when I hear the theme music from that show, I think it's time to go to bed:



While boys had G.I. Joes, girls had the Easy-Bake Oven. This was the beginning of "gender marketing" where manufacturers realized there was more profit in producing separate toys for girls and boys. The Easy-Bake Oven was an example of that strategy:



One of the most successful toys of the 60s and 70s was actually a uni-sex toy called Slinky. It was invented by a naval engineer who was developing springs that could keep instruments stable aboard ships in rough seas. Bet you remember this jingle:



Another "gender" toy was none other than Hot Wheels, by Mattel. Sixteen models were released in 1968, and the bright orange racing tracks could be bent into death-defying loops. Over 41 million North American boys grew up with Hot Wheels:



Another commercial you will remember from that period was for Spirograph. It was developed by an inventor who had a love of geometric designs, and became the best-selling toy in the summer of love - 1967:



Whew, all this game-playing can make a kid thirsty. Remember the Kool-Aid commercials with the smiling pitcher? Bet you remember the jingle:



Before the cola wars started in the 80s, there was a great run of soft drink commercials in the 60s. You may remember a hillbilly yelling out, "Yahoo, Mountain Dew!"



IN 1971, as the Viet Nam war waged, Coke came out with a commercial that preached love and turtle doves. It would go on to become not only one of the most famous commercials of all time, but the jingle would become a Top 40 hit for the Seekers:



Nineteen years later, Coke brought all those kids back to that same hilltop, and created the "Hilltop Reunion" commercial. Only this time, those kids brought their own kids:



In the mid-70s, I remember being in a car with my buddies, when we heard a radio commercial saying that anyone who could recite this jingle in under three seconds would win a Big Mac. So we raced over to McDonald's, sung the jingle, and enjoyed some Big Macs gratis that day:



Some commercials we all remember weren't aimed at us kids, but were aimed at our Moms. But that doesn't mean we didn't store them in our mental rolodexes. Remember the ad for Calgon Detergent with its "ancient Chinese secret"?



How about the ads for Alberto VO5 with the famous actress nobody had ever heard of - Rula Lenska:



One of the funniest campaigns was for an underarm deodorant called Right Guard. You'll remember the scenario - a hapless husband opens the bathroom medicine cabinet in his new apartment and discovers that his neighbour shares the cabinet with him. Mona!



One of the funniest campaigns, and most risqué, was for Bic Lighters. They were colourful, disposable lighters that slyly asked you to "Flick Your Bic":



Girls will remember this next perfume ad. Fragrances were actually declining in sales in the early 70s, with the hippe lifestyle going for the more "natural" body scents. But this perfume changed everything, and managed to catch the spirit of women's lib at the same time. The campaign starred the beautiful Shelley Hack, who I worked with a few times in the 90s:



Another well-loved campaign was for the Polaroid Instant Camera. It starred James Garner and Mariette Hartley, who were so convincing as husband and wife that Hartley began wearing tee-shirts off camera that read, "I am not James Garner's wife."



A psychologist at the time said that the reason people thought they were married to each other was because, quote: "They were so hostile to each other."

Too funny.

So - did you remember all these commercials?

Bet you did.

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