Analysis

Set phasers for sell: 8 far out Star Trek-themed ads

The world was introduced to the Star Trek universe 50 years ago. The show initially ran for three seasons, but its legacy has lasted well past that...including in the world of advertising.

As Star Trek celebrates 50 years, our Ad Guy looks at some of its greatest moments in advertising

A 2016 ad for Quicken Loans' Rocket Mortgage features a young Vulcan couple discussing their housing requirements. Many advertisers have turned to Star Trek-themed ads over its 50-year history. (quickenloans.com)

The world was introduced to the Star Trek universe 50 years ago, with the original TV show's premiere on CTV in Canada on Sept. 6, 1966 (two days before its U.S. premiere on NBC).

The show initially only ran for three seasons, but its legacy has lasted well past that... including in the world of advertising.

Whenever something becomes a pop culture phenomenon, marketers are eager to piggyback on it to draw extra attention to their products.

Here are eight of Star Trek's more "far out" advertising appearances.

1. A Vulcan in every laundry room

Star Trek wasn't a ratings hit during its initial three-year run. But this ad, which some YouTube users indicate as being from 1969, features a Vulcan-like alien materializing in a laundry room. It's among the first examples of advertisers riffing on Star Trek themes.

2. How do you say 'Big Mac' in Klingon?

This 1979 ad, promoting a tie-in with the first Star Trek movie, is a bilingual one — featuring both English and "Klingonese." (Though as any good Star Trek fan will tell you, the language is more accurately referred to as Klingon.)

3. Captain Kirk and his pal VIC-20

Computers and Star Trek seem like a good fit. And in the early '80s, Captain Kirk himself (Canadian actor William Shatner) came to extol the virtues of Commodore's VIC-20 home computer — via transporter beam.

4. It's no communicator, but...

Circa 1981, Leonard Nimoy (who played Spock on Star Trek) appeared on an Enterprise-like set to promo the Edmonton Telephones beeper.

5. Advertising: The Next Generation

By the early '90s, there was a new generation of Star Trek actors, thanks to TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation. In this ad for MCI calling plans, actors from the original series met up with Jonathan Frakes from The Next Generation.

6. What's German for 'beam me up'?

Of course, Star Trek's popularity extends well beyond the English-speaking world. Here's a 2014 ad from Germany, with William Shatner speaking a few words of German — and encountering Leonard Nimoy.

7. Spock and Chekov go to the Super Bowl

And by 2014, there was yet another generation of Star Trek actors, thanks to J.J. Abrams' reboot of the franchise.

Actors Zachary Quinto (who played Spock) and the late Anton Yelchin (Chekov) appeared in this Super Bowl ad for Xfinity.

8. Advertisers continue to boldy go...

With a new Star Trek film having just hit the theatres this year, we saw more Star Trek-themed advertising. This commercial from July of this year, for Quicken Loans' Rocket Mortgage, features a young Vulcan couple discussing their housing requirements.

And with more Star Trek movies likely to follow — and a new TV series on the way — expect marketers to boldly go where countless ads have gone before. 

About the Author

Bruce Chambers

Ad Guy

Bruce began his career writing radio commercials for stations in Red Deer, Calgary and Toronto. Then in-house at a national department store, and then ad agencies with campaigns for major national and regional clients. For the past couple of decades, he's been a freelance creative director and copywriter for agencies in Calgary and Victoria. He began his weekly Ad Guy columns on CBC Radio in 2003.

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