5 commercials I still remember from my childhood

I can’t remember what the trigger was, but something recently reminded of a commercial from my childhood. And, before you know it, I was lost in YouTube chasing down old commercials that I still remembered from three decades ago.

It wasn’t nostalgia — at least, not the warm fuzzy kind. Rather, it was my interest as someone who studies marketing to think about advertising that’s had staying power in my life. Whether it was a storyline, a jingle, or (as you’ll soon see) a French woman’s impossibly long legs, there’s something about each of these that has glued itself into my brain for good.

I don’t really watch a lot of commercials now (thanks to Netflix, DVRs, etc.) but on the rare occasion when I do see them, there are very few that have the 2-to-3-decades staying power that these have. Not that these were necessarily “great” commercials. But something about them has persisted.

Here are the top 5 commercials that I remember from my childhood, sorted by my arbitrary rating of awesomeness.

#5: I’VE FALLEN AND I CAN’T GET UP

This commercial’s phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”, along with another famous commercial phrase of the era, “Where’s the beef?”, were the memes of their day. Everyone quoted them. They were on shirts and bumper stickers. They were in the 1980’s what the double rainbow guy is today.

I’ve rated it “only” at #5, instead of higher, because I barely remember the commercial at all. What I do remember is the phrase.

#4: HOCHTALER


Okay, get your laughter out of the way. This, along with several other iterations of the commercial, were part of my childhood. I found them fascinating. Maybe it was the French woman wearing a tuxedo designed by Daisy Duke? Not sure. Those legs certainly didn’t take away from the appeal of the commercial, I suppose.

It’s not the song that’s stuck in my head, thank goodness. What I remember most about these commercials is the ending (not pictured in the version I posted) in which the woman says, “oooh Hochtaler” as a sort-of slogan. That slogan spoken in her accent, plus her Daisy Duke tuxedo, were about all my little boy brain could handle, I guess.

Of course now, as an adult, I’m not sure how this commercial would work. That outfit is ridiculous and I generally distrust wine that advertises on television.

Humorous side note: The line in the song tells us that, with Hochtaler, “you really can’t go very wrong.” So I guess you can go slightly wrong… and maybe that’s the message from wine that has to advertise on television.

#3: NOTHING CAN STOP THE ANIMAL… FROM BEING STUCK IN MY HEAD

It’s been decades since I’ve seen this commercial but whenever someone says “the animal” in a sentence, this song instantly triggers in my brain. Like a bullet that I wish would kill me.

This commercial is a derivative of basically every other kids’ toy commercial ever filmed. And the toy itself, in retrospect, is kind of stupid. (Although I’m pretty sure I wanted one based exclusively on how much fun these kids were having in the most interesting playground environment ever).

#2: I WAS YOUR TEACHUH

From a marketing perspective, this commercial is really good — probably the best one I’ve listed here. (Without boring you with the details: There’s a great set-up, a great pay-off, a great sense of “what might happen next?” and a good mix of sexiness and benefit-oriented positioning of the product).

And from a stick-in-your-skull perspective, this commercial is also really good — because it gets lodged there and you can’t do anything about it except hope that it goes away, but then you pick at it like when a raspberry seed is lodged in your teeth and you should floss but instead you just poke it with your tongue. Of the commercials that I’ve listed in this blog post, this is the only one I can quote verbatim. I’m only somewhat embarrassed to admit that.

The commercial opens with a compelling Top Gun style. I’m pretty sure I hear Kenny Loggins singing in the background. There are some vague accents, which you can pretty much ignore until the woman reveals that she was his “teachuh,” which is also doubly funny to me because I kind of hear Arnold Schwarzenegger say that too. Just picture him in your head saying: “I was your teachuh.” See? Same thing. And kind of funny.

I also think this commercial is funny because, geez, he couldn’t even remember what his teacher looked like? How frigging wrinkly was this lady when she taught him?

And, I can’t help but wonder what she’s doing in a military hangar in the first place. She’s not in uniform but she’s carrying a clipboard so if she works there, maybe she’s off-duty or maybe she’s a military consultant… either way, she made a pretty significant career move. Good for her. But shouldn’t she be wearing some kind of safety gear while in a military hangar? I think there are rules about that.

#1: PATRICK AND HIS DAMN LIFE INSURANCE

I love this commercial. It sets up a story really nicely (if you want to call two old people without life insurance “a story”).

So there are two things I love about this commercial:

First, I love what I didn’t hear… Patrick’s greeting.

At 0:01 into the video, the phone rings.
At 0:03, the old guy answers.
By 0:045, the old guy tells his wife (with a surprising amount of happiness), “it’s Patrick. He took out life insurance. Good for you, son!”

I’m not sure what Patrick said when he called but he was able to communicate in 1.5 seconds that he had just bought life insurance. Presumably he didn’t need to give his name; his father would recognize the voice. So in the 1.5 seconds that the call connected, Patrick’s very first words would have to be something like: “I just bought life insurance.” I just timed myself and it took me 1.5 seconds to say that. No offense to my parents but I don’t think I called them when I got life insurance. I didn’t call anyone. Should I have? Is it a bigger deal than I realize?

Second, I love how happy the father is. Holy crap, he’s simply overjoyed about it. Like, if there was a scale of overjoyedness, this would be near the “the-birth-of-his-first-born-grandchild” overjoyed.

Great video. I honestly don’t remember a single thing after about eight seconds into the video (and until I found the video on YouTube, I only foggily remembered it as a Norich Union video). But you have to give props to the insurance company; I can’t think of a single other life insurance video I’ve ever seen. But this one is still stuck in my head a couple of decades after watching it.

Of course there were other commercials. And if I tried really hard, I might be able to come up with one or two more. But not much more than that. But if I watched an average of an hour of TV a day as a kid, and there were maybe an average of 16 commercials (4 commercials per set, 4 times in an hour) then these folks hit on some kind of magical potion to keep their commercial in my head 25-30 years later.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.