Iconic Ads of the 90s

In the second of a brand new TellyJuice blog series, we go back to a decade dominated by boybands. A time when Joey, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Ross replaced all our real friends. There were more than a few iconic ads that decade too. So let’s grab our Baywatch-style lifesaver floats and dive right into the pool of great ’90s ads.

Budweiser (1995)

The ad: Budweiser’s 1995 ‘frog ad’ has gone down as one of the most iconic in history. Copywriter Dave Swaine and artist Michael Smith came up with the central idea in 1994. Swaine offers no insight into why he chose talking frogs for the ad in this interview. What he does say is that he and Smith were both young guys working as hard as they could at their jobs and that the big fish at Budweiser responded positively to their pitch from the get-go.

The legacy: The ad first aired during Super Bowl XXIX and it was an overnight success. It went on to become one of the most successful Super Bowl ads of all time, and tripled brand awareness among 21-30 year-olds. This strengthened Budweiser’s position as the number one beer in the USA. Not bad for three little monosyllabic frogs.

Andrex (1991)

The ad: The Andrex puppy made its debut way back in 1972, but it’s the 1991 advert that solidified its reputation as the nation’s favourite mascot.

1991’s Andrex ad starred an adorable young Labrador and a young boy who, well, he’s less adorable but that dog is tough competition. The pup tugs on the toilet paper until there is none left, running away and leaving a tissue trail throughout the house. The UK public chose this as their favourite advert of the year in 1991 and as they brag on their website: “People still remember it to this day.”

On the downside, Andrex has never been great with brand slogans. At the end of the advert, the narrator tells us Andrex is “Soft, Strong and Very Long.” This didn’t really make sense, and was slightly too suggestive for a toilet-based product. In 2004 they came up with their best slogan: “Tuggable, Huggable Softness.” But they abandoned this and their slogan since 2015 has been “How Andrex do you feel?” The only correct answer to this is , of course, “Huh?”

The legacy: All of Andrex’s branding prominently features cute puppies. When they launched a TV ad campaign that did not feature any furry friends, the public was outraged.

Jaffa Cakes (1999)

The advert: Full moon. Half moon. Total eclipse. Despite the bored faces of the children in this advert, the generation of kids who grew up watching it will never forget the lunar cycle. Somehow the primary teacher manages to teach one of life’s most complicated lessons with a humble jaffa cake. Or two… They’re so irresistible that she re-runs the lesson, you know, just to make sure they all understood.

The idea behind the ad was to illustrate the nation’s peculiar obsession with Jaffa Cakes. We think they nailed it.

The legacy: This ad was actually the first from Jaffa Cakes to air for eight years. If you were at school at the time, you will know that every child took it upon themselves to impersonate the advert until they ran out of Jaffa Cakes. Even now, it’s difficult to bite into a Jaffa Cake without unleashing the teacher’s lesson on lunar activity. Her accent? Croatian, if you were wondering.

Diet Coke (1995)

The ad: 11:30. Diet Coke break. Yes, this advert stars a builder who stops his work every day at 11:30, takes off his shirt and drinks a whole can of Diet Coke. Every time he does this, around a dozen women scramble towards the window to ogle at him. Portrayed by Lucky Vanous, this construction worker was the first of what came to be known as ‘Diet Coke break hunks’.

The legacy: There have been three more Diet Coke break hunks since Lucky’s turn in the role. Most recently, it was 31-year-old Manchester pet store owner Andrew Cooper, who sensuously mowed his lawn to the delight of several female onlookers.

Guinness (1998)

The ad: Guinness’ ‘Surfer’ ad from 1999 is one of the most artistic on this list, and with a budget of £6 million, one of the most expensive. Directed by film and music video director Jonathan Glazer, ‘Surfers’ is a 100 second-long advert, shot entirely in black and white, opening with a nearly 23 second close up of a man’s face. The advert opens and closes in complete silence, and the sound cuts out at several points, intentionally.

The advert’s narration is essentially a string of Moby Dick misquotes, extolling the virtues of waiting. Presumably because Guinness takes such a long time to pour. The ad’s creators say they wanted the advert to make people wary of surfing, rather than itching to have a go. With the giant horses and a heavily-distorted soundtrack, they definitely succeeded.

The legacy: The advert was widely acclaimed, reaching the top end of countless Best Ads Of All Time polls.

1990s ads in a nutshell

The Diet Coke ad is a direct descendant of the highly suggestive 1980s Levis ads starring Nick Kamen, right down to the inexplicable stripping. But apart from that, ads started to change. Jaffa Cakes exemplifies the trend of selling with simple silliness and Andrex proved that cuteness is timeless. But it is Guinness’ $6 million ‘Surfer’ ad from the tail end of the decade that set the template for ads in the years that followed.