Tag Archives | Commercials

A Brief History of TV in America in the Form of Old RCA Commercials

For no particular reason other than that it’s Friday, let’s take a guided tour of the evolution of TV in America from the late 1930s through the early 1970s–as shown in commercials and promotional films from RCA, which was once practically synonymous with consumer electronics in this country. You may take moving images, color screens, remote controls, and displays small enough to tote around for granted, but they were all startling breakthroughs in their day.

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The First Videogame Ad?

I’m digging through YouTube looking for tech-related commercials for a project I’m working on. I stumbled across this one, and while it’s not a good fit for the project, I can’t not share it. Is this 1973 spot the very first ad for a videogame?


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Microsoft's New Commercial: Windows is a Generic Equivalent to OS X

Microsoft’s moving ahead with more commercials in its “I’m a PC” series, one of which it’s posted at a section of Windows.com called Laptop Hunters. Let’s watch, shall we?

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Can’t argue with the truth of the basic gist here: There are tons of well-equipped Windows notebooks under a thousand bucks, and only one Mac laptop option, the basic white MacBook. If Lauren, the shopper in the commercial, had told me she wanted a 17-inch laptop for less than a grand, I could have saved her the trip to “the Mac store” she makes: Sorry, Lauren, Apple no can do. (Hey, I can’t afford a 17-inch MacBook Pro, either.)

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OLPC’s Creepy and Inappropriate John Lennon Ad

xolennon1The One Laptop Per Child Foundation has a new spokesman for its XO “$100 laptop.” He’s admired the world ’round, and isn’t someone you associate with product endorsements–in part because he’s been dead for close to three decades. He’s John Lennon, and he promotes the XO through a voice over done by a (not very impressive) impersonator and old footage synched with the new dialog through (not very impressive) digital trickery.

As everyone who’s writing about this is pointing out, deceased celebs (such as Fred Astaire) have been doing ads for a long time, and Apple’s “Think Different” campaign commandeered not only John Lennon’s image (along with Yoko Ono, who presumably granted permission) but that of the Mahatma himself. And there’s nothing sacrosanct about the Beatles in an age in which their music is featured in diaper ads.

But the Lennon-XO ad is unusual in putting words into the late endorser’s mouth–words that don’t make much sense, since “Lennon” seems to say that the purpose of his music was to give children access to “a universe of knowledge.” The obvious, crude fakery of the ad lends a cheesy air to the proceedings, too. The more you like John Lennon, the less you may like it.

Look, OLPC is an exceptionally noble nonprofit undertaking (I’ve paid for laptop donations in 2007 and 2008 and plan to do so again) and it’s entirely possible that Lennon would have been an enthusiastic supporter if he were still with us. If Yoko Ono thinks he’d have appeared in spots for it, I believe her. But that kind of doesn’t matter, since the ad that OLPC made is creepy, not inspiring. (One in which Ono said Lennon would have loved OLPC would have been entirely different. Geez, Ringo extolling the virtues of XO would be a vast improvement.)

The ad gives me the willies, so I would almost rather not embed on this site…but here you go:

And what the heck, let’s do a T-Poll on it:


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The Twelve Weird Old Electronics Commercials of Christmas

halsmithI’m not ashamed to admit that I’m kind of addicted to watching old TV commercials on YouTube. Especially ones involving computers and electronics. And today, I have an excuse to share a bunch of them with you, in no particular order.

1. Mattel Electronics, early 1980s. Hal “Otis the Town Drunk” Smith plays a Santa who shills for an offer involving $2-$12 in cash back if you bought “qualifying” Mattel Electronics games and Pepsi. Never trust a Santa who wears a hat shaped like a football and tries to convince you that rebates are worth it.

After the jump, lots more of this stuff–don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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A Brief Reverse-Chronological YouTube History of Apple

The history of Apple is so long and interesting that some amazingly weighty tomes have been written about it. But I don’t think you need to pore over hundreds of pages to get the gist of the company’s journey. Actually, more than with any other computer company, its advertising tells much of the story. And thanks to YouTube, it’s all a few clicks away, and watching it is downright addictive.

I started to put together this video timeline starting in the 1970s and working my way forward to the present day. Then I realized that it’s more fun–and much bloggier–to begin with current commercials and travel backwards in time. Join me, won’t you?

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