Top 7 1980s Ad Campaigns and What You Can Learn From Them
As of 2021, the US advertising and marketing sector is worth around $350 billion. While it wasn't worth this high sum in the past, advertising has always been a huge part of American life.
All you need to do to see that is to look at the 1980s ad campaigns that made a huge impact.
These ad campaigns aren't just interesting- they also can provide creative marketing ideas for modern-day business owners.
Here, we're going to unpack some of the most memorable and unique ads from the 80s. Read on to learn how you can apply principles from 80s ads to your own marketing campaigns.
1. Nike: Just Do It
Nike came up with the 3-word slogan "just do it" in 1988. Today, this phrase is recognizable to nearly everyone in the world. This ad campaign stands out mainly because of its resilience and ability to stand the test of time.
This ad shows the importance of simplicity when it comes to being memorable. If Nike had chosen a longer slogan, people would have been less likely to remember it.
The brevity of 'just do it' means that people are more likely to connect with the brand.
Another advantage to a short slogan is that people will think of the brand when the slogan comes up in unrelated contexts.
If your boss tells you to "just do it" when you're discussing a task, you likely will immediately and automatically think of the Nike checkmark.
This is amazing branding and ensures that people remember comfortable Nike shoes in multiple contexts.
2. Apple's 1984 Super Bowl Ad
In 1984, Apple released an advertisement that drew on the popular Orwell novel 1984.
It showcased a Big Brother character that was intended to represent IBM and a young woman who threw a sledgehammer at the screen he was speaking on.
The powerful message at the end stated that if you purchased the first Macintosh computer, 1984 would not be like the book.
This ad was notable in that it only aired once but persists to this day. People remember it 37 years later.
This is obviously something that you as a modern marketer want to emulate, but what made the ad so successful?
There are multiple answers to this question. Drawing on popular culture is certainly a good idea when it comes to ad campaigns, and the 1984 commercial certainly did a great job.
However, it also appealed to the people's fears during this time period when everything was changing. No one wanted to live in a dystopia. The ad gave people a solution to this fear and encouraged them to purchase computers.
While you probably don't want to terrify your target audience, appealing to their emotions is certainly a good idea!
3. John Moschitta FedEx Commercial
To this day, FedEx prides itself on advertising speedy service. One of their most recent creative marketing campaigns involved painting the back of their trucks bright orange to look like a regular bus.
The front half still looked like a FedEx truck, showing that they were always ahead of other, slower shipping companies.
FedEx has been boasting about its speedy service since 1981, at which time they made one of the funniest television commercials in history.
Comedian John Moschitta went onto the TV as a FedEx employee, talking at a ridiculous speed. Other coworkers kept up with this speed-talking and mirrored it.
The end of the ad simply says, 'at least someone can keep up.'
This advertisement showcases the importance of humor in a marketing campaign.
Watching posh-looking businessmen talk laughably fast is funny. Teens and young adults were emulating and laughing at this ad throughout the entire decade.
As a modern marketer, you could do to inject some of this humor into your marketing and advertising campaigns. People are more likely to remember things that make them laugh.
They are also more likely to share your ads with friends if they think they're funny, so you can extend your reach more easily.
4. Infomercials and Solution Selling
Most ad campaigns in the 80s took place primarily on TV. While we now use the web more often than television, some principles persist over multiple mediums. One of these is the art of solution selling.
A good example of this is this Lysol advertisement from 1980. In 30 seconds, it quickly identifies the problem of stinky bathrooms.
It then provides an immediate solution: Lysol spray.
The identification and resolution of pain points is still a core principle in marketing today. People want to see solutions to their common problems.
Marketing professionals that work to sell products can tell them exactly what common issue the product will solve. This lets buyers feel secure in their decision because they'll know exactly what they're getting.
Also, note the brevity of this advertisement. The entire problem-solution pipeline is showcased within half a minute.
People are even busier and have even shorter attention spans in 2021 than they did in 1980, so this is crucial for your ad campaign's success.
5. Where's the Beef?
Speaking of short commercials, Wendy's created a 30-second advertisement showcasing the many merits of their hamburgers.
The 1984 ad showcased three elderly women looking at a competitor's burger and loudly saying "where's the beef?"
The voiceover for the commercial then began to explain that a Wendy's burger had more beef than both Whoppers and Big Macs.
This commercial is notable to modern advertisers for two key reasons. The first is that it combines both the brevity of Nike's ad campaign and the humor of FedEx's.
Combining these elements makes it twice as memorable and has caused it to withstand the test of time.
The second is that a primary goal of your ads needs to be standing out against the competition. When you market a product, you aren't just showcasing its merits. You're trying to demonstrate why it's a better solution than your competitors offer.
Keep things short and sweet, but don't forget the purpose of your ad. Sell yourself over your competitors, not just in general.
6. Wendy's Soviet Fashion Show
Wendy's was still riding high after its 1984 ad campaign in 1985. However, at this point, they still decided to switch things up. They knew the importance of keeping ads fresh and interesting- remember this for your own ad campaigns!
In any case, the 1985 Wendy's advertisement showcased a Soviet fashion show in which all of the outfits were the same. It then went on to explain that having no choices was not fun for people.
The commercial then outlined how not all Wendy's burgers were the same and how diners could choose the ingredients to put on their burgers.
This advertisement is unique because it united people against a common international enemy: the Soviet Union.
The marketing campaign took place at the heart of the Red Scarewhen people feared both communism and the Soviets. This served to generate American patriotism because people would do anything to bring Soviet Russia down.
While eating a hamburger wasn't going to stop the Cold War, Americans certainly may view it as a snub to the Soviet Union after this ad aired. They also may find eating at Wendy's a way to exercise the personal freedom that their foreign enemies did not have.
As a modern advertiser, you too can use current events to market your product.
Bring your target audience together against a common enemy. This definitely shouldn't be a foreign government but can instead be a group of people who use a competitor's product.
You also can make playful jabs at groups like tea-drinkers if you're a coffee company. Don't be too polarizing and keep things light, but this is a great principle.
7. Jingles in 1980s Ad Campaigns: Kellogg's
Company jingles have been all the rage since TV ads became popular. The 80s saw some awesome jingles including those for Big Red Gum and Taco Bell.
However, one of the most memorable was definitely Kellogg's "It's Gonna Be a Great Day" commercial.
This jingle was exactly one minute long and played as families woke up and enjoyed their Kellogg's cereal. The brand also mentioned itself in the tune: "Kellogg’s waits for you / That spirit comes shining through / Promising you a great day."
Jingles are catchy and hook many people who learn tunes and songs more quickly than text.
The mentioning of the brand name within the song was a great choice because people will better remember the brand that brought them the song.
You might like to create a jingle as well so that you can stick your brand in people's heads.
Learn More About Creative Advertising Today
Coming up with creative marketing campaigns can be a challenge.
Luckily, successful advertisements from decades past can help us to make thoughtful and lucrative marketing decisions.
Now that you know some of the best 1980s ad campaigns and what you can learn from them, it's time to get started.
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