Category Archives: 80s Advertisements

Sifting through mountains of old magazines pays off…

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in my life combing through paper.  Aside from the thousands of hours of flipping through comics that I’ve logged since I was a kid, sorting and folding paper was a large part of my day-job for years.  Every day I’d sift though reams of medical claims, arranging them into piles by insurance company so that I could send out as many in bulk as possible.  But there was always a pile of singles left over, two to three hundred a day that needed to be folded by hand.  Yes, I’m well aware that there are machines built for this task, and believe me our office had one that must have been constructed around the turn of the century.  It was older than sin and only worked about a fourth of the time.  Even then it would eat up and shred claims which was more of a headache than folding them by hand.  Besides, there was no way that company was going to invest in a new folder/stuffer when they were already paying me.  I became so adept at sorting and folding that I was almost as fast as the machine when it was working properly.  At one point I started having nightmares about spending the rest of my life folding paper and stuffing it into envelopes.  It was around this time that I came up with the brilliant idea of securing a second job, working nights at my local Kinko’s.  Yet more paper.  Sorting, folding, and stuffing.

Around five years ago I made the jump into IT, laughing manically as I left the paper behind.  The blurred sorter’s vision, the constant paper-cuts, and the smell of printers ink on my hands were all fading away.  Of course, around five years ago I also started this site, and thus began a second wave of kneeling before the gods of paper as ephemera because an important passion in my life.  I’ve replaced the medical billing clearinghouse drudgery with the never-ending search for amazing forgotten tidbits that are hidden in million comic long-boxes, tucked away in the corner of an antique store cubical, and buried in mountains of 30 year-old stacks of magazines. Articles, postcards, stickers, posters, packaging, calendars, flyers, magazines, books, and of course, advertisements; this is the ephemera that keeps this site running.  Sometimes, in the middle of investigating every page of practically every single issue of Woman’s Day magazine from 1983, I swear that I’m going to go blind (just like Donald Pleasance in The Great Escape.)  But every so often I find something so irrevocably awesome, that it makes the whole process completely worth the struggle.  Below is one of those finds.

Maybe I’ve built this up a bit too much with this long-winded intro, but every time I set eyes on this poster (which will hopefully soon be hanging in my office) I get a bit giddy because it transports me so effortlessly back in time to when I was six and my family was having cable TV installed for the first time.  1983 was my first introduction to the wonder of the classic children’s programming on the first channel devoted to kids, Nickelodeon…

The only thing keeping this poster from being the perfect piece of 80s era Nickelodeon ephemera is that it was released about a year and a half before the network really came into its own with the introduction of all sorts of animated series and game shows.  Even so, 1983 was the year that they really took a step in the right direction with the debut of Mr. Wizard’s World, which cemented the last corner of the triumvirate of series (along with Pinwheel and You Can’t Do That on Television) that more or less defined the look and feel of early Nickelodeon.  And that is what this poster is all about!

Well actually this poster is all about the 1983 Nickelodeon Sweepstakes.  In an effort to get the word out about the network to the millions of new cable subscribers during the boom in the early 80s, Nickelodeon concentrated their efforts on two fronts, non-violence and educational programming.  This Sweepstakes offered one lucky kid a $10,000 dollar college scholarship (though in the fine print you can see that this can be transferred to a cash payout when the winner turns 18, I guess in case attending college just wasn’t in the cards.)  You can tell, from the pages that make up the back of the poster below, that a lot of the original programming on the network was geared more towards education than entertainment.  Of course there was always the Canadian sketch comedy of YCDToTV and the insanity of Wild Ride, the live action series hosted by Matt Dillon focusing on the countries best roller coasters and thrill rides.

    

Anyway, back to the poster.  It was painted by a fella named W.S. “Bill” Purdom, a talented artist who’s worked with huge companies on everything from advertising to movie posters, and is currently specializing in capturing classic moments from baseball on canvas.  The poster features a ton of celebrities and characters including Reggie Jackson, Mr. Wizard, Matt Dillon, Chris Makepeace (from Meatballs and My Bodyguard fame), Leonard Nimory, Bill Bixby, Slim Goodbody, Christine McGlade and Les Lye (from YCDToTV), as well as Jake, Coco, Plus & Minus, Aurelia, Ebeneezer T. Squint, Silas the Snail, Luigi, and Admiral Bird from pinwheel.  Hell, even the Nickelodeon pinball makes an appearance!  Sigh.

Yup, finding a poster like this tucked away in a 28 year-old issue of Woman’s Day is the whole reason that Branded in the 80s exists.  It makes all the work, the hunting, the sorting, the flipping, the scanning & digital enhancement, and all the ailments, the paper-cuts, the old-mildewy-ink-stink on my fingers, completely worth it.  Hope you guys dig seeing stuff like this as much as I do.

Man, that peach blush toilet paper realy ties the bathroom together…

One of the weirder areas of nostalgia for me lies within the realm of the not-so-exciting household products that either my mom would buy or that I’d see while grocery shopping with her as a kid.  Sometimes I get the same sort of longing pangs for a Fresh’n Up room deodorizer (the kind that came in a rectangular cylinder where you’d lift the outer casing to expose the room-freshening power contained within) that I do for some of my long lost G.I. Joe and Transformers toys.  That’s one of the beautiful things about flipping through 30 year-old issues of Woman’s Day and McCalls, getting a chance to see some of these mundane extinct products that I never in a million years would have guessed had such an impact on my youthful self.

In the category of obscure and unfortunate household style degradation comes today’s advertisement for the line of colored Cottonelle toilet paper, circa 1982…

Seriously, in this age of ever increasing and exciting technologies, why is it so apparent that the toilet paper industry is practically falling apart at the perforated seams?  When the key advancements surround thickening the sheets to an extent where we’re practically rubbing our nether-regions with small pillows, and the best the industry’s advertising has to offer aesthetically speaking is a bunch of multicolored bears with dingle-berry issues, we know we’re in trouble.  What happened to the days when companies were so secure in the age-old technology that they began to shift their focus to enhancing the color scheme of the paper to make for a better looking lavatorial environment?  Long story short, where are my mint green rolls of toilet paper?  Why has this advancement been stripped from store shelves?

At the end of the day I just want a toilet paper option that’ll really (design-wise) tie the room together.  Is that so much to ask?  In the immortal words of Weird Al, “You better squeeze all the Charmin you can…”, because one day Mr. Whipple and Charmin might not be around…

Are you a Maniac?

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been sharing some fun stuff from the pages of the obscure Scholastic publication Maniac Magazine.  This week I thought I’d go ahead and give an overview of what this periodical was like.  If I had to pin it down I’d say that Maniac was the high school variation of magazines like Hot Dog and Dynamite, centering a bit more on music and the MTV-influenced pop culture of the 80s…

Who was the magazine aimed at specifically?  Well, take a gander at this page from the 1st issue to get an idea of who the publishers deemed a Maniac…

Sigh, if only the writers had a little bit more foresight this list would have been slightly different.  Mr. Rogers is indeed a maniac in my book, and Eddie Murphy?   Well, lets just say that back in 1984 when this was published, no one would have seen the Post-Beverly-Hill-Copacalyptic career path of the once Golden Child comedian.  Even so, I think it’s kind of interesting how the guys behind the magazine were trying to point teens towards some cool folks that might be beyond their radar (with a mention thrown towards Abbott & Costello, and in a later bit towards Monty Python, Rocky Horror, and Chuck Berry.)

The magazine was overseen by R. L. Stine, who was apparently one of the lead creative guys at Scholastic back in the day…

Maniac was basically a teen-i-fied amalgamation between Saturday Night live, National Lampoon & MAD magazines, as well as stuff like Topps Wacky Packages.  In fact you can really get a feel for their influence in the various product parodies peppered throughout each issue.  My favorite is the ad for Coco-Birds.  There’s just something so deadpan about the model in that first photo that it reminds me of the nonsensical humor of shows like Home Movies or Dr. Katz…

  

   

There were also TV and film spoofs in the tradition of Cracked and MAD magazine.   The below Splash parody was done by the awesome Sam Vivano and R. L. Stine.  Vivano’s Eugene Levy drawings are so spot on…

  

   

There were also interviews, like the below piece with Molly Ringwald…

   

…and articles about stuff that’s really important to teens, like hair make-overs.  In this case, I’m voting for the before pictures personally…

  

Each issue also had a couple pages of gag classified ads, a space for a Dear Abby like column, some strip comics, stickers, and even some continuing teen fiction.  I’ve managed to track down five issues (out of six I know that exist)…

  

  

I’m not sure how many teens would get into a magazine like this today seeing as how kids seems to grow up so fast these days (jesus, did I just type that?!?), but I’d like to think that there’s still a place for in the world for a magazine like Maniac.  I’m going to close this out with another set of caricatures by the wonderful Sam Vivano…

Before the Garbage Pail Kids we had the Crabbage Patch Teenagers!

Getting a chance to look at all these old book club flyers reminded me that I have a stack of some of the more obscure Scholastic branded magazines from the 80s called Maniac.  I plan on scanning the best of those issues for next week, but today I have a really cool advertising parody from the back of issue five called the Crabbage Patch Teenagers!

There are metric tons of parodies of the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomena from the 80s, Garbage Pail Kids being my favorite, but the above ad is kind of cool because it was one of the earliest that I’ve been able to track down.  In the timeline of insanity we have the CPK craze really kicking into high gear around the Christmas season of 1983, then sometime in early 1985 John Pound painted Mark Newgarden’s CPK parody concept called a Garbage Pail Kid for the 1985 Topps Wacky Packages re-launch (though it never made it into the final set), next John Pound, Mark Newgarden, Tom Bunk and Art Speigleman launched Topps full-on Garbage Pail Kids parody stickers in June of ’85, and last but not least, Mad magazine premiered its Cabbage Patch Kids parody in their December 1985 issue (consequently I couldn’t find any mention of CPK in Cracked through the end of 1986.)

So the above Crabbage Patch Teenagers is one of the earliest parodies, sliding in right behind the initial doll insanity.  Though I think I can safely say that this ad wasn’t an inspiration for the Garbage Pail Kids, it’s none-the-less a GPK precursor that looks a whole heck of a lot like the artwork John Pound would be producing just months later.  Especially when you look at the painting he did for the Wacky Packages piece, which bears little resemblance doll-wise to what he ended up doing in the 1st GPK series set, this Maniac ad really is the 1st time the public saw something resembling a Garbage Pail Kid.

I don’t know,  I find this parody fascinating…

I wonder if Santa and Mrs. Claus ever did the bike dance from RAD when they were dating…

I know it’s a little late for Christmas missives, but I was away from Branded during the holidays and I had totally intended to share this rad 1980 advertisement for the Schwinn Phantom Scrambler…

This came out of an issue of Boy’s Life which I’ve heard tell also featured an even rad-er image of Santa on a Tron light cycle.  Now that I want to see!  Anyway, a belated Merry BMX-Mas everyone…

Smuckers missed the boat by not having a tie-in neon blueberry flavored Tron jam…

Though I feel completely like a child of the 80s, I have to say that being born in 1977 there were a handful of 80s pop culture events in which I completely missed the boat.  Tron and the boom of arcade gaming are a couple  phenomena that I didn’t get to really immerse myself in as a kid.  Sure, I had an Atari 2600 (bought at a garage sale) after the big home console crash, and I was a full-blown Nintendo kid, but I didn’t catch a screening of Tron until only a few years ago.  In fact, aside from a vague idea of the iconography of the arcade console (in particular the awesomely large joystick) and what the characters in the flick more or less looked like, I was largely unaware of the film.

My childhood video game movie experience surrounded flicks like the Wizard, Wargames, and the Last Starfighter.  I’ve met so many people at work over the last 10 years that attribute Tron as the incipience of their awakening to the potential of computer technology and quite possibly the reason that they entered the IT field as a career.   Having never experienced a film like Tron and being exposed to the idea of anthropomorphizing the inner workings of a computer, I never saw the excitement inherent in programming and computing.  Like most people, it took the wide acceptance of the internet to open my eyes.  Because of that I’ll always probably feel a little left behind.

On the bright side, getting a chance to catch up with the film as an adult I can both appreciate some of the more technical aspects to the conceptual nature of the flick, and it gives me the unique opportunity to discover something new and nostalgic.  It’s rare that I get a chance to stumble upon something from the 80s that I’m either not familiar with or have been inundated with during the last 10 years of the 80s nostalgic resurgence.  For that I’m thankful.  Because of this and because of the news of the new sequel over the last couple of years I’ve been keeping and eye out for any bits of scan-able Tron ephemera, in particular vintage advertisements.  Here are a few I’ve found while flipping through old issues of Woman’s Day and Muppet magazines…

First up is this 1982 ad for Dial and Tone bar soap with a mail-away coupon for a discounted Tron beach towel.  Featuring the static hero pose of the titular character, this towel is one of the few times when I think that image is successfully striking.  I’m always curious how many of these mail-away items make it into the public (and it’s not like old beach towels get proffered up on ebay all that often), so it’s cool when you can find some photographic evidence of these items.  Thanks to Hillary over at I’m Remembering for coaxing her readers into submitting old photos for her site…

Next up is this 1982 Smuckers ad for strawberry jam and the in-store special offer for a free Tron Futuristic Adventure Book with the purchase of a bottle of preserves.   Maybe not as cool as a collectable jelly glass with Tron characters and scenes, but the book did come with a fold-out 17″x22″ poster, and featured games, puzzles and stickers!  I’ve seen a couple of Tron sticker sheets over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever laid eyes on the stickers from this free book.

Last, but not least, is this 1984 holiday ad from Disney Home Video featuring a VHS copy of Tron.  Back in ’84 this cassette copy of Tron was a steal at $39.95 (msrp at the time was a whopping $84.95.)  This was back before most people had started purchasing movies for their home libraries, and videos were largely still priced for the rental market.   Also, at first I was pretty excited when I flipped to this ad in the back of an issue of Muppet magazine because I though the video came with a free Tron ornament.  How cool would that have been?  Well, even though there is that die-cut gold Tron disc on the packaging, the ornament is actually the image on the top left featuring Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Still a cool ornament, but not nearly as cool as one featuring Tron.

There is another thing that stuck out to me in this ad.  I thought it was weird that the graphic designers of this advertisement chose to feature a rare red variation of the Tron character artwork.  Though my memory might be a little shady, I thought that red was reserved for the “evil” programs in the Tron world like Sark and his minions?  I guess this is sort of the equivalent of catching a glimpse of Luke Skywalker with a red lightsaber…

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