Advertising is everywhere but before it was as prevalent and manipulative as it is today, it was the same thing but on slightly fewer channels. Here is a look back at some of Australia’s most memorable TV ads from the 80s and early 90s.
Slip, Slop, Slap
Launched in 1981, the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign is an Australian classic featuring Sid the Seagull promoting the message of sun protection.
The campaign was a huge success and while taking advice from a seagull also led to a massive increase in chip-eating and the incidence of hopping around on one leg, the message remains poignant with the slogan still regularly promoted by the Australian Cancer Council.
In the olden days phone books were more than just an annoyance that randomly turned up on your doorstep, forcing you to find a way to dispose of them. People used them to find help when they needed something, as shown here in this famous ad for the Yellow Pages.
The actor, Tommy Dysart, is now back on TV starring in ads for Shannon’s car insurance but will always be best remembered as the Goggomobil guy and probably as the person who most often has “G-O-G-G-O” yelled at him while walking down the street.
Life. Be in it.
The 1980s ‘Life. Be In It’ campaign was launched in an effort to get people out of the house and doing stuff. Here’s a favourite ad with its excellent jingle.
The ad was noteworthy for promoting a wide array of activities as well as a strong message of inclusivity, as long as you are white or a weird shade of pink.
In the 80s Smith’s introduced the Gobbledok character; a loveable alien from the planet Dok who crash-landed on Earth and lived entirely on potato chips.
While any publicity for the potato is welcome and deserved, the popularity of the ads did annoyingly result in an increase in people saying “Chippies” in the Gobbledok’s voice and stealing your chips if you had some. Chip-theft-related beatings also subsequently rose.
From the 1970s to the late 90s, The Solo Man was an Australian institution, spreading the message that real men drink lemon flavoured soft-drink and paddle kayaks. Here he is doing both of those things.
Solo’s slogan was formerly: “Solo lemon. A man’s drink.” But at some point Schweppes seemed to realise that other genders and children might also enjoy pleasant tasting lemon flavoured treats. As a result, Solo’s image softened somewhat with the new slogan: “Solo lemon. The thirst crusher.” In retrospect, it had been a bold move to focus so heavily on the male-only, kayaking, lemon flavoured drink enthusiast market, thereby excluding more than half the world’s population completely unnecessarily. But until it changes back, I won't buy it.
Few people growing up in the 80s could forget this ad for Cottee’s cordial, partly due to its catchy jingle but also because it includes the same line repeated over and over again until it starts sounding mildly threatening.
Though the repeated lyric and delivery became strangely aggressive, it was still less menacing than Cottee’s ill-fated ‘Drink fruit juice or we’ll bash you’ campaign.
In the 80s alongside fellow juggernauts Alf and Hulk Hogan, AIDS was becoming increasingly prevalent. In an effort to curtail its damaging spread, the National Advisory Committee on AIDS released this unforgettable and frightening ad featuring the grim reaper bowling.
The ad was chilling but had the desired effect of increasing awareness, while scaring the heck out of any bowlers who misunderstood the ad and never stepped foot in a bowling alley again just to be safe.
In the early 90s, child actor Matthew Krok’s career skyrocketed playing the role of Arthur McArthur on sitcom ‘Hey Dad!’ and landing a starring role in a successful ad for Sorbent toilet paper that can be seen below. (Note how strangely exasperated he looks when turning a cereal box completely upside down and having cereal fall out. What else was going to happen, dummy!? In his defence, he probably wasn’t thinking straight as it is made increasingly clear that he really needs to poo.)
The ad was very popular and due to unexpected recent developments, bodily waste is now one of the more pleasant things ‘Hey Dad’ is associated with.
Colgate ads featuring Mrs. Marsh and her famous piece of chalk were a staple on Australian TV from the 1970s through to the 90s. Here’s one from 1986.
Though certain elements of the ad may seem strange now, it must be remembered that everyone visiting a zoo in the 80s always took chalk, blue liquid and a box of toothpaste.
With its famous line, “Sic ‘em Rex!” this ad for Antz Pantz underpants caused some controversy in 1989 although as children many of us probably didn’t understand why.
I did always think it was strange and unsanitary to sleep in a room with so many ants but for many kids the only thing the ad did was make us want an echidna. (But probably for a different reason to the lady in the ad.)
From the late 80s, this ad from Decoré seemed to air constantly to the point where many of us can't hear the original song it is based on (Duke Of Earl) without thinking of shampoo, which presumably the original song is not about at all. A simple search would clear this up immediately and would have taken less time than it took to type this sentence but for now it remains a mystery. Here’s the ad.
Do The Right Thing
In the 90s along with polluting the planet, protecting the planet became a popular thing to do. Here’s a memorable ad that proves no matter how many people nature kills via cyclones, droughts, floods and volcanic eruptions, people still feel the need to help it out for some reason.
Do You Need A Hand?
From 1988, this ad from the Seventh Day Adventist Church doesn't appear to sell anything other than the concept of goodwill. (And also some Jesus, I guess.) With a catchy tune and a message about helping people, everything seems pleasant until you realise the person who needs help most is the one who is ignored. Watch out for the guy 50 seconds into the video who desperately needs help finding the rest of his shorts.
Pro Hart was an Australian artist famous for capturing outback scenes with a uniquely simple but elegant style. He was also a massive butthole to his cleaning lady. Look at the mess he makes in this classic 1988 ad for Stainmaster Carpets.
Fortunately Hart’s mess was no match for Stainmaster and the cleaning power of an ethnic stereotype.
Australian Dairy Corporation
Finally, in the 1980s Australians were constantly looking for cheese and trusted only one man to tell them where it was. That man was superstar TV chef Peter Russell-Clarke. Here he is in one of a series of ads for the Australian Dairy Corporation featuring the famous slogan, ‘Where’s The Cheese?’
The ads were well received but this final clip of Russell-Clarke’s television outtakes suggests constantly being asked the location of cheese can take its toll on a man. (The clip has an annoying watermark on it but luckily that doesn't cover up all the excellent swears.)
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