1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #6

Once again, MTV visits the Duke.


First up, a network spot for the show Now Hear This: MTV’s Guide to New Music. This program aired on Monday nights and was hosted by golden-maned Adam Curry. “World premiere videos,” voiceover guy says, and we see clips of Keith Richards, Huey Lewis, and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith, who in 1988 still got second billing behind DJ Jazzy Jeff). “Hot new albums,” promises voiceover guy, and we see album covers of Huey Lewis’s Small World (wow, somebody in the promo department really liked Huey Lewis), Europe’s Out of This World (apparently, this is MTV’s version of “world music”), and then, 20 Years of Jethro Tull (which seems to stretch the definition of “new music” past the breaking point). “Not then, now,” voiceover guy concludes.


Next: Michelob Dry (not the same ad that ran earlier in the countdown). This spot is built on the contrast between “What Dry Was” and “What Dry Is.” Was: dusty gas station, cowboy in the desert with horses. Is: guys jogging in the surf, guys boating while spray flies in their faces, a girl taking a shower. You can see the disconnect between the people who named the product (for whom “dry” was a brewing term of art) and the marketers (who clearly hated the name, which went against literal-minded thirst-quenching, and did everything they could to invert it).

Another ad for Rain Man (also not the same spot as before, although it contains a lot of the same clips). “If I don’t get my money out, I am over, I am finished. Do you understand that?” says Tom Cruise. We see Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in matching suits; Valeria Golino only appears in a bathtub. Cruise gets second billing in the credits, which makes Dustin Hoffman his DJ Jazzy Jeff.


We switch to local ads from the cable company, pitched at residents of Westchester, the New York City suburb where I was watching/taping this countdown. First up is an ad for “Lifestyles 19”: apparently the cable company set up a channel for the Christmas shopping season that was filled with ads from local merchants. The text of the ad scrolls over stock holiday images. Oh, and it’s a poem. “Viewers see what they want and then come to your store / You may wish that you’d ordered about a hundred percent more.” The production values are tatty–and the ad aired a week after Christmas.

“What’s the best-kept secret in the metropolitan area?” asks the next commercial. I can think of dozens of answers, but it would have taken me a long time to get to “Monroe, the junior college for business.” We see photos of students learning to word-process. “Upon graduation, choose from a variety of exciting job and transfer opportunities.”

We cut into the middle of a spot for the Freedom Rock compilation; like all right-thinking Americans, I remember this commercial fondly (“Is that Freedom Rock? Well, turn it up!”), so I can only hope they play the whole ad later in the countdown. The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” is playing. Four records or three cassettes were $19.95; two CDs would have set you back $24.95. (Plus three dollars for shipping and handling.)

Another short bit of arty animation serves as an MTV promo: a shiny silver bug climbs onto a Xerox machine in search of some food. The lid comes down on the bug, and copies spit out, forming a flip-book animation of the squashed bug that turns into the MTV logo.

posted 24 July 2008 in 1988 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 4 comments

4 Comments on 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #6

  1. Chris M. Says:

    That Freedom Rock taught the 17-year-old me about a lot of non-Beatles ’60s music I knew nothing about, particularly some of the better one-hits (e.g., “Time Has Come Today,” “Incense and Peppermints,” etc.).

  2. Gavin Says:

    You owned it?!? That’s awesome. Did you buy any other records from TV commercials?

  3. hithereitsrandy! Says:

    Man, I sure miss the good ol’ mtv…

  4. Rule Forty Two - » 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #19 Says:

    […] Dry: this spot. This commercial is scored only with percussion–it sounds like one guy, going to town on a […]

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