1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #8


An animated MTV promo: this one’s got African-style masks in a color palette of black, white, orange, and yellow–and lots of drumming and hollering on the soundtrack. It’s just ten seconds long, but if you nodded off during the Icehouse video, it wakes you up.

The “Bad to the Bone” riff announces another ad for Talk Radio (different from the one that ran before). Lots of quick cuts and stuttering footage: in some cases, a sequence of still photos instead of an actual clip. “It’s outrageous,” says the announcer. “It’s powerful. It’s terrifying. It’s real. It’s today. It’s talk radio: the last neighborhood in America. An Oliver Stone film.”


I suspected the last Gillette Atra ad of just being a European spot slapped onto the American airwaves. Now, less than an hour later (in broadcast time–it’s been almost two months for me), they run another version of the commercial, and it’s as if they read my twenty-years-later criticism (although if somebody at the ad agency had a time machine, I hope he used it for something more productive than going ahead in time to read my website). Same theme song, lots of the same footage, but gone are Euro sports like bicycling and soccer. They’re now replaced by footage of a football game (bien sur), baseball (mais oui), and surfing (pourquoi pas?). There’s also a closeup of a street sign from Wall Street, and most oddly, a short clip of a crew of astronauts, wearing some sleek science-fiction space suits, marching down a hallway in slo-mo with their helmets under their right arms, like they’re on their way to a Luc Besson movie or something.

Local promo: “Season’s Greetings from the Staff at UA-Columbia” says a card on the screen. Lots of footage of local cable-company employees waving for the camera, many of them not bothering to get off the phone. Regular people, dimly lit–there’s nothing like ’em.


We conclude with an ad for the World Wrestling Federation “Royal Rumble.” “In the main event, it’s every man for himself,” says the announcer, and we see seven or eight men wearing bikini underwear in a ring, whaling on each other in a disorganized fashion. “30 superstars battle it out, including Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and Ted DiBiase!” Savage is wearing goggles, a headband, and a lot of black glitter, like Stevie Nicks dressing up for a ski chalet. Andre sports a simple black one-shoulder wrestler’s tunic. Hogan has a yellow sleeveless T and sweatbands. DiBiase (who I’d never heard of) appears to be wearing a white suit, like a TV preacher. We see a wrestler leaping into a bodyslam, and then somebody dressed like a cop pointing at the camera while brandishing handcuffs. We’re informed of the details: the Royal Rumble was at 4 pm eastern on Sunday, January 15, 1989. (They scheduled it in the off-week before the Super Bowl.) According to some guy on Wikipedia, this was the second Royal Rumble, and the first one to go pay-per-view; the winner was Big John Studd.

A quick MTV bumper finishes off the commercial break: hand-drawn animation of a bristle-haired triangle-head man wearing a yellow bowtie and playing the guitar. Triangle Head is framed by a TV set; we pull back to see the set on a table, and then through a window that is part of a building in the shape of an M, bringing us the MTV logo.

posted 11 September 2008 in 1988 and tagged , , , , , , . 3 comments

3 Comments on 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #8

  1. Rule Forty Two - » 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #20 Says:

    […] the umpteenth time, WWF’s Royal Rumble. We see lots of wrestlers flaring their nostrils and pointing up to the sky. As usual, it’s […]

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

    […] specifically the “Atra Plus System”: a replay of this spot, I think. I can’t help but notice lots of big patches of white in this commercial: white […]

  3. Gavin Says:

    (That animated bumper, by the way, was directed by Henry Selick).

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