Marketing

9 adverts from the 90s that will leave you feeling nostalgic

July 2021 6 min read Written by Papirfly

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Examples of famous adverts from the 1990s
  • Insight into what made these ads so memorable
  • Lessons that can be learned from each iconic advert

90s nostalgia seems to be in vogue right now. From the Friends Reunion special and Disney’s remakes of classic 90s animated movies like The Lion King and Aladdin, to the extraordinary revival and cost of Pokémon cards, many look back on the final years of the 20th century with nothing but fond memories.

With the 90s a decade in demand, we wanted to hop aboard the nostalgia train and look back at some of the most iconic adverts from this period, and what lessons we can take from them for future campaigns.

So drop your Gameboy, put on some Backstreet Boys or Spice Girls in the background, and let’s see what marketing in the 90s had to offer.

  1. Nike: Just Do It


Although the campaign technically launched in 1988, Nike’s now synonymous slogan “Just Do It” rose to prominence in the 90s, capturing the imagination of consumers for its empowering, universal message, whether people were interested in sports or not.

What began life as a throwaway suggestion based on the final words of a convicted murderer (no seriously) became the glue that connected all Nike’s then-disparate television spots. The message landed better than they could have hoped, and now it’s virtually impossible to distinguish the brand from the tag line.

What’s the lesson?

Think clearly about the solution that your product or service provides to your audience, and contain that into one simple yet powerful message. Also, don’t be afraid to toss out ideas in brainstorming sessions – you might unexpectedly land on a winner.

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  1. The Energizer Bunny



Again treading the boundary of the late 80s/early 90s, the Energizer Bunny ads were incredibly popular, parodying the established Duracell Bunny and highlighting its superior performance over its competitors. Since then, this pink rabbit has gone on to become just as recognisable as their competition.

What’s the lesson?

This lesson is more of a warning. Despite the popularity of the Energizer ads, sales actually declined, with speculation being that people thought the ads were promoting Duracell, not Energizer.

So, if you intend to make a direct parody of your competitors to promote the performance of your own product, make sure your own brand stands out from what’s already out there.

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  1. The Andrex Puppy


The mischievous little Andrex Puppy was all over UK television in the 1990s, with his antics not only designed to tug at people’s heartstrings, but to clearly demonstrate the strength of Andrex’s toilet paper and the length of each roll. Today, this loveable pup has made Andrex the biggest brand in its sector by quite a margin.

What’s the lesson?

Consider the benefits of introducing animals into your advertising to elicit a strong emotional response from audiences – of course ensuring to only use them in a way that ties directly to your brand, products or services.

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  1. The Tango Orangeman


Now onto a mascot that was just as memorable in the 1990s, but a lot more controversial than the beloved Andrex Puppy. The Tango Orange Man was a reaction against the norm television advertising where products improved the lives of those in the advert.

Instead, as the video shows above, after a man drinks Tango he is slapped in the face by a man completely covered in orange, followed by their famous tagline “You know when you’ve been Tango’d”.

The popularity of the ad caused controversy when children started mimicking the slaps in playgrounds, so it was later remade with a kiss instead. But, the campaign was an unquestionable success, boosting Tango sales by around a third.

What’s the lesson?

Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo if the opportunity emerges. This Tango advert and campaign is considered a pioneer of future viral marketing and guerrilla marketing attempts, and that is due to it going against conventional approaches to advertising at the time.

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  1. Got Milk?


The campaign that launched thousands of memes and copycats. The first “Got Milk?” advert from the California Milk Processor Board aired in 1993, depicting a hapless historian unable to answer a $10,000 phone-in question because his mouth was stuck by the peanut butter sandwich he was eating.

The “Got Milk?” campaign is now considered one of the most memorable of all time, attracting the involvement of numerous A-List celebrities and producing many hilarious ads – although seemingly not making much of a difference to declines in milk consumption… 

What’s the lesson?

Often it’s important to target your existing customers with adverts reminding them what’s so great about the product or service you offer, rather than place all your focus on attracting new customers.

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  1. Wonderbra: Hello Boys

hello


The Hello Boys advert from 1994 featuring supermodel Eva Herzigová turned the tide for Wonderbra in the battle of the bras against the Gossard Ultrabra. Previously considered the old-fashioned choice, this billboard reversed the fortunes of the brand, and has been voted the most iconic poster of all time.

It is so celebrated that Wonderbra revived the concept in 2018, but instead shifted the focus to promoting female empowerment, switching the phrase “Hello Boys” to “Hello Me”.

What’s the lesson?

Today, the lesson we can take from “Hello Boys” is that some adverts are products of their time, and would likely not prove as effective in a different era. In these instances, it is important to assess your landscape and speak to what your audience cares about, as demonstrated by Wonderbra’s transition to empowering messaging.

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  1. Coca-Cola: Holidays Are Coming


Coca-Cola has long been synonymous with Christmas time, and this advert from 1995 played a big part in cementing that reputation.

With the classic jingle, shots of people marvelling at the vibrant red truck driving past, and images of Santa Claus sipping a cold bottle, this ad has become a staple of Coca-Cola’s holiday marketing, to the point where many go out of their way to see these real-life trucks parade the streets throughout December.

What’s the lesson?

Building an association between your brand and a celebrated holiday can help forge a strong connection with customers when these holidays approach on the calendar. Even if you don’t reach Coca-Cola’s level of association, holiday-themed campaigns can be a great way to capture people’s attention year-round.

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  1. Guinness: Surfer


Considered one of the greatest television adverts of all time, this Guinness spot depicts a group of surfers waiting for the perfect moment to catch a wave powered by giant horses.

This is more akin to a short film than traditional TV ad, promoting the idea that good things come to those who wait, a reference to the fact that Guinness takes a long time to pour. Costing £6 million to produce, it is regularly mentioned as one of the most artistic and unique ads to have ever been broadcast.

What’s the lesson?

Sometimes putting belief and passion into a project will reap rewards against all expectations. When the ad was initially pushed out for public research, the response was negative. But, by trusting their instincts, they launched one of the most recognisable ads of the 90s.

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  1. Budweiser: Whassup?!


Finally, 1999 brought us a TV ad that not only captured a great deal of attention, but changed the way people communicated for a long time.

Budweiser’s series of commercials depicting a group of friends on the phone watching a football game and drinking beer launched the famous catchphrase “Whassup?!”, a word that quickly became a go-to introduction for conversations across America.

What’s the lesson?

Don’t be afraid to celebrate the absurdities, quirks and behaviours of your audience in your ads. The more that people can see themselves in your campaigns, the more likely it will resonate with them and create stronger, more sustainable bonds.

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From the past to the present and future… 

We hope this trip back in time celebrating 90s advertising hit you right in your nostalgia sweet spot. As you can see, even several decades later, there’s a lot that brands can learn from these campaigns to inspire ideas that will have people in the 2050s looking back on old adverts with the same fondness.

And, with innovations like BAM by Papirfly™, it is now quicker and easier than ever for marketing teams to create captivating, perfectly-branded assets for global campaigns.

With the capacity to produce marketing collateral in-house much faster and more cost-effectively, you can have more time to brainstorm creative, compelling advertising for your worldwide audiences, with complete confidence that anything generated by your team is on-brand and studio-quality.

Embrace the future of marketing today by booking your personal demo.

by Papirfly

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