Jason Carr: My favorite ad campaigns growing up in Detroit

Detroit Zoo commercial from 1980s. (Detroit Zoological Society)

My favorite ad campaigns growing up in Detroit.

You Gotta Have Art. Set to the tune of You Gotta Have Heart, which I believe was originally sung by George Clooney’s aunt Rosemary Clooney, this was the stuff of commercial break ear worms. If you don’t remember, it was a spot for the DIA and was insanely catchy. The hook was something like, “so why the heck are you still waiting, come down here now, if you’ve never loved art, we’re gonna show you howwwwww.” The first time I saw this commercial I was barely out of diapers and I have never forgotten it.

Dittrich Furs. “Dittrich, Dittrich, depend-a-bility. Dittrich, Dittrich, since 1893.” I can hear it in my head like it was yesterday. Which isn’t a stretch because I feel like these still air every December. And I’m not mad about it.

Richard Golden. Sexy specs. If you know you know. If you don’t I feel sorry for you.

Highland Appliance. Oh my goodness. The one with the Russian sub that comes ashore amid the Cold War and the USSR sailors just want good deals on electronics? “50 watts per channel, baby cakes” will forever be stuck in my brain. One of the funniest local ads I have ever seen.

Mel Farr Superstar. For a Farr better deal. Really? Really? The owner of the historically largest minority-owned car dealership chain flying like Superman through TV commercials? Yes please. Local advertising at its most effective and enjoyable.

Mr. Belvedere. We. Do. Good. Work.

Ollie Fretter. “I’ll buy you five pounds of coffee if I can’t beat your best deal.”

Detroit Zoo. Talking animals. The music from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Pure genius and gold. Why the Zoo doesn’t still air this ad 40 years later when people are dying for feel-good nostalgia is a mystery I will never solve.

Gordie for ABC Warehouse. Don’t you miss Gordie? I do.

Little Caesars for the win. Some of the funniest commercials I have ever seen. Flo for Progressive should turn in her comedy badge. Anything from Bud Light during the last 30 Super Bowls cannot compare to Little Caesars ads from the Eighties and Nineties. The absurdism and anti-PC cheekiness was off the charts. The one where the guy breaks out of his own arm cast to pay for his pizza just might be the funniest TV spot I have ever seen. Note perfect, second-for-second, for 30 seconds.

(Tie) Go 4 It and Stand Up and Tell ‘Em You’re From Detroit. Listen. WDIV and WXYZ had some epic battles in the Eighties for ratings supremacy. As a kid growing up obsessed with local TV (go figure) I was enamored of anything like this, no matter the station. Little did I know I would end up working for two out of the three Big Three—and I don’t mean Ford, GM and Chrysler.

I could go on but I won’t. The NostalgiaMeter is on fumes. But thanks for sharing this moment with me.

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