7 Commercials From The '80s That Taught Us How To Be Adults

by Mia Geiger
Originally Published: 
A screenshot from the 'Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?' commerical from 1989
Lowe Advertising

Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon? I know, I don’t have any Grey Poupon either, but I’ll never forget that hand reaching out of the window of a Rolls-Royce to pass along a jar of the fancy mustard. My friends and I used to mimic the commercial, doing our best hoity-toity accents.

It’s just one of those commercials that made watching television even more fun. Yes, I’d rather not have been interrupted while watching Mr. Roarke welcome guests to Fantasy Island or while David Hasselhoff was tailing the bad guys while driving K.I.T.T. I would have loved to have fast-forwarded through the ads, using the DVR like I can do now, rather than having to wait to see Ross’s puppy-dog expression while talking to Rachel. A full hour, without any breaks, to watch the antics of Brenda and Brandon and the gang? That would have been awesome.

Most of us probably skip past the commercials now. But if we had this technology years ago, then we would have missed out on all those grrreat! (in Tony the Tiger speak) ads that we loved. Not only did those commercials give us something to smile at (and make us hungry for), they also sneaked in some lessons that helped us to be a little more grown up now.

So without further interruption, let’s take a look at some of the taglines from commercials from our youth that give new meaning to our lives today.

1. Life Cereal

The tagline: He likes it! Hey, Mikey!

The life lesson: No one thought Mikey would like Life Cereal–he hated everything!–but he tried it. This showed us that when we were faced with a new food to try, we could immediately dismiss it, or we could set a good example for our kids and be like Mikey and give it a go. Tofu, anyone?

2. Dunkin’ Donuts

The tagline: Time to the make the donuts!

The life lesson: The good things in life–like donuts!– take time. Even if we have to get up extra early to make our kids breakfast (okay, a Pop-Tart) we don’t mind (that much) sacrificing a few more zzzs and putting in the extra effort.

3. Energizer Batteries

The tagline: The Energizer Bunny keeps going and going and going…

The life lesson: Even if we haven’t had more than three hours sleep, haven’t eaten a vegetable in a week, and haven’t combed our hair in forever, we need to keep going. But just like the Energizer Bunny, we do need to recharge once in a while. Waiter, a rose, please!

4. Wendy’s

The commercial: Where’s the beef?

The life lesson: Sweet Clara: she could be a tough cookie when she wanted to, especially when she was trying to find the beef. We women can make sure we’re heard too! We can look pretty and feminine, but we can still be assertive and stand tough to make sure we get what we need. The next time someone gives you guff, just channel your inner Clara.

5. Kit Kat

The tagline: Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!

The life lesson: It’s OK for moms to sometimes say to their kids (and others), “Gimme a break.” This works well when you’re asked once too often to watch the neighbor’s kid, bake cookies for the team or chaperone the class trip. When that break comes in the form of a kid breaking off a piece of a Kit Kat bar to share with you, even better.

6. Nike

The tagline: Just do it.

The life lesson: When our kids tell us they can’t tie their shoes, can’t shoot a basket, can’t win a part in the play, we know what to tell them: Just do it. This also works for pulling off Band-Aids.

7. McDonald’s

The tagline: You deserve a break today.

The life lesson: Taking a break to get a meal that someone else has cooked? Yep. You cook, clean, chauffeur and accomplish a myriad of other feats. You do, in fact, deserve a break! And a side of fries.

Those are some pretty helpful lessons, right? It makes me feel a little less guilty thinking about all that time I spent in my living room, eyes peeled to the screen even during the commercials. True, I probably could have watched a few less programs, but then I might never have been brave enough to try tofu! So go ahead, indulge in a marathon of Friends reruns; in between those program segments are 30-second sound bites that we’ll remember as fondly as we remember Ross and Rachel.

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