It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a commercial great, but like a Supreme Court justice once said in a slightly different context, you know it when you see it. Ostensibly a commercial should make you want to go out and immediately buy the product, but it also should evoke some emotion, most likely happiness or nostalgia. But the combination of a good product, a catchphrase, a joke, and a jingle does not always a good commercial make. There’s really no formula. Ad agencies slave away for years to create the perfect commercial, and when it hits it enters the cultural zeitgeist and is remembered for years to come.
More so than just about any other category, food commercials really have the ability to make us go out and buy something. When we see a car commercial, we’re not going to go buy the car just because it was shiny. We’re not in the market for a car, but we’re always in the market for food. Maybe that’s why TV ads for food products tend to be some of the most successful of all time: they’re meant for everyone, not just a select segment of the population.
We’ve already tackled the most memorable fast-food commercials of all-time (time to make the donuts, anyone?), but there are a lot more food-related commercials out there. In assembling our list of the most iconic food product commercials of all time, we stuck with foods that are sold in supermarkets (drinks not included, sorry Budweiser frogs and "Got Milk?" guy). The main criterion was that these commercials needed to strike a cultural nerve. If you were alive and cognizant when these commercials hit the airwaves, you most likely remember them. The iconic ones entered the cultural conversation. The most iconic ones are still in the cultural conversation, sometimes up to decades later. And these are primarily one-off commercials, not entire campaigns based around, say, Bill Cosby selling Jell-O pudding (do any of those individual commercials really stand out?).
This kind of staying power doesn’t come easy, and these are the kinds of ads that agencies wish they thought of more frequently. Click through for our ranking of the most iconic food product commercials of all time.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.