One of the inevitabilities of culture is that some things just don’t age well. Like the mullet, old episodes of Survivor, beauty pageants, The Jerry Springer Show, Zima . . . the list goes on and on. And it also includes plenty of commercials, because if advertisers are desperate for anything, it’s fitting in with culture. Saturday Night Live demonstrated as much with a pretty hilarious look at how some vintage (and totally fake) PSAs didn’t age so well.
Set at the annual–and very real–Ad Council gala, we meet advertising legend Martin Hammel, played by Larry David, who bears a striking resemblance to IRL ad legend Jeff Goodby (who actually did help create the “Got milk?” campaign).
Before awarding Hammel the Lifetime Achievement Award, they take a look back at some of his most famous PSA work. But all these years later, the spots don’t exactly make him beam with pride. (I imagine he felt a bit like David may feel right now about that Holocaust joke in the monologue.) Anyway, it’s something plenty of brands can relate to. Just Google “vintage sexist ads” or “vintage racist ads” for a quick refresher in . . . uh, classic ad sensibilities.
Thankfully, most decent advertisers have learned from the past and avoid trying to shoehorn slang into ads in a sad attempt to be down with the kids.
While not as good as the now-classic “Pitch Meeting” sketch, once again SNL warns ad folks of the danger in chasing trends. Besides, if anyone should get a Lifetime Achievement Award for their PSAs in the ’80s, it’s whoever figured out a way to get He-Man, Robocop and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to deliver the message.