?Commercials tell us what to eat, how to be cool and generally what we need to own in order to be any sort of worthwhile human being. Because Don Draper and his ilk thought that all of us hang on every word a star sputters out and have an innate desire to be just like the rich and famous, the celebrity endorsement became a staple of advertising. This has given us many awesome things, like the way Wilford Brimley pronounces diabetes as “dia-beet-us” (it’s a clich?d thing to comment on at this point, but still so entertaining). When an actor or character becomes a cultural touchstone, it’s only natural for manufacturers to want to use their celebrity heat to generate sales. The upside to this is that audiences can see their favorite performers shamelessly shill for any product on the market. This has led to a lot of ads that are especially geared towards those who tend to obsess over pop culture, i.e. nerds. Featuring a ton of geekcentric celebrity endorsements and everything from misguided soft drinks to a cyborg with a taste for fried foods, this list features the 12 most awesome commercials that have a special place in the hearts of nerds everywhere.
Daily List suggested by MankaCat.
12) Max Headroomfor Coke
What is being sold? Coke’s awful ’80s relaunch of their soda, or step one their brilliant, long-term plan to reassert Coca-Cola Classic’s soda dominance over Pepsi. Sigh. Who is doing the endorsing? A heavily made-up and not at all computer-generated Matt Frewer. Why is it so awesome? This Orwellian masterpiece is a time capsule back to a simpler era when all it took to entertain the world was a stuttering computer program singing the virtues of history’s biggest marketing blunder. The 1980s. Will there ever be another decade so wonderful?
11) Gremlins for British Telecom What is being sold? British Telecom’s IT support services for businesses. Who is doing the endorsing? UK reality TV mainstay Peter Jones and lots of mischievous former Mogwai. Why is it so awesome? Anyone who thinks the inevitable Gremlins sequel/reboot needs to be strictly CGI should take a look at this commercial (or Sacha Feiner’s fan film) to see that the best way to bring the creatures to life will always be through puppetry. That somewhat obvious stance aside, this is a prime example of how to marry creativity with commerce. Computer woes are an unfortunate constant in the business world, so to name literal Gremlins as scapegoats for the glitches that plague modern tech is an inspired bit of advertising. But does this mean that British Telecom sends Zach Galligan around to solve England’s IT problems?
10) Cornelius for Serta
What is being sold? Mattresses and the idea that all we all secretly dream of Roddy McDowall. Who is doing the endorsing? A very WASPy couple and, bizarrely enough, Cornelius from the Planet of the Apes films. Why is it so awesome? Because with this spot Serta seems more interested in making pop culture references than selling their products. Once the chimpanzee archaeologist pops up on screen, viewers are so overwhelmed by the sheer randomness of the commercial that they forget exactly what is being pitched (this seems more like a sketch from The State than a bona fide advertisement). Or maybe I’m missing the point here. Is the company saying that users of their product are guaranteed a simian cameo in every dream? If so, my futon is hitting the curb pronto.
9) George Lucas for Panasonic What is being sold? Panasonic televisions. Who is doing the endorsing? Everyone’s favorite bearded revisionist. Why is it so awesome? In this Japanese commercial, Lucas seems as confused as audiences were watching the prequels. Adding to the hilarity is some sloppy (yet probably intentional) overdubbing that drowns out his voice, thus providing wish fulfillment to fanboys everywhere.
8) William Shatner for Priceline.com
What is being sold? The promise of cheap travel bliss. Who is doing the endorsing? The Shat, accompanied by a cowbell-playing Ben Folds, Lisa Loeb and various session musicians. Why is it so awesome? William Shatner has more ads under his belt than everyone else on list combined. He is the Shakespeare of selling. Since 1999 he has been schilling for Priceline, and his ads for the “name your own price” company continue to this day. None of his current spots match the brilliance of this unplugged epic in which he transforms Young MC’s “Bust a Move” into a corporate jingle before our very eyes. You want it, you got it indeed.
7) The Twin Peaks Cast for Georgia Coffee
What is being sold? Georgia Coffee, a tasty Japanese canned coffee usually sold (both hot and cold) in vending machines. Who is doing the endorsing? Agent Cooper, Shelly and the Log Lady. Why is it so awesome? This is one of a series of continuing commercials promoting a canned coffee drink that aired in Japan at the height of Twin Peaks mania. There were four spots in total, all directed by David Lynch and featuring the series’ cast. When viewed consecutively they offer another story set in the show’s universe, which is always a welcome thing.
6) Batman for OnStar
What is being sold? OnStar’s car-based communications and security services. Who is doing the endorsing? The Dark Knight and (indirectly) the Clown Prince of Crime.
Why is it so awesome? It offers up a compelling glimpse into what a live-action Batman TV series set in the Tim Burton film-era would have looked like. To enjoy this and the five other spots in the ad campaign fully, it’s best to ignore the implication that Batman would ever use non-Wayne Enterprises tech.
5) Sigourney Weaver for DirecTV
What is being sold? Satellite TV service. Who is doing the endorsing? Lt. Ellen Ripley, though she kind of has her hands full. Why is it so awesome? This is the best of DirecTV’s series of ads that edit newly filmed footage into classic movie moments (although the Doc Brown one is pretty damn close). It succeeds twofold by alerting consumers to the potential advantages of DirecTV and also reminding them of what a great flick Aliens is. Sadly, this ad campaign took a ghoulish turn when other spots featured Chris Farley and the dead girl from Poltergeist. It looks like the geniuses behind those two commercials forgot that people want to watch television to relax as opposed to be reminded of their mortality.
4) The Cast of the Original Star Trek for MCI
What is being sold? MCI’s Friends and Family service option. Ah, the days before cell phones. Who is doing the endorsing? Nichelle Nichols, George Takei (oh my), Walter Koenig, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and Jonathan Frakes. They all seem vaguely drunk. Why is it so awesome? Because they all pretend to like each other, just like a real family!
3) Bruce Campbell for Old Spice
What is being sold? Some kind of body spray but mostly the Platonic ideal of Awesomeness. Who is doing the endorsing? Ash. Why is it so awesome? Do you not have eyes and ears? It’s Bruce Campbell singing “Hungry like the Wolf” to his harem in a 1960s bachelor pad. This isn’t just an amazing nerd-baiting commercial, it’s easily in the top ten greatest ads ever.
2) Tom Baker and Lalla Ward for Prime Computers
What is being sold? Prime Computers. Think Vic 20, but Australian. Who is doing the endorsing? An apparently super horny Fourth Doctor and Romana.
Why is it so awesome? Before David Tennant and Billie Piper, Baker and Ward were the Doctor Who couple with the most chemistry (off-screen as well, the pair married in 1980). The above reel of all of the Prime ads is the definitive example of selling to your target audience. If your target audience is tech-obsessed Anglophiles, that is. Also, Gallifreyan technology must blow.
1) Robocop for Fried Chicken
What is being sold? Some kind of Korean fried chicken/German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s theory that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Who is doing the endorsing? Someone who is hopefully not Peter Weller. Why is it so awesome? You’ve seen this video on Topless Robot before (as well as other equally insane commercials featuring the character), but it really welcomes repeat viewings. Not even the late Billy Mays could have guessed it, but Robocop is the most natural pitchman the advertising world has ever seen. Logic, marketing strategies, audience research — none of these things matter when you can just have Robocop appear, eat some chicken and steal a fridge for no goddamn reason. That’s money in the bank folks.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.