Growing up outside of Detroit had many unique pleasures (see, e.g., frozen custard) but one of the things that I loved most about my childhood in Michigan were the amazing TV commercials. I know that statement probably makes me sound like a corporate pawn, but I'm not talking about the sophisticated, slick TV spots for Coke or Apple or whatever that you see nowadays. No, no -- I'm referring to true TV gems: local, metro Detroit commercials from the 90s. It really doesn't get any better.*
Plus, if you know me at all, you probably know that I love jingles. If it didn't sound so pathetic, I'd even go so far as to say that jingles are one of my "interests." And let me tell you, Detroit commercials back in the day had some great jingles: the Metro Detroit Ford Dealers song alone is like 4 minutes long with an instrumental interlude. I searched long and hard on the interweb to try to find one of those Ford commercials from the 1990s, but couldn't find anything. And I was dismayed to learn that Ford replaced its old, uplifting (if not excessively long) jingle with a new, much douchier one. The auto industry really is going downhill.
Even more disappointing: my number one FAVORITE commercial of all time, for Alan Ford dealership in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is apparently now the stuff of legend and doesn't exist on the internets ANYWHERE. That means I have no choice but to describe it to you. Okay, picture this: a cartoon cowboy and his dog. Got that? Okay, stay with me here -- the cowboy sings this song:
Here dog, come on dog!
Me and dog want you to come to Telegraph Road
Get a good deal.
That's it. Ask anyone who was alive in Detroit in the 1990s and I guarantee they'll know the "here dog, come on dog" song. It had a huge cultural impact.
Maybe you'd have to be there.
In a close second in the contest for the best Detroit commercials EVER are the classic commercials from Mr. Alan's, an "urban wear" chain of a slightly ghetto persuasion (see http://www.mralans.com/locations.php). Anyway, Mr. Alan's commercials always involve a cartoon man (Mr. Alan) with big pants and extremely odd facial hair:
It's amazing Mr. Alan was able to flash those ambiguous gang symbols with only four fingers on one hand, isn't it?
A typical Mr. Alan's commercial from the mid-1990s would feature the cartoon Mr. Alan superimposed next to still photos of shoes and jerseys with a voice-over announcing the prices of those items with increasing levels of urgency. It usually went a little something like this:
Timberland boots 29.99 two for 50!!
FUBU shirts 39.99 two for 60!!!
ROCAWEAR SHOES, 49.99 TWO FOR 80!!!!
You get the idea.
This is pretty representative:
And here is a slightly upgraded version of the classic Mr. Alan's commercial format, which actually involves real people talking:
One of the best Mr. Alan's commercials ever has unfortunately been taken off YouTube for reasons I do not fully understand, but you can use your imagination. It involved a high school kid trying to impress a girl and succeeding marvelously by going to "see the man" (Mr. Alan) and getting some sweet duds. Before he went to see the man, he looked like a total idiot in a plain red tee shirt. Once he emerged from Mr. Alan's, completely festooned with logos and insignias, though, things really started to look up for him socially. Thanks, Mr. Alan!
I miss those commercials. Here in Boston, there are a lot of cloying jingles on the air ("Bernie and Phyl's, quality comfort and price" -- ugh, we GET it already) but there aren't any ads that truly compete with the magic that came out of Metro Detroit. Oh, well. At least I have my memories.
*Except for maybe Brazilian commercials, but that's a post for another day.