80s Commercials: The 5 Best Ads of the 1980s

December 13, 2023


Justin Kerby

What are the best 80’s commercials?

There’s much to be learned from 80s commercials. The best ads of the 1980s decade didn’t just amplify established brands. In many cases, they established brands altogether.

Your brain may immediately jump to 80s commercial jingles when you think of the decade, but there is more to these ads than just a catchy tune.

As a social media and content marketing agency, we pay close attention to new ads to make sure we know what’s trending. We also recognize that it’s important to know what preceded the most popular ads of 2019, or the best Super Bowl ads of 2020. In some cases, the 80s commercials are even referenced.

We scoured the web and have found what we think are the five best ads of the 1980s. They come from major advertisers, with some reflecting changes that were taking place politically during the decade, and others simply asking important questions like:

Where’s the beef?

Take a look at these 80s commercials and see for yourself why they’re the best ads of the decade.


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Here Are The 5 Best 80s Commercials

5. Wendy’s

The Year: 1985

The Commercial: Soviet Fashion Show

At the time, Wendy’s slogan was “Choose fresh. Choose Wendy’s.” The company was trying as hard as it could to differentiate itself from McDonald’s, something they continue to do today by offering a unique voice on social media. In this spot, they did that successfully by pointing out that no choice is no fun. At Wendy’s you have choices, at McDonald’s at the time, you didn’t. It’s funny, it’s visually captivating, and the message sticks.

4. Folgers

The Year: 1985

The Commercial: Peter Comes Home

If you don’t remember this commercial, ask your parents. It was so popular it inspired a spinoff in 2009 that, well, wasn’t so warmly received. In part, because a lot of people think that the relationship between Peter and his sister took a pretty weird turn.

That being said, if a commercial is popular enough to have a sequel 24 years in the making, you know it was a hit.

Merry Christmas, Peter!

3. Diet Pepsi

The Year: 1985

The Commercial: New Neighbors

Hey, if you want to impress the girl, sometimes you’ve got to go the extra mile. Not back to the future, but at least to the store and back.

In the mid-80s, Michael J. Fox was one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Diet Pepsi tapped him to be their spokesperson in this 80s advertisement that has him jumping out of windows in order to satisfy a couple of new neighbors, and it left audiences smiling. The popular ad was a big win for the brand, and definitely one of the best 80s commercials all around.

2. Wendy’s

The Year: 1984

The Commercial: Where’s The Beef

Yes, Wendy’s made our list of best 80s commercials twice. We recognize that we could have diversified a bit here, but honestly, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to knock either spot of the list.

Where’s The Beef, in particular, was an extremely popular commercial for the brand. The phrase is often used to summarize the 1980s in a nutshell. It caught on in a big way, making its way into the lexicon, and at the same time reminding people that Wendy’s burgers had more beef than McDonald’s or Burger King. Nowadays, we’re all trying to cut back on the beef, but at the time, “Where’s The Beef” was just what the advertising-doctor ordered.

1. Apple

The Year: 1984

The Commercial: 1984

That’s right, both the name and the year are the same – but you probably already knew that if you’re into advertising. By the way, if you are in fact an advertising geek like us, be sure to subscribe to The Ad Spot, our Friday morning newsletter full of the week’s most talked-about ads.

Directed by Ridley Scott, this ad ran for one minute during the Super Bowl, reaching a national audience during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. It’s been called a watershed event for the company, as they depicted themselves and the Macintosh as a heroine, standing up against Big Brother and all of its conformity.

There’s no doubt, even with a cease and desist letter coming from George Orwell’s estate, that this is the best 80s commercial of all time.

Apple created an absolute masterpiece and will go down in advertising history as having one of the best commercials from the 1980s.

Written by

Justin Kerby

Justin is the founder of Something Great Marketing, leading our Vancouver marketing agency. He specializes in content strategy, website design, and branding.

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