Tuesday Throwback: Heroes From Upper Deck

Wow. Love it. Nostalgia overload. I randomly thought of this as I was considering what to write today, searched “Upper Deck commercial” on YouTube, and it was the first result. I guess it came out in the mid-90s, when I was 9 or 10. Great copy too, which really captures the notion of sports heroes for young people.

ken griffey jr


Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana Get Masculine

With nearly 40% of American households now having a digital video recorder (DVR), it’s easy to forget the revolutionary impact of TiVo. Introduced in 1999, TiVo was the first DVR to be mass produced. It allowed viewers to record programming onto a hard drive without a clunky VCR or cassette tapes. TiVo users also had the ability to pause live TV and easily fast forward commercials on recorded material, which is something I will likely address in a later post. TiVo still exists, but its market share is much lower today, with most cable companies offering a DVR as part of a digital package.

In 2000, TiVo created what I think is one of the funniest commercials ever made.

Athletes have a long history in commercials, most of them comedic and/or cheesy, and this spot is gold. From Ronnie’s shanked golf shot, Joe’s genuine concern, the spot-on parody music and faux-scientific explanation of a problem never advertised (hey, we itch sometimes too!), and Ronnie’s deadpan “Boy Howdy”, everything about this ad works. The punchline of course is the cringe inducing gob of Itch Stopper Plus, and the sudden cutaway for TiVo. You’d almost think it was real if Ronnie and Joe didn’t look like they were about to crack up the entire time. The inherent irony is that it’s a commercial for TiVo which you would likely never see if you had TiVo.

I remember seeing this during a regular season NFL game, and I only saw it once, making it the ultimate one hit wonder of a commercial for me. In retrospect, it would have made a great Super Bowl ad, but it wasn’t. Maybe the relatively new TiVo service didn’t want such a big expense early on. Maybe it was judged to be too racy, which would have been strange considering what happened a few years later. In any case, it stands out more than 10 years after it was on, which really says something.

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