37 classic TV ads that defined the 1990s

Tom Eames
·5-min read
Photo credit: Tango
Photo credit: Tango

From Digital Spy

As the great philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said, "advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century", almost certainly while laughing his arse off to Ray Wilkins narrating the Tango advert.

See, just like our favourite TV idents, telly commercials have long been some of the finest pieces of entertainment around. Let's be honest, in the '90s they were usually better than most of the shows.

But with advertising now ever-stretched across social networks, TV ads just don't seem anywhere near as amazing as they used to be. So let's go back to the decade that brought us Pogs, the Spice Girls and Tony Blair, when ads were nothing short of incredible…

1. Guinness - Dancing Man

An advert so good that it managed to get a 1950s mambo instrumental into the top 5 (and way before Lou Bega).

2. Budweiser - Whassup!

This became unfunny very quickly, and then funny again. And so on. They actually returned eight years later for an anti-Bush/pro-Obama ad with the exact same cast.

3. Reebok - Belly's gonna get you!

Still absolutely terrifying in so many ways. Everyone would lose weight if this thing came running at them.

4. Tango - Orangeman

OK, the original ad may have been banned due to kickstarting the happy-slapping craze in school playgrounds, but it's still hilarious. Utterly bonkers.

5. Dime Bar - Armadillos!

"You're a bit thick really, aren't you?" Thanks to Harry Enfield, we always get a hankering for chocolate-covered caramel whenever we see an armadillo to this day.

6. Club - If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit...

You weren't part of the elite if you didn't know the words to this annoying advert.

7. Andrex - Puppy

A dog is for life, not just for when you're taking a crap.

8. Guinness - Horses and Surfers

Often cited as the greatest TV ad of all time. It's almost too much up its arse for its own good, but you just can't help but love those epic horses and Leftfield's trancey anthem 'Phat Planet'.

9. Crunchie - I'm So Excited

Never has that 'Friday feeling' been summed up as well as in this joyous ad of chocolatey dreams.

10. Coke - Holidays are coming...

To this day, it's still not quite Christmas until this pops up on the telly, despite looking insanely dated by now.

11. Jaffa Cakes - Total eclipse!

Admit it, you still say or at least think this line every single time you help yourself to some Jaffa Cakes.

12. Chewits - Dinosaur

The 1990s version of the 'Muncher' was much less scary than his '80s equivalent. How could you say no to that face?

13. Wine Gums - Hoots Mon!

"There's juice, loose, aboot this hoose!" Still so catchy after all these years.

14. PlayStation - Alien girl

Even if you don't remember what actually happened in this ad, you'll never forget that face.

15. Budweiser - Frogs

An ad series that eventually morphed into a pair of lizards trying to kill off the constantly-croaking frogs via the use of an inept ferret hitman. Yep, that actually happened.

16. AOL - Connie

Back when we needed the internet spelled out for us in easy-to-understand language.

17. Bodyform - Woooaaah, Bodyform!

Bodyform for you!

18. Safestyle - BOGOF

"You buy one, you get one free... I SAID YOU BUY ONE YOU GET ONE FREE." Did you know this bloke got convicted for tax fraud?

19. Levis - Mr Oizo

Want a successful ad AND a number one single? Cast a cute cuddly toy who can dance.

20. Cadbury - Sexy bunny

Too. Many. Odd. Feelings.

21. Heinz Ketchup - Ladysmith Black Mambazo

It shouldn't work but it does. Put this music on top of any slow-motion video and it looks good. AND YES that is absolutely Russell Tovey when he was a tyke.

22. Renault Clio - Nicole? Papa!

Meet every young boy's first-ever TV crush. Here, Nicole meets her boyfriend Vincent Cassel, only to end up marrying Bob Mortimer of all people.

23. Flake - Bathtime

Cadbury's Flake. Literally the worst chocolate bar to eat in the bath.

24. Dr Pepper - What's the worst that could happen?

Why yes, that IS Jesse Eisenberg.

25. Goodfellas - Bada bing!

How many Italian-American stereotypes can we fit into one ad?

26. Doritos - Laundromat

Ichiwawa! If there's one guy that could pull this lady, it's clearly Will & Grace star Sean Hayes.

27. Nescafe Gold Blend - The couple

Anthony Head, you old dog, you. Genuinely compelling for years.

28. Boddingtons - Melanie Sykes

"Do you want a Flake in that love?" Back then, you could actually land your own TV show with Des O'Connor off the back of a TV ad.

29. Walkers - Lineker's debut

He's STILL hoarding crisps to this day, and yet he's still surprisingly ripped.

30. Nike - Parklife

At the height of Britpop and the Premiership, this glorious ad was born. Blur AND Cantona? Yes please.

31. Reebok - Ryan Giggs

A collection of everyone from Richard Attenborough to Robbie Williams to Tom Jones describing a perfect Giggs goal. Only in the 1990s.

32. BBC - Perfect Day

Technically an advert, this is how the BBC promoted itself back in the day. By getting Boyzone to duet with David Bowie, Ian Broudie, Elton John and basically everyone else.

33. Diet Coke - Shirtless man

This still hasn't happened outside our office.

34. Soft Mints - Mr Soft

So how come everything in Mr Soft's world is so strange, then?

35. BT - It's good to talk

Bob Hoskins, we miss you.

36. Levis - Spaceman

If anyone can turn Babylon Zoo into a chart-topping band, Levis can.

37. Carling Premier - Cars

We'd totally climb over a bunch of cars to the tune of Gary Numan if there was a beer at the end of it.

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