Commercials for fast food are simply inescapable. We see them almost every time we watch television, flaunting their glossy burgers, fries, shakes, and whichever other product du jour they’re looking to hype up. Oftentimes these advertisements go in one ear and out the other, lucky to even elicit a "that looks tasty" from our subconscious (or, more realistically, from our kids).
But some commercials stick around for a little while longer. Whether it’s due to a snappy catchphrase, a creative storyline, a humorous spokesperson, or a catchy song, every so often these brands strike gold, and their commercial reaches that pinnacle that every ad executive dreams of: they enter the pop culture lexicon.
Almost everyone has some company motto or ad campaign centerpiece stuck somewhere in their subconscious. Think of the Coca-Cola polar bears, for example, or the Budweiser frogs. But when it comes to fast food, no other industry has worked so hard to capture the public’s attention through advertising dollars, and television advertising in particular. In fact, some might even forget that Ronald McDonald and his cast of characters, including the Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese, were invented solely to sell fast food to children.
In assembling our list of the top 10 fast-food commercials, our primary consideration was the level that they ingrained themselves into the public consciousness; the individual commercials that ranked the highest on our list were the ones whose imagery had some real staying power. For example, the phrase "Pizza! Pizza!" quickly associates itself with Little Caesars, but you’d be hard-pressed to recall the individual storyline of a Little Caesars commercial (and for that reason, it didn’t make our list). On the other hand, the phrase "Avoid the Noid" conjures images of not only Domino’s, but the Noid himself in the commercial. The top commercial on our list was not only effective, but extremely memorable and much-loved, and the lead actress even achieved a level of celebrity thanks to it.
The very first commercial for this pizza chain aired in 1965, and those of a certain generation will certainly remember the man in the tiny car (a 1965 Mustang GR) being chased through town, to the Pizza Hut, and back to his house, where his pie is greedily gobbled up before he can even grab a slice. It introduced the nation to the chain, which remains one of the country’s most successful to this day.
No matter how you feel about Subway’s Jared Fogle, there's no doubt that he’s one of the most enduring company spokesmen of all time. He was introduced (unleashed?) in 2000, after dropping 245 pounds in one year thanks to a diet that was heavy on Subway sandwiches (as well as exercise). His story helped transform Subway’s image into a "healthy" fast-food option, one which it still maintains to this day. Fogle still shows up in Subway commercials regularly, but the most enduring is the one that started it all.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kentucky Fried Chicken is synonymous with Colonel Harlan Sanders, and while an obvious reason could be that he was KFC's founder, in reality it’s because he appeared in many, many commercials for the chain. His most enduring is one from 1969, in which he sits, calmly explaining the product to the viewer before being called off to supper. He also makes sure to repeat their motto, "It’s finger-lickin’ good," several times. How could you not be in the mood for fried chicken after listening to this man?
This burger giant has had its share of advertising flops over the years (does anyone remember "Where’s Herb?"), and its "King" character certainly had some folks scratching their heads, but their motto "Have It Your Way" has stood the test of time, largely thanks to a 1974 Motown-style jingle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4YAcsAe6UI in which a trio serenades a customer after he asks to customize his burger. "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce…"
Whereas KFC had the Colonel, Popeyes has Louisiana cred and the vocal stylings of Dr. John. This trademark jingle, originally sung by the inimitable New Orleans funk legend, is super-catchy, fun, and still used in commercials today. While both KFC and Popeyes have a similar menu, nobody will ever get them confused thanks to their legendary marketing campaigns.
Back in the mid-1980s, Domino’s Pizza and ad agency Group 243 were trying to figure out the best way to advertise the fact that the pizza chain guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes or less. As a starting point, they assumed that customers would be annoyed if their pizza arrived late, so they created a little character to personify all those little annoyances. His name: The Noid (get it?). The first Noid commercial was introduced in 1986, and the motto, "Avoid the Noid," resonated so much that the odd little character became one of the enduring images of the '80s, and even spawned a video game.
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