TV commercials try to catch your attention in any way possible. Sale prices, humor, talking animals...but what if you need to make a memorable ad on a tight budget? The results can be unintentionally strange, funny or borderline insane.
Here's a sampling of some truly bizarre local Cleveland TV ads from the past, to delight and confuse you.
Pick N' Pay - "Celery"
Once a big competitor in the Ohio grocery store game, this Pick N ‘ Pay ad from the late 1970’s highlights a vegetable not normally shown when trying to wow would-be customers: celery.
You know, celery! That garnish or broth enhancer that you normally half-remember being in your crisper drawer. This unnamed salesperson is nuts about it! Like a proud papa, he raves about the excellence of of Pick N’ Pay’s celery quality, extolling its glossy stalk and green leaves. “The inner ones are best raw!” he crows, grinning to the camera.
Pick N’ Pay went out of business some years later, perhaps because of their celery-intensive marketing campaign.
Higbee's - "Jordache Jeans"
This 1986 spot for the now-defunct but still legendary Cleveland department store Higbee’s really drives home the importance of a great-looking butt.
Jordache Jeans, one of THE brands to wear in the mid-80’s, depicts two jean wearers who cause all around them to become overcome with lust and awe.
The denim-clad male not only attracts a local street gang made up of roller-skating beauties, but defies nature itself by stopping time as an admiring woman halts herself, mid-swing.
The Jordache woman causes men to leap up from their picnic table social and faint, domino-style, with a mere wink before winning the affections of a chimpanzee. The message is clear: if you want to win over the world, you gotta get that butt.
C. Miller Chevrolet - "Top of the World"
We can’t find much on Mr. C. Miller’s Chevrolet dealership, but we know three things for sure: 1) It was in Willoughby Hills, 2) He was number one in sales in the greater Cleveland area in 1979, and 3) the man wasn’t afraid to go high-concept with his commercials.
C. Miller comes across like a fun-loving loon, with his big ACTING! moments of falling from the “top of the world”, and his “Oof!” of landing at the base of the Terminal Tower. He even breaks into near-song when he encourages you to “See the USA in a C. Miller Chevrolet”. He exudes total confidence that he will be number one again in 1980, and there was little reason to doubt him, as he had just survived a fall from heaven.
Ohio Lottery - "Lucky Stars"
Hoo-boy! They say sex sells, which may have been the thinking behind this 1978 ad for the Ohio Lottery. Just slather up a beefy actor with gold body paint, and have him hawk the “Lucky Stars” scratch-off tickets.
Helpfully labeled “SAGITTARIUS”, the constellation salesperson’s drug-haze-y pitch get even MORE sexy when Leo shows up – me-OW!
Higbee's - "Eye"
There’s “creative”, and then “too creative” when it comes to advertisements. This ad, again for Higbee’s, has a reputation for those who saw it when they were kids as “nightmare inducing”.
The commercial, titled “Eye”, shows a series of eyes, or things that suggest eyes, from the human, animal and art world. The surreal and unsettling aspect comes both from the jump-cut and stuttering camerawork and the black void behind everything. Add the overly-perky whistling and sing-song delivery of “If you haven’t seen Higbee’s”, and you have an ad spot that looks like what’s shown to Malcolm McDowell at the end of Clockwork Orange.
Norton Furniture - "Frog on the Couch"
You can’t do a list of strange Cleveland TV commercials and NOT include Norton Furniture. It’s simply against the law.
What is happening in this ad? Mark Norton tells us about the “Good News”: his gospel of how if you can’t get credit there, you can’t get it anywhere. Regardless, all we can do is stare at the Chekhov’s Gun of the silent, unmoving frog mascot behind him. When will it move? Does it see us? Does it have a soul? None of those questions are answered, but instead replaced with a thousand more.
Whatever this is, it’s art.