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Why I Like 1980s Italian TV Commercials Even if I Didn’t Live Through That Era

Alessio enjoys vintage Italian TV & music. He also enjoys listening to Chinese POP music.



It is not unusual for someone who grew up in the '80s to be nostalgic for old TV commercials and TV in general. Instead, most people belonging to the new generations would have no interest in watching old TV commercials. Others, like me, can be curious or have a specific passion, so they can experience what was the TV in those years with the eye of someone who has never lived those ages. In this article, I will show some examples of old TV commercials and explain why I like them as someone who has seen them for the first time on a YouTube channel.

1. Commercials From the Past Contained a Message or a Story to Tell

Some commercials were very short, but others aired at that time were significantly longer than those of today. Moreover, in most of them, the actors and narrators were speaking calmly. They were there to tell a story rather than merely promote a product: the video above shows an example of this. Today many commercials are very short, narrated by loud voices, and far from relaxing. I find the audio of past commercials almost as if it were a pleasant background.

The two commercials above are, instead, referring to the famous pasta produced by Barilla Group. The company has always put the family at the center of every commercial. Despite this, many commercials of the '80s focused on family. In the end, it was maybe a period in which there was a strong sense of family. Nowadays, many sons even block their parents on Instagram or are fulfilled if they leave their parents' home. They prefer to be dependent on a bank than on their family and society has normalized this way of thinking. Living alone is more important than starting a business and placing elderly parents in retirement homes instead of caring for them when they are old is perfectly normal in this society. My distance from this line of thought allows me to appreciate these family-centered commercials even more.

2. Jingles Were Awesome

One thing that describes many commercials aired on Italian TV between the '80s and the '90s was the strong presence of original jingles made exclusively to promote the products. An example of this is a commercial for a Ferrero product that was especially famous some decades ago: Cristallina.

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Jingles also exist today, but what comes to the attention of someone watching old commercials is that, several decades ago, they were more used. Maybe, as TV in the past was one of the very few ways a company could follow to promote a product, much more importance was given to it by marketing teams of that time. Nowadays, online advertising represents a great competitor to traditional TV commercials due to the lower prices and the targeting options available: moreover, an online ad can be merely made of a picture and some text, while TV commercials require much more budget, being recorded videos that need locations, actors and an idea to be developed.

Maybe much less attention is given to TV commercials today, so not many companies are willing to invest money into making original jingles for their products. One thing I have often heard from people who lived their childhood between the '80s and the '90s was that they used to sing the jingles of commercials at that time: in the end, they are very catchy.

3. The Commercials of the Time Represented a Simple and Perhaps Less Consumerist Society Than Now

Consumerism in the 1980s was maybe less widespread than today. The need to replace smartphones every year is recent, while, in the past, the throwaway culture was less developed. You can see it even in the previous commercial promoting Cristallina, a powder for carbonated sparkling water: no plastic bottles are shown.

The above video shows another example of how society between the '80s and the '90s was different than today. It compares some old Italian TV commercials with those of today: at 0.03 minutes, one can see how an Italian home furniture company was advertising kitchens in the past while, at 0.38 minutes, the same company advertises their furniture today. Here are two observations about the two commercials:

  • 0.31 minutes: the old commercial highlights the main advantage of buying a kitchen from that company: a guarantee certificate;
  • 0.50 minutes: the new commercial highlights the installment payment option as the absolute advantage.

This shows essentially two things:

  • In the '80s, there was much more attention to the quality of products, maybe because people were buying things meant to last: there was perhaps less exasperated consumerism than today, maybe also words like "planned obsolescence" were sounding weird at that time;
  • Some decades ago - at least in Italy - people were great savers. They were happy without having to buy everything at once. If you had the money, you bought what you wanted: without them, you waited and tried to put aside what you needed to take a whim. No debts for going on vacation or changing clothes every year, like it happens today. Today, not offering installment payment options means losing potential customers because many want to get everything even if they lack money.



There is no need to be nostalgic people who lived childhood a few decades ago to appreciate commercials aired in those years. I like them and have only been able to see them on YouTube (I remember well - instead - the commercials from the 2000s, and even those were nice). I never get tired of continuing to watch these pieces of television history.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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