Ads at the turn of the century

I don’t know about you but when someone says “turn of the century” I think of scenes like this:

Not images like this:

But friends, I’m talking about the turn of the twenty-first century. That was over 20 years ago, long enough that you can have whole adult people who have no living memory of it.

So close, so far away

I found this archive of commercials from 1999 on YouTube:

These were the days of The Matrix, of Blockbuster Video, and of khaki pants. In some ways it feels like yesterday. In others, and especially when I look at these commercials, it feels like a million years ago.

YouTuber “Dave’s Archives” has a massive trove of commercials from the 20th century, so many that you have to wonder where he got them all. Is he (or someone near him) a hoarder? I mean, we should all be glad for people who obsessively record history, because it means we have access to it.

Here’s what I mean

Consider the story of Marion Stokes. She recorded the evening news every night for 35 years on VHS tapes. Her collection is slowly being integrated into the Internet Archive’s searchable collection of TV News clips so that you or anyone can look for them.

Perhaps at some point in the future “Dave’s Archives” will achieve similar notoriety for his obsessive collection of commercials from way back then.

It brings to mind a quote:

In this classic scene from (gasp) 40 years ago, Belloq talks about how worthless things become valuable over time. Like you, I spent the 20th century trying to avoid commercials. I’d record shows just so I could watch them and skip the commercials. I loved (and still love) my DVR for this same reason. But take those commercials, keep them from me for 25 or 30 years, and they become treasured heirlooms of a time long past.

…and a little embarrassing

Watch these commercials. Ask yourself if you still dress like this. I’m not saying you recently got into ’90s fashion. I’m saying you never stopped dressing like this. Ask yourself if these commercials still look fresh or interesting to you. I bet some of them do. That’s a mixture of two things. First of all, some of these spots are very well made. But more than that, our eyes tend to enjoy more comfortable things as we age. We tend to put less value in the new and more value in what we know. Don’t feel bad, it happens to everyone.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.