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6 Vintage Wisconsin TV Commercials so Bad They're Awesome

Jasmine Ferrell

Through the magic of You Tube, please enjoy this video time capsule of Wisconsin’s commercial past. These old TV ads reveal a lot about the days of yore, and if we were to send anything up into space as a greeting to possible alien life, this should be it. After all, it pretty much sums up everything about Wisconsin: cowboys, balloons, lumberjacks, duck boats, and mid-nineties rap music. 

Ummmmm...
Ummmmm...

1) Wisconsin Dells (1981)

This ad takes advantage of many, many quick cuts to mimic the neverending excitement to be found in good ole’ Wisconsin Dells. The only problem is, many of the cuts are so quick it leaves the viewer a bit bewildered, especially when going from a pow-wow to a mechanical spider preying on an innocent girl. It also includes the killer tagline "Scream around Wisconsin's tightest curves." Watch!

Awesome hat party!
Awesome hat party ladies!

2) Wausau Center Mall (1983)

Although it lacks for any sort of narrative, this commercial still captivates the viewer with its jolly cast of characters. Why, there’s Grandpa! And boy does he look confused by a baseball glove. And there’s silly Uncle Joe, hiding his presents in all sorts of boxes! Ha ha what fun! Balloons! Watch!

SCHLITZ?!
"You gotta be schlitzing me."

3) Schlitz Party (1967)

Based on this ad alone, I feel 1967 was a prime year for commercial jingles. Aside from that, this ad is chock full of elegance, wit, and a shot of sass. Who wouldn’t want to be at this little party? In fact, if you weren’t there, well cue the ashamed 1960s female with hand on cheek whispering, “Embarrassing.” Watch!

Jaunty caps and ascots all day long, dudes.
Jaunty caps and ascots all day long, dudes.

4) Old Milwaukee Log Rolling (Year Unknown)

Here we have a classic story. There’s the logrolling underdog who just can’t rise to the challenge against his heckling opponents, only to come out the hero at the very end – indeed, our hero is better at selecting crowd-pleasing beer than he is at that trendy logrolling.  This commercial is pretty much a Greek tragedy. But with '70s era faux lumberjacks. Watch!

Time to rustle up so premiums, ma.
Time to rustle up so premiums, ma.

5) Wausau Insurance Company (1978)

Here we have the tale of Rosie and Tom (not these guys) – two downhome folks who conquered the Ol' West through visual metaphors for different kinds of insurance coverage. This ad comes across more like a high school teaching aid than a commercial. Somewhat dry and a bit too long, one can imagine passing notes to your BFF across the aisle. But clearly the producers were dedicated to the concept, so you gotta give them some credit. Bonus points for the closing stampede. Watch!

Apparently rapping about safe driving means not having to wear your seatbelt.
You'd think a group of guys rapping about safe driving would be wearing their seatbelts.

6) Drive Wise (Umm, early 90s?)

This video leaves me speechless. It would appear as though the Wisconsin Department of Tourism hired 4th-string hip-hop group "Fresh Force" to rap about safe driving. Between the hypnotic illustrations dancing across the back-drop to the rhythmic perfection of the head bops, I see no flaws. Plus, the lyrics alone master the art of conveying information while still being catchy. “The road is like a jungle, *car horn* animal instincts.” Pure poetry. Watch!

See ya later, tailgater.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.