When Frozen Vegetables were Fancy

In 1912 Clarence Birdseye, taxidermist and naturalist, was working in Labrador, Canada, enjoying the temperate climate of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Birdseye took to ice fishing and discovered the fish he caught froze almost instantly as it hit the frigid air. What’s more, when thawed, the fish tasted fresh! Clarence learned this flash freezing created small ice crystals which preserved the meat without destroying the cells. This was a far cry better than contemporary freezing methods that were costly and left frozen foods mealy and unappetizing.

Birdseye, back at home in New York City, went to work to recreate this flash freezing process. In 1927 he applied for a patent for a new food freezing machine and soon after got to selling his new and improved frozen foods.

What seems crazy to our modern palate is that, at the time, frozen food was seen as a posh culinary choice. The 1920’s and ‘30’s hostesses proudly announced to her guests she was serving frozen foods at her dinner party. At the time, only those who could afford freezers could store the products which also cost more due to the needed temperature control from production to travel to storage in local shops. Birdseye began leasing grocery stores special freezers to display his products. All this lead to frozen fish and veggies being seen as fine dining.

Birdseye’s companies started advertising “June peas as gloriously green as any you will see next summer” which seems a tad lengthy, though totally delightful.

Post WWII people began buying freezers for their homes, making frozen foods more accessible to the masses. Food companies began offering frozen pizzas and eventually the classic TV dinner.


In the 1950s, Birds Eye, now owned by General Foods, introduced its popular slogan, “Sweet as the moment when the pod went POP”

peas pop ad

In 1969, Birds Eye made history as it aired the first color TV commercial to run in the U.K., showcasing those peas in all their technicolor glory.

And, because we all love those vintage food ads, here you go:

peas adman birds eye



Big Game Ad Recap, 2018!

I usually live stream my impressions of superbowl ads on the Aunt Mary Facebook Page, but this year I decided to actually join the party I was at and jot down the commercials in my kid’s old English notebook.  I enjoyed hearing fellow sportsball fans reactions to the different ads and I found the time to reflect on the offerings made the highs and lows between the ads stand out.

Let’s recap!


Bud Light: I’m probably alone in this, but I’m not a huge fan of the Bud Light Dilly Dilly ads. I respect they are going back to their roots of funny, quotable commercials (Bud-weis-er…Wassup!) But if find these ads to be a bit too contrived, like a former rock star trying to reignite the past…

The first of Bud’s two ads, called “Ye Olde Pep Talk” shows the Dilly Dilly king giving one of the worst inspirational speeches of all time at the beginning of a battle. He finally bringing it back around by telling his subjects their opponents have Bud Light.

The 2nd ad features the Bud Light Knight, an affable guy who’s just down for a good time. The BLK was also seen cavorting in the stands with jolly sports fans during the game.

bud light knight

Michelob Ultra –  Everyone has followed Chris Pratt’s transformation to an adorable goofball with the rock-hard bod, so who could be a better spokesperson for a brand geared towed the carb conscience set?

In ad 1 Chris trains hard for his part in a Mich Ultra ad, only to find out he has been cast as an extra.

Ad 2 shows hard body-gym rats working out while singing Tom T Hall’s classic “I Like Beer.” After a moment you realize Chris Pratt actually IS an extra in the ads, sort of like a boozy game of Where’s Waldo.

The Good

Ram 1500– Actual Vikings headed to super bowl via long ship while towing a Ram behind. They reach Minnesota only to have or turn around as they discover the Vikings aren’t playing. Visually compelling, great music, funny premise. I was both amused by the idea and a little sad at the Viking disappointment. The party I was at loved this commercial. Airing early in the game it set itself up as one to beat.

Tide. Nobody would have blamed Tide Detergent for using the largest TV platform to tell folks to just stop snacking on their pods. They shouldn’t have to make this announcement, but that’s 2018 for you. Instead, they upped their PR game with a series of three fun commercials featuring everyone’s favorite sheriff, David Harbour from Stranger Things.

1st ad – Do you remember that kid in school who would lick things to mark them as theirs? That’s sort of what Tide accomplished in the first of 3 ads to air. Tide declared any part of the Big Game that showed clean clothes was thanks to Tide. Every following commercial, every player, every spectator, every coach.  If you saw clean clothes, that was a Tide commercial. This made it really awkward later when Persil’s ad aired. All I could think of was nice…but Tide got there first.

The 2nd ad for Tide – Can’t get enough of Harbour as he horns in on classic ads, this time on the loved “I’m on a horse” commercial from Old Spice.  A complete turn from the first ad, fun!

3rd,  reminded me of the old school Energizer Bunny ads where the bunny would drum his way through spoof commercials, but somehow Tide improved on the theme! Already made aware by the previous Old Spice spoof, this time Harbour nodded and winked at Clydesdale horses (who did not make a Budweiser ad appearance) and then LOOK, there they are again in a faux Mr. Clean spot.

super bowl tide

E-Trade: I’ll admit to not being a fan of E-trades current campaign that hits a little too close to pre-Great Recession commercials. The entire campaign has a “get yours/easy money” vibe to it.

Even so, I really enjoyed their spot titled “This is Getting Old.” The ad shows a montage of should-be pensioners working a variety of jobs, including Life Guard, Window Washer, Tech Support and Club DJ to the tune of the Banana Boat Song, with the lyrics changed to “I’m 85 and I want to go home.” While the song and visuals are amusing, Etrade finally hard cuts to a card saying “Over 1/3 of Americans have no retirement savings. This is getting old.”  Oh shit.

Verizon salutes first responders – I’m no fan of glurge, but I have to admit Verizon’s “Answering the Call” ad was incredibly moving. Showing images of natural disasters and emergency rescues, the voice over of the ad was of real people thanking the first responders who saved them.  In the last seconds of this full minute spot we are shown the Verizon logo, and their tag of “America’s most reliable network.” Small, but hard-hitting hint that you need confidence in your network when stuff goes down.

The OK

Pringles –  Bill Hader (Stefon from SNL) says “Wow”… a lot. He says it in multiple accents as he marvels at a guy making different flavor profiles by stacking Pringles. This commercial is fine…it’s fine! It shows folks a new way to use their product (we’re like those jelly beans!) which is solid marketing. The one thing that moves this past the forgettable is Bill screaming “Nobody asked you, Kevin!” at a stunt double dangling from the ceiling who also pipes in his appreciation of Pringles. It’s weird, but oddly funny. I can totally see people repeating this catch phrase for some time.

Pringles ad

Fabreze – Bleep Don’t Stink. Pretty straightforward idea from air freshener Fabreze: Here is this one guy whose crap don’t stink, but you have a bunch of folks over eating garbage food and you will wish you had something to make your bathroom smell better.  This ad ran on, but yeah, it sure made it’s point.

Sprint – A scientist is thoroughly mocked by his robot creations for still using Verizon. It’s a striking commercial and the robots are interesting, but what pushed this onto the list for me is the final robot. Unlike the others who are laughing at the scientist’s illogical use of an inferior product, Final robot, who has evidently reached singularity, rocks up to tell the scientist he has a stupid face in a bit that seemed straight out of South Park.

The Bad

Diet Coke “Because I Can” – Maybe I’m just not cool enough for this ad, but the commercial of actress Hayley Magnus narrating her awkward dancing after drinking a Mango Diet Coke left we with my head tilted and my brow furrowed in question. What the hell was that? Evidently it is supposed to be a highly shareable clip, but I can’t see where it will compel anyone to buy a Coke.

Ram Truck – Who could have known that using an iconic speech from one of America’s heroes to sell cars could cause people to be upset? (Everyone. Everyone knew that.) Using a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a commercial for cars is crass, no matter how you hype it. Yes, I understand that Dr. King’s estate had some hand in developing this commercial, but it still fell flat and left a sour taste in the mouth.

WeatherTech –  Twenty of the 30 seconds allotted to this commercial are focused on building a wall. We come to find out it’s the wall to their new building.  Setting aside the potentially devise theme, this commercial is boring. I’m sure you are excited about your new building, but nobody else gives a hoot. While I truly appreciate their devotion to making their product in the US, I felt like they went to a place they didn’t need to be. They make car floormats, not exactly an ensign of national pride, though WeatherTech Head Cheese swears no political message was intended.

This is an ad? 

Must Mention

Amazon – “Alexa Loses Her Voice.” Amazon may be one of the last groups that needs to advertise, they just reported their best ever quarter profits. Still, I appreciate they decided to make a great ad, seemingly just for the fun of it.

In the spot, Alexa, the voice of the Amazon Echo’s digital assistant, loses her voice, compelling celebrities to fill in. I’m not ashamed to say I actually laughed out loud as Cardi B mocked a student for asking about Mars and Rebel Wilson made dinner party guests very uncomfortable.

Doritos Blaze vs. Mountin Dew Ice 

What more can I say but Peter Dinklage is in a rap battle with Morgan Freeman.


Thanks for joining me in looking into the Superbowl of advertising!

Sorry…I Was Eating a Milky Way

Today at the Storytime we are going to have a special talk for the Admen! Squeeze in tight so everybody can fit, there’s room for everyone at Aunt Mary’s!

Guys, I understand you are under a lot of pressure. Your creations have the ability to last forever now thanks to the internet and I’m betting your clients are asking the impossible from you. I’m sure they want an iconic campaign that reaches every target market and spans different media all while sticking to a tight budget. I’m guessing you got to hear all about your client’s neighbor’s nephew who is just a wiz with that social media stuff.

I really feel for you. It’s hard. But I wanted to give one small, gentle piece of advice from someone who loves advertising:


milkyway ad road

Yes, I get it, assholes are really in vogue right now. We might even we living in the golden age of the Jerk-Almighty.  But here’s the thing: nobody wants to buy stuff from a jackass.

Currently the biggest knuckleheads in my book are the folks in the campaign for Milky Way candy bars. These commercials feature workers accomplishing terrible results at their jobs (misspelled tattoos, poorly painted street markings, hair burnt off client’s head) and when called on their poor work retort with an eye roll and snotty “Sorry… I was eating a Milky Way” not unlike a spoiled valley girl who was caught in her parents liquor cabinet.

My best guess is they were trying to edge in on Snickers brilliant “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, but just not hitting the mark. The characters are rude and dismissive and truthfully not anyone I would want associated with my brand. I suppose a case could be made that the candy bars are so on point your forget about everything else…but I’m not buying it.

What’s more, none of these incidents are particularly creative. Misspelled tattoos happen and the “No Regerts” tattoo was featured in the movie “We’re the Millers.” Especially eyebrow raising is the cruise ship scenario which hits a little too close to the 2012 crash of the Costa Concordia in Italy which resulted in the death of 32 people. Not  exactly a gold mine of hilarious content.

We’ve talked about the choice of weird spokespeople before in the Liberty Mutual ads, making me wonder if the anti-hero is a trend with some legs.

But, Aunt Mary must give credit when due, I have to admit I find the print ads for this campaign creative and attractive, even though the sentiment is the same. Perhaps the stylized cartoon imagery makes it a little less dismissive? hmm…



Of Tiny Men and Eggnog

Last year I lamented the punch bowl missing from holiday festivities, and I thought I would expand on that theme by exploring what’s up with Eggnog. Love or hate it, eggnog’s a staple of the holidays and likely one of the earliest social lubricants – evidently it’s been an American winter drink dating from the pilgrim days.

It seems boozy eggnog advertising was dominated by two brands, Four Roses and Bacardi. Each took their own path to lure their customers to holiday cheer.

Four Roses stuck to the same visual, barely updated for the changing times. I’m serious. All the ads were the same:

These ads were from 1944, 1956 and 1937. Three decades of the same imagery! Still, I enjoy that they call their recipe “Merry Christmas!” It sure takes some jingle bells to try and brand such a common phrase.

Bacardi went with the whimsical route, featuring Elf on the Shelf’s other little known cousins – The Booze Brothers.

Are they elves, or gnomes or the 7 dwarfs on their day off?  I don’t know…I just.don’t. know…

Please note the “Man’s Recipe” for the eggnog. Men can’t be seen sipping some sissy nog, now can they?! “Sally, get away from that bowl! You know ladies can’t handle such a macho mix of eggs, cream and spices!”

Other notable eggnog ads include this Glenmore spot with more tiny bartenders, this time looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and the Monopoly guy.

glenmore nog

This very pretty ad showing Four Roses could do other things besides headless beings pawing at punch bowls, 4 roses

And though not eggnog related, I thought this was a fantastic ad! Get ‘er done, Santa! martini

Whatever’s in your cup, be sure to raise a glass for peace, love and good advertising!

The Heartbreaking Beauty of John Lewis Holiday Ads

Gather ’round the tree, kids! The Holidays are now in full swing and British department store John Lewis has released this year’s holiday commercials that are apparently designed to warm the soul and grow the heart of any would-be scrooges or grinches.

Continuing our Friday theme of “Music Makes the Ad,” both commercials are supported by remakes of classic rock songs, tenderly reworked to squeeze every emotional drop from viewers.

First, “Moz the Monster” set to Brit rock band, Elbow’s remake of the the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers.” The ad shows the blossoming friendship between a child and the monster who lives under his bead.

On a “Aunt Mary Good Cry Scale” (AMGCS) of 1-10, I would rate this at a 7.  Emotions were felt, but I could pretty much hold it together.

Next, an animated long-form ad called “The Fox and the Mouse” set to a cover of Ah-Ha’s “Take On Me” performed by Andrea Begley and featuring Jack Park and Isabel Mcgillies.

On the AMGCS – a 35.

Kids, I’m not afraid to say I full-on ugly cried during this ad. I cried watching this ad, I’m crying now while writing about it, and I’ll probably remember it later on and cry in the grocery store check out line. It’s truly beautiful and tells a story everyone can relate to. My suggestion: watch this any time you mistakenly over-estimate your emotional fortitude and read the comment section of an online article causing you to lose faith in the world.

John Lewis’s has truly managed to encapsulate the meaning of the holiday season by capturing the magic and excitement of childhood and by showcasing peace and goodwill to your fellow travelers. Could these be some of the best ads ever?

Now, if you will once again excuse me…


Mitsubishi Car Dancing – Music Makes the Ad Series

In 2003 Mitsubishi Tokyo Drifted an ad that perfectly married the form and function music can lend to an commercial.  Set to band Dirty Vegas’s song “Days Go By” the ad for the 2003 Eclipse features the eye catching Pop and Lock dancing of the passenger.

The ad increased product awareness of the Mitsubishi brand in the USA over 10% and opened the door to a new target market – cool young adults. “Sure,” the ad seems to say, “you’ve got a job now, but you can still par-tay!” (yeah, that was super dorky of me.)

Two notes on this ad: 1. There is a guy in the back seat I didn’t notice on my first several views.

2Mitsubishi still
I keep thinking about that old Urban Legend with the guy in the back seat and the cars blinking their lights at you. Maybe the dancing isn’t the only thing killing it here!

2. Dave Chappelle did a fairly dirty parody of the ad. I’ll let you kids seek that out for yourselves, least Aunt Mary’s fine name be sullied. (But it is pretty funny)

As always, be sure to join me on the Ad Story Time Facebook page, or let me know about your favorite ads in the comments below!

My God, That’s Good Lamb!

Kids, the Storytime is a space that welcomes all faiths! Reasonable minds can agree that great ads are here for everyone to enjoy, no matter what day, if any, you set aside to ponder the mysteries of life.

It’s been said that if folks could just break bread together there would be a lot less misunderstand in the world, but that leads to another problem…what to serve? With many creeds’ dietary restrictions this is no easy feat.

Good News! The Aussies have figured it out; lamb is the answer! No beef? No pork? No problem! (You vegetarians can fill up on sides)

The PR ad shows divine figures at a barbecue, mingling with mortals and joking around. Finally they realize that lamb is the one meat they can all agree on. The commercial is fun but at the same time respectful, though there is a slight poke at Scientology. I especially like the appearance by a Jedi.

Still, not everyone’s a fan. The Australian Hindu community has taken issue with the image of Ganesha seemingly drinking wine and eating meat, which are no-nos.

The commercial runs a little long, clocking in at over two minutes, but the in-joke gags give it remarkable rewatchability.

I’m also impressed by the Australian commercials in general. Aunt Mary’s first Friday Ad Spotlight was for the achingly beautiful spot for Boag’s Draft Beer.

Evidently, whatever the Aussies are selling, Aunt Mary is buying. I must be a sucker for that dreamy accent.

Crock dundee
Actual image of Aunt Mary writing this post