Four Grunge-tastic commercials from the ‘90s

David Spade, Jeremy Davies and the Tacoma bridge all get their grunge on to sell products in the '90s. And can this Bud Light commercial be real?

The Action Pack is hosting a bunch of '90s Grunge Sing-Alongs at Alamo Drafthouse theaters this June, and in preparation for that we were doing some deep dives on '90s videos online. That led us down a rabbit hole of television commercial awesomeness, and I thought I'd take a minute to share a handful with you guys here. Let's start with my new all time favorite commercial, this spot featuring Jeremy Davies trying to get his Gen-X peers to buy a Subaru because it's "the punk rock of cars":


What we can immediately see in this example is that there were a lot of ad agencies who desperately wanted to reach the youth of the early '90s, but they really just had no idea how to do that AT ALL.

This spot was released in 1992, well before Jeremy Davies was Jeremy Davies (SPANKING THE MONKEY wouldn't be released until '94) and just months after Douglas Coupland's Generation X hit bookstore shelves in March of '91. Here's my word-for-word transciption of the sad early '90s version of Lou Avery's team at McCann pitching this spot:

Copyrwriter: "The kids of today don't like any bullshit, see? So let's give them someone from their own ranks just telling it like it is."

Lou: "And what is it like?"

Copywriter: "Well, you know how they like that grunge music? It's kind of like punk rock."

Lou: "That stuff sounds like garbage."

Copywriter: "Sure, it does to you and me. But to the youth of today? They think that the rock and roll that came before punk was all corporate and sucked."

Lou: "They think the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were too corporate?"

Copywriter: "Kids today, boss. Kids today..."

Then they took that concept, they had a meeting with the people at Subaru, and someone there actually had to say, "Yeah! This hatchback that's basically like every other hatchback really IS like punk rock! Also, it's our entry level vehicle and kids today are paying $80 for a flannel so they can look like they're flat broke, so fuck it. Let's make a commercial!"

I can't find any record of how Subaru sales were after this commercial went on the air, but I also don't remember any of my friends in the '90s driving one of these cars. Any of you remember this car at all?

Maybe they sold a lot, but then they all had to be recalled thanks to too many accidents on bridges? Oh no, wait, that's from this next spot:



This one's from a few years later - 1994. By now the grunge aesthetic had really just become more a part of mainstream American culture, and you can tell that this one just absorbs the culture around it. It feels like a perfect time capsule of that era, but it doesn't give you the sense of pandering to one particular demographic.

It does get extra points for featuring stock footage of a bridge in Tacoma, Washington (only 34 miles away from Seattle!), and it actually went on to win the Grand Clio for Best Commercial of the Year!

And speaking of Seattle:



"Even to Seattle?! Thanks, phone dude!"

I feel like these spots were on the air a LOT in the '90s, and that they were almost always followed by a commercial for Fruitopia. So I like this spot for a few reasons:

1) It's got David Spade back in his Tommy Boy days, and Tommy Boy is amazing.

2) Dude, collect calling used to be a thing! And look, a pay phone! I'd totally forgotten about those things.

3) Guys, we really used to drink Fruitopia. Gross.

But let's have one more spot featuring beverages people drank in the '90s (and still do):




Now I'm just sad that major brands don't pay to run market-specific ads like this anymore. At least, not in markets that I've seen. This is just AMAZING, and I love that people actually took some of Anheuser-Busch's money for making it.

Los Angeles, start your VCRs,

- Henri