It's harder for commercials to break through these days and really become part of popular culture. With the growth of streaming platforms, where there aren't commercials for the most part, or with DVRs, where everyone skips over commercials, it's just too easy to avoid seeing the ads on television.
That is, of course, unless you're talking Super Bowl ads, where that's half the fun, seeing which companies outdo the others to take top honors from the wide variety of outlets that judge such things.
But there was a time when TV watchers were captive audiences, and commercials worked their way into your stream of consciousness. They would get stuck in your head, and some of the themes ran for years.
When it comes to the rubber industry, most of the iconic TV commercials of the past involve tires, and there are a couple of those that made my list. And while there were others that were popular as I was growing up—"Go, Go Goodyear," and "Sooner or later you'll own Generals" come to mind—I wanted to mix in a few others that caught my fancy.
You probably have your own list. But discussing and debating these —just like the Super Bowl ads—is half the fun.
1. 'Where the Rubber Meets the Road'
Some of you may remember that I wrote about the truly iconic Firestone commercials for our former Wacky World of Rubber online blog, but I couldn't bring myself to leave these off my list. The "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" tune just gets in my mind, and I'll do my best to make sure it gets in somebody else's head as well.
It was sung on the original commercials by Don Rondo, who sang ballads during the mid-1950s. He first became popular for his rendition of "Two Different Worlds." He apparently also was famous for singing the "It's Us or Rust" commercial for Ziebart.
Of course, the phrase, "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," had taken on its own meaning in the English language. But to me it always will belong to Firestone, which used the tune in its ads for decades.
When Bridgestone celebrated the centennial of the Firestone brand in 2000, it had a symphony orchestra play a rendition at the Akron event.
2. The Michelin baby ads
In 1985, Michelin began a series of commercials that definitely would rank among the most iconic ad campaigns in the tire industry.
The stars of the commercials were babies, along with Michelin tires, and the tagline cut right to the heart of the matter: "Because so much is riding on your tires."
The subtle messaging stressed the safety aspect of Michelin tires: That children were the most precious cargo a vehicle would carry, and that no other brand could be entrusted with their protection.
Michelin had such success with the campaign that the spots ran for more than a quarter century, before giving way to Bibendum (a.k.a. the Michelin Man).
3. WeatherTech seeks super spotlight
Starting in 2014, Illinois-based WeatherTech (the company's official name is MacNeil IP L.L.C.) started running ads during the Super Bowl. It wasn't the normal type of advertiser that might be expected in the largest television showcase of any given year.
And with the price of 30 second ads going for $5 million or more over the years, it's not a cheap investment. If the spot doesn't work, that's a lot of money down the drain.
But for WeatherTech, the investment apparently has paid off, as it continues to run ads during the big game. The simple message is the reason the commercials succeed: WeatherTech's products are American-made, and as founder and CEO David MacNeil says on the firm's website, that is something that matters. "As a business owner, I want to create high quality products that are designed, engineered and manufactured right here in America, built by American workers," he said.
Do the ads work? All I can say is when my wife gets a new car, she makes one request: that we spring for WeatherTech floor liners and other accessories.
4. The one with Carl Lewis in high heels
Carl Lewis was an icon as an athlete, winning nine gold medals and one silver over the course of four Olympics. But he also took part in one of the most talked about ad campaigns of the 1990s.
It started with a 1994 ad that featured a photo of Lewis—taken by Annie Leibovitz— in a runner's starting stance, sporting a pair of bright red, high-heels.
Carl Lewis, now age 60, was on hand in 2013 at the ACS Rubber Division's rubber expo, a guest speaker at an event sponsored by Dow, a major Olympics sponsor at the time. He talked with me about the ad campaign and how everyone tried to convince him not to do it.
But Leibovitz flew to Houston to convince him to not listen, and she was very persuasive. "She looked me right in the face—and I had done a shot with her before—and I said, 'If you're that strong on it and you're going to make it right, then let's do it.' "
5. Liquid rubber in a can
OK, so maybe this series of commercials wouldn't make your list of iconic television ads. But this is my list, so there has to be a place on it for the series of long-running ads touting the Flex Seal family of products.
For me, of course, it all started when Phil Swift, the star of the cheesy commercials, touted Flex Seal as "liquid rubber in a can."
Over the years, the ads have gone to great lengths to show how the products come in handy in the most unusual of situations. Of course, you know everyone needs to use Flex Tape to seal up a giant hole in a boat, then take that boat into shark-infested waters.
The ads must work, because they still run to this day. Have I broken down and bought any of the products, you ask? No comment (but I do still love the commercials).