Top Ten: Memorable Pitchmen
Sunday, January 08, 2012 - 03:55 PM
Today marks ten years since the passing of Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's. [Full disclosure: The "Frosty," the restaurant's signature frozen dessert, is a particular favorite of our host, Bob Garfield.] Thomas gained fame not only as Wendy's CEO, but also as its folksy TV pitchman, appearing in more than 800 ads. Though his legacy was tainted by some bad calls, it's hard to overstate his skill as a businessman and marketer.
This anniversary got me thinking about the TV spokespeople I remember most vividly. I came up with a list of ten who've made an indelible impression on my psyche, for better or for worse.
By no means is this list authoritative, much less fair. If it were fair, there would be more of a gender balance and more names predating the 1980s. The selection no doubt reflects my own background, generation, and sensibility; indeed, it's arguable that these ads, together with the rest of my media diet, have helped define my sensibility. Now that's a scary thought!
If you don't see some of your favorites listed, please feel free to give them a shout-out in the comments. Also, here's a question for debate: to what extent, if any, has the importance or the role of "the pitchman" changed over the past ten years?
Sit back and enjoy!
1. Dave Thomas | Wendy's
2. Bill Cosby | Jell-O
3. "Muzzy Lady" | Muzzy
4. Billy Mays | OxiClean
5. Ray Charles | Diet Pepsi
6. William Shatner | Priceline
7. Sally Struthers | ICS Learning Systems
8. Michael Jordan | Hanes
9. Bob Vila | Sears / Craftsman
10. Isaiah Mustafa | Old Spice