You Love To Hate Them: The Best of the Worst in 1980s Buffalo TV Commercials

By Steve Cichon

BUFFALO, NY – It’s an amazing transformation that happens somewhere in our brain. At some point, judging by the numbers of hits they receive, the terrible TV commercials once hated and vilified, become that for which we search YouTube.

There were a few local television ads that we really remember fondly, especially when they involve two WNY institutions we don't hear as much from anymore, like Danny Neaverth and Bells Markets. (Buffalo Stories archives)
There were a few local television ads that we really remember fondly, especially when they involve two WNY institutions we don’t hear as much from anymore, like Danny Neaverth and Bells Markets. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Many things annoy us about the spots by which we are regularly bombarded. The seeming ubiquity when they are on radio, TV, billboards, print. The fact that many are cheaply or poorly produced, or just based on an asinine idea that shouldn’t even have been written on the big sheet of paper in the brain storming session, let alone the idea that will not haunt hundreds of thousands of memories into perpetuity.

Perhaps worst is when, for no one particular good reason, the spot is just plain annoying.

The problem becomes, love them or hate them, they become familiar, a little warm. Annoying, but somehow comforting, in that it’s always there. And then, sometime, even decades after they go off the air, you get a yearning to love and hate them all over again. The hatred for the ad in question turns to hatred for the internet when you can’t mine that nugget you are trying so desperately to remember, so you can properly forget again.

The classic example of this is the Kaufman’s rye bread commercial. This jingle ran over and over on Buffalo TV for 20 years.

Whenever I give a talk about Buffalo, I play that, and people smile and sing along. They hate it, but love it. That jolly little baker is the perfect animated definition of frienemy. Almost scary happy smiles while people say, “I hate that!”

But they love to hate it. We all do. We love to hate terrible commercials. Don’t make me list the commercials you hate today that you will one day search for on the 2037 version of YouTube.

All of this came to mind when I was going through some video recently for a friend, and found some commercials that if you lived through the 80s in Buffalo, you will certainly remember them. And maybe even enjoy watching them once before going back to hate.

I found one of the more popularly hated and loved commercials of the 70s and 80s when i was doing research on the book I wrote about Irv Weinstein. A commercial so popular, people who were too young to have ever seen it in the first place still say FUN WOW even though they aren’t sure why–

Amusement Parks can be especially deadly when they are trying to appeal to kids. This is one from 1989 that I just uploaded. I consider this the definitive version of the Marineland jingle, with King Waldorf singing, and the kids filling in the words.

Fantasy Island and Marineland… Fondly familiar to see those spots once– maybe not again for a while now. But here’s one you might wind up looking at again::

Two Buffalo institutions in this one, but even while WKBW morning man Dan Neaverth is shilling for Bells, he has to work in a reference to the country’s newest amusement park: Darien Lake Fun Country::

Danny of course known as a DJ, and doing Channel 7’s weather outside… He wasn’t the only 1980s spokesman to come from a different line of work to sell a product. Jim Schoenfeld sold City Mattresses for years.

A few more:

Check out the “state of the art” computer they are bragging about at Fay’s Drugs in 1981:

The sound track on this 1989 Genny Light spot is pure 80s. So are the women, as Genesee mocks the 80s trend of filling beer commercials with women in bikinis instead of beer.

Finally, here’s one that put Lackawanna on the map in the late 80s… You may have forgotten about it, and you’ll probably hate me for reminding you.

You’ll find all of these commercials and plenty more great Buffalo video on the staffannouncer YouTube channel.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.