After spending ten years out of New York City, I was surprised by how welcome certain sights were to me once again. No, not the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, our local TV commercials.
Some iconic NYC commercials have finally gone by the wayside. Champion may have said “Yes” when your bank said “No,” but they couldn’t deny Father Time. Others, like Crazy Eddie (“These prices are INNNSAAAANNNNNE!”) have been replaced by their calmer modern day counterparts.
Still others we definitely wish were still around.
Who’d have thought we’d miss Carvel’s commercials for their “Fudgie the Whale” ice cream cake. As Billy Crystal famously mocked, “For Father’s Day, get Dad a TIE cake! It’s the same mold as our whale cake!”
But as some classics fall, others remain. Here are 10 TV commercials that definitely let you know you’re in New York City.
“YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!”
A relative newcomer, Lee’s has taken the spot that must be taken in every American community: the car salesman.
Lee’s buys heavy airtime during broadcasts of the Yankees, the Rangers, the Knicks, and every other sports team in NYC.
Grand Prospect Hall
“We make your dreams come true!”
This one stands out, not only due to its heavier play in the boroughs, but because it’s so simple. Footage of the Event Hall in different lighting rolls as classical music plays, and then the owners are shown standing on a staircase at the end.
Cellino & Barnes
“Don't wait! Call Eight!”
The other staple in every community: injury lawyers.
We’d make a joke about how the guys look, but, uh, we get the feeling they’re kinda litigious. Roll tape!
Dial 7 Car Service
“We’re picking you up, when you’re dialin’ 7, dialin’ 7 times!”
Just before Uber became a thing, Dial 7 was formed in response, naturally, to the next commercial on this list.
“Six six six, SIX SIX six-ty SIX! The num-ber SIX!”
There’s been an update jammed in haphazardly in an occasional spot here and there, but otherwise, this is still Mel and the gang diddy-bopping down the street as they’ve done for twenty some odd years now.,
Bob’s Discount Furniture
Bob inherited his mantle from the late lamented Crazy Eddie. Take away the manic tones of old Ed, and you have more or less the same commercials, actually.
Bob relies heavily on pretty women, the New York Giants, and inexpensive computer graphics for his calmer, Bob-o-pedic pitches.
“Made from the Best Stuff on Earth!”
It’s more of a national brand these days, but the “best stuff on Earth” is NYC first and foremost. Outside of the Tri-State, awareness of the eponymous iced tea plummets dramatically. Although we really miss that tiny little spokes-lady from the nineties, her message lives on.
“Eight Hun-dred Five eight eight, two three hun-dred, Em-pirrrrre! Call today!”
Everybody needs floors. Everybody needs flooring. Empire’s been around since 1959, almost as long as their now iconic jingle.
Out of all of NYC’s iconic commercials, perhaps Empire Flooring is the most enduring, and does so relatively quietly. Simple, utilitarian, and effective, this commercial will never die. Because it has cornered a market that never will never die either.
KARZ 4 KIDZ
You already know the phone number. You hear it in your sleep.
This theme has ear-wormed its way into every brain in the Tri-State Area. Nobody can escape it. Don’t hit play.
This commercial actually is as old as the pun it centers around. Many New Yorkers grew up with this very commercial.
It's really telling that the YouTube clip for Shop-Rite’s classic spot is labeled “vintage,” as they still roll this ad out every summer. Yeah, it’s an update of an even older Shop-Rite theme, but this spot runs every year without fail, no matter how old it is.
All Shop-Rite does is update and rotate their specials, and stick two black bars on the side to fill your TV, and they roll it out again. After all, if they haven’t updated this ad since the Lincoln Administration, why would the changing shape of your television give them pause?
And there you have it. Every town and city in the country can identify themselves by their local commercials. These spots are the ones that say "You’re in New York City!"
Check out 20 Little Things You'll Miss About NYC When You Leave.