O.J. Simpson – Hertz
Infamous NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson appeared in Hertz rental car commercials through the late 1970s and 1980s. Simpson often said the tagline, “Hertz, the superstar in rent-a-car.” The popular ads even featured golfer Arnold Palmer and actress Jamie Lee Curtis with Simpson. In 1992, the Hertz’s spots featuring Simpson ended as reports of domestic abused surfaced, followed by his controversial murder trial. In 2008, Simpson was sentence to 30 years imprisonment for numerous felonies.
Dennis Haysbert – AllState Insurance
Dennis Haysbert has been the face of AllState Insurance for past 8 years. Haysbert’s deep voice has been the trademark of the insurance company since 2004. AllState chose Haysbert (of 24 fame) because he is “so compelling, and the warmth with which he delivers the scripts is so credible.” Haysbert is best known for the catchphrase, “You’re in good hands, that’s AllState’s stand.”
Rodney Allen Rippy – Jack in the Box
Former child actor Rodney Allen Rippy appeared in TV commercials for the fast-food chain Jack in the Box in the early 1970s. The commercial showed Rippy trying to eat the chain’s new Jumbo burger, while saying “It’s too big to eat!” In later TV spots Rippy would sing “Take Life a Little Easier.” Rippy now 43, is a partner in the film production company, Bow Tie Productions, a spokesman for Hurricane Housing Relief, and a marketing director.
Walt “Clyde” Frazier – Just for Men
NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier was the spokesman for Just for Men for nearly six years. Frazier appeared in commercials for the men’s hair dye with former New York Met Keith Hernandez, where they would spoof their post-playing careers as play-by-play men with lines like “no play for Mr. Gray” and “Another win with Just for Men.” Currently, Frazier is a commentator for his former team the New York Knicks.
Bill Cosby – Jell-O, Coke, Kodak
TV icon Bill Cosby became the Jell-O spokesperson in 1974. The Cosby Show actor, comedian, author, and activist promoted Jell-O’s pudding and gelatin desserts for nearly 30 years. At his 1980s peak he also was the pitchman of choice for Coca-Cola and Kodak.
Michael Jordan – Nike, Gatorade, Hanes
‘Air’ Jordan may be the most marketed sports figure in history. He has been a major spokesman for Nike, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Ball Park Franks, Rayovac, Wheaties, Hanes, and MCI. The popularity of Jordan shoes eventually led to Nike launching a “Jordan Brand” division. Jordan has appeared in over 20 commercials for Gatorade since 1991. He was featured in a Gatorade spot where kids sang they wished they could be “Like Mike.”
Diane Amos – Pine Sol
Since 1993, Diane Amos has used her charm to help you keep your home a little cleaner with Pine-Sol. Amos who is famously known as the “Pine-Sol Lady” is also an actress, comedian, inspirational speaker and an avid game show contestant. She resides in San Francisco, CA.
Bo Jackson – Nike
Nike’s “Bo Knows” campaign was fronted by professional baseball and American football player Bo Jackson. He was the image of Nike’s cross-training shoes advertising campaign from 1989 through 1990. Jackson was considered the ideal athlete for the shoe company, because he had played multiple sports during his career. The ads featured Jackson playing basketball, tennis, ice hockey, soccer, and running with famous athletics from their respective sports. Injuries sadly prematurely ended his sports career.
Deidrie Henry – ‘Annie the Chicken Queen’
In 2009, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen billed “Annie the Chicken Queen” as part of their advertising campaign. Actress Deidrie Henry plays Annie character who is considered to be the “honest, vibrant, youthful, and authentic” person who “tells it like it is” according to Popeyes chief marketing officer. Henry most recently starred in the TV series Harry’s Law. Since Annie’s debut there has been criticism of the character’s racially stereotypical portrayal..
Geoffrey Holder – 7-Up
Actor and choreographer (The Wiz) Geoffrey Holder teamed up with the 7-Up soft drink in the 70s. Holder led the soft drink ad campaign that promoted the “uncola” 7-Up. Holder was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In recent years the Tony-award winning stage director and costume designer has become a highly acclaimed painter.
Jennifer Hudson – Weight Watchers
Recently, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has become the face of Weight Watchers. Hudson says she decided to try Weight Watchers because she wanted to make healthy changes and she needed a program that would support her busy life.
Ray Charles – Pepsi
Legendary R&B singer, musician and songwriter Ray Charles was featured in PepsiCo’s Diet Pepsi ad campaign in the early 90s. Charles sang “You Got the Right One Baby, Uh-Huh” from 1990 through 1993. The television commercial also featured models surrounding Charles and ended the infamous tag-phrase “With 100 percent uh huh.” Ray Charles died in 2004.
Nancy Green – Aunt Jemima
Aunt Jemima has been the trademark for Quaker Oats breakfast foods for over 119 years. The name Aunt Jemima was originally associated with a song from a minstrel show. In 1890, Nancy Green became the image of Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix. A Kentucky native, Green played Aunt Jemima until her death in 1923. Ten years later Quakers hired Anna Robinson to play Aunt Jemima. The role of Aunt Jemima depicted a southern domestic black woman, until her image was updated in 1968 to resemble that of a more modern homemaker.
Billy Dee William – Colt 45
In the 1980s and early 1990s, super-suave actor Billy Dee Williams (Lady Sings the Blues) was featured in TV ads for Colt 45. The actor, artist and writer became synonymous with the famous malt liquor. Williams often stated the slogan, “It works every time.” Williams, who received negative press for appearing in alcohol ads, once said, “I drink, you drink. Hell, if marijuana was legal, I’d appear in a commercial for that too.” In recent years Williams has guest starred on the USA Network’s White Collar.
Michael Jackson – Pepsi
In the mid-to-late 1980s, Michael Jackson, a.k.a the King of Pop, was featured in high-priced Pepsi ads. The ads often times incorporated Jackson’s songs like “Billie Jean” and “Bad”. In 1984, while filming a Pepsi commercial with his brothers pyrotechnics accidentally set Jackson’s hair on fire. Jackson suffered second-degree burns to his scalp, later Jackson and PepsiCo settled out of court. Jackson died in 2009.
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TheGrio takes a look at the many notable African-American commercial icons over the years.