Smells Like McQueen Spirit

Remember those teenage days of sitting in front of the TV watching commercials that convinced you to spend your hard-earned cash (remember cash?!)? Well, in this month’s blog, the McQueen team is remembering back to when we were teens, crushing on the trends of the day and the ads that made us want them. Here are a few of our favourites.


Jared’s Picks (CEO)

GAP’s “Dress You Up” Ad

There were no greater ad campaigns in the 1990s than the Gap ads, featuring the simple notes of twenty-somethings singing. These ads had power. Gap understood the assignment, and each commercial conveyed more than a four-minute music video in terms of promising a lifestyle, conveying what it means to be cool, and withstanding the test of time. After all, that’s what it takes to convince millions of middle-schoolers to beg their parents for puffy oranges vests during cold winters. But it wasn’t even about the vest—it was what the vest represented: status, coolness, and to “teen Jared” that was as intoxicating as it was compelling. I MUST have a vest, or khakis, or cords, or—yes—even leather pants. Gap sold us on modernity. Like a denim-loving Don Draper, they told us that with these clothes, and with this song (and with those stars), you too could aspire to be that cool.

California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” Campaign

With milk consumption in decline in the 1990s, the California Milk Processor Board needed to inspire new interest in dairy products, and what better way than with celebrities wearing milk mustaches. Harnessing the power of 90s celebrities, these ads were a force. You could not open a magazine without seeing one, and to top it off, the campaign was shot by legendary photographer, Annie Leibovitz. These ads weren’t just celebrity worship, they were curated. Each ad picked stars at the peak of their popularity: Tyra Banks, Sarah Michelle Gellar, the band Hanson, and of course Friends co-stars Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston. Not only did they make milk seem cool, the campaign was also ubiquitous and easily one of the most successful ad campaigns ever.


Kyle’s Picks (Director of growth and business development)

The NFL’s “Pick Me” Campaign

A wild series of commercials, all showcasing NFL stars of their day decked head to toe in Reebok gear doing some outrageous things. It was developed as a way to promote fantasy football, but everyone I played with wanted the gloves/cleats/etc. that the players were wearing in the commercials. I still watch some to this day because of how absurd they are!

Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Campaign

I cannot tell you how many times I saw this one. Once we were old enough to start drinking, there was always someone who would buy this beer, solely due to these commercials. I can remember years of making the “Stay thirsty, my friends” quote, and all of the shenanigans that went on in the series.


Carmen’s Picks (Writer and editor)

GAP’s “Khaki Swing” Commercial

GAP commercials and the 90s go together like… well… khakis and a T-shirt. The brand was, quite literally, everywhere: on billboards, TVs, magazines, on our favourite celebs—even in the movies (remember Reality Bites?). The “Khaki Swing” ad, in particular, resonated with me for the way it broke through my teenaged, angsty cloud. At a time when grunge and anti-consumerism defined pop culture, this commercial was unapologetically joyful… and even made me wonder if I could rock cropped bangs (spoiler alert: I can’t).

The Body Shop’s “Ban Against Animal Testing” Campaign

For more than 35 years, The Body Shop has used its campaigns to speak out and make change. In the 90s, that meant becoming the first cosmetic brand to take a stand against animal testing. By 1996, The Body Shop’s “Ban Against Animal Testing” campaign had received enough public support to deliver a petition with 4 million signatures to the European Commission. Two years later, Britain banned animal testing on cosmetic products and ingredients. That campaign marked my first (strawberry-lip-balmed) taste of activism and the concept of voting with my consumer dollars. It’s never left me.


David’s Picks (Director of digital)

Every year, it was always these two “staples,” or at least some version of them.

STAPLES “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Back-to-School Campaign

Staples launched its “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” campaign back in 1996, and it’s been going strong ever since. The original ad was set to the Christmas classic, recorded in 1963, by Andy Williams.

GAP’s “Easy Fit Jeans with Peter Berg” Ad

Yup, another GAP ad. This one’s from 1997, when minimum wage was $5 and a pair of GAP khakis was around $48.


Cindy’s Picks (Art director)

Coke’s “Always Coca-Cola Commercial

This was an iconic slogan and jingle that perfectly captured the essence of Coca-Cola’s timeless appeal. That classic image of someone enjoying a cold, crisp Coca-Cola in their commercials always made you crave that refreshing taste! Do do do do dood, always Coca-Cola…

MTV’s “I Want My MTV” Commercials

MTV in the mid-90s left a mark on pop culture. The channel’s commercials, iconic logos, and intentionally loud aesthetic were a reflection of the times and connected with a generation that didn’t want to grow up. It motivated you to stay updated on the latest music and sent me running to HMV to ensure that I didn’t miss out on any of the hottest tunes and trends. Those were truly unforgettable days of music and culture!