Retro Commercials: FedEx with fast-talking John Moschitta Jr.

I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. This issue will cover the Federal Express commercials featuring fast-talking John Moschitta Jr. from the ’80s.

Back in October of 1980, John Moschitta Jr. showed off his fast-talking abilities on the ABC TV series That’s Incredible! which then led to many other television appearances such as The Tonight Show and the Merv Griffin Show. Patrick Kelly and Michael Tesch of the advertising agency Ally & Gargano noticed and hired him in 1981 and built an entire Federal Express television commercial campaign around Moschitta’s special skill. Tesch said, “We were trying to think of a way to communicate the idea of everything moving fast.” The commercial was directed by Joe Sedelmaier who would later go on to also direct the iconic Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” commercials.

Moschitta actually had to slow down a little to only about 400-words-per-minute (when he was able to speak over 500) just to be sure viewers could understand what he was saying. Sedelmaier found Moschitta’s work hilarious and they even had re-shoot a part when Sedelmaier fell off the camera stand while laughing too hard during a take. Federal Express and the advertising agency knew they had something special. They filmed the first commercial, titled “Fast Paced World”, in April of 1981 but decided to hold it until the Fall to air during the highly competitive football season. A voiceover was used to provide the key message, “In this fast-moving, high-pressure, get-it-done-yesterday world, aren’t you glad there’s one company that can keep up with it all?” Here is that original Federal Express commercial…

Based on the success of the original commercial, they filmed another in December of 1981 which started airing in early 1982. This one features Moschitta fast-talking in one single shot for the entire 30-second spot with his assistant scrambling around behind him to keep up. This spot, titled “Ambidextrous”, was to promote the new option to have delivery by 10:30 a.m. the next morning (which was somewhat revolutionary at the time). Here is that second Federal Express commercial featuring Moschitta’s fast-talking…

The commercials garnered six Clio Awards (which is like the Oscars for the advertising world) including Best Television ad and Best Performance–Male award for Moschitta himself. In 1999, Federal Express was actually ranked by Advertising Age magazine as the 11th best advertising campaign of the entire 20th century for these particular spots. That is a very impressive distinction considering they were looking at 100 years worth of commercial campaigns. Equally impressive in 2008, the 40th-anniversary issue of New York Magazine listed it as #1 on their list of “The Most Memorable Advertisements Madison Avenue Ever Sold.”

Moschitta was officially credited in The Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Fastest Talker with the ability to articulate 586 words per minute. His record was broken in 1990 with 637 words per minute and then again in 1995 with 655 words per minute, but for my money nobody talks as fast with as much style as Moschitta does. His special skill served him well allowing him roles in movies, television and other commercials. As far as other commercials go, my other favorites starring Moschitta have to be for Micro Machines in the late-80s. For these he was known as the “Micro Machine Man” and ended with the slogan “If it doesn’t say Micro Machines, it’s not the real thing!” Here’s one of those commercials as a bonus for you to watch…

There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. I feel John Moschitta Jr. has to be considered one of the most iconic and effective pitchmen of the entire ’80s decade and he certainly made an impression with his unique fast-talking abilities.

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Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.