Retro Commercials: Michael J. Fox for Diet Pepsi

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 Michael J. Fox Diet Pepsi commercials that started in the ’80s.

In 1985, there were not too many actors hotter than Michael J. Fox.  Not only was he playing the role of “Alex P. Keaton” on Family Ties every Thursday night on NBC, he appeared in the films Teen Wolf and the blockbuster Back to the Future. So it made perfect sense that Pepsi would want to feature Fox in their Diet Pepsi commercial campaign. Pepsi reportedly paid Michael J. Fox $5 million to appear in its commercials and Fox would go on to be in the Super Bowl Diet Pepsi commercial for the next five years. These commercials were created by the BBDO advertising agency who was also creating the Michael Jackson Pepsi commercials at the same time.

The first commercial aired during Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986 and then continued to be used the rest of that year. It features Michael J. Fox studying in a library and his craving a Diet Pepsi makes a little too much noise for those studying around him.

The next one aired during Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987 and continued to be used the rest of that year. This one is often called “New Neighbors” or “Apartment 10G” and also stars Gail O’Grady who would later become better known for her role on NYPD Blue in the ’90s. The commercial features Michael J. Fox get a knock on his door by his beautiful blonde neighbor who just moved in next door and wants to borrow a Diet Pepsi. Fox finds his 2-liter bottle is empty and ends up going on quite the adventure trying to satisfy this young lady. The commercial uses a song that sounds very similar to “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, but is probably different enough to avoid legal issues.

The next one debuted during Super Bowl XXII on January 31, 1988 and continued to be used throughout that year. This one is often called “Mad Dog” and also stars Jami Gertz who had appeared in some television and film roles previously including The Lost Boys and Less Than Zero from 1987.  The couple stops at a gas station to buy a Diet Pepsi but is chased by a mad dog before they are able to complete the purchase. Instead of driving away, they attempt to outsmart the dog in order to get that ice cold Diet Pepsi.

The next commercial aired during Super Bowl XXIII on January 22, 1989 and was used throughout that year. This one included Michael J. Fox making a robot clone of himself and also stars Lori Loughlin as his girlfriend. Loughlin may be best known for her role as “Aunt Becky” on the television series Full House from 1988-1995, but she also had been in some movies including 1985’s Secret Admirer, 1986’s Rad and 1987’s Back to the Beach among a few others. Many of the special effects for this commercial were created by Dream Quest Images using a couple techniques along with a special editing machine. One technique was a look-alike actor who wore a $100,000 plastic mask of Fox’s face. The other was a technique called “motion control,” in which a camera is placed on a special platform using a computer to help duplicate the exact movements of another individual. This ad scored highly as the second highest rated commercial in the first year of USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter.

The last one aired during Super Bowl XXIV on January 28, 1990 and continued to be used the rest of that year. Yes, this is now technically the ’90s, but just barely and it was certainly still created in the ’80s. This one has Michael J. Fox stumbling out of his seats at the Opera only to find the concession stand is out of Diet Pepsi (holding the empty 2 liter bottle like he did back in the 1987 commercial). He finds a Diet Pepsi elsewhere but ends up locked out of the theater finding his way back in a surprising way.

There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials.  I have been a fan of Michael J. Fox since the first episode of Family Ties and, though I have never drank Diet soda of any kind, these Diet Pepsi spots have always been great ’80s nostalgia for me.


More Retro Commercial Features on TRN

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About OldSchool80s 87 Articles
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.

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