20 Classic Chicago TV Commercials

Bert Wymann Ford with Linn Burton for Certain

Back in the day, advertisers used to buy up blocks of TV time late at night  or early in the day on the weekends because the time was cheaper then. They would play a movie or two during their block of time and then run live commercials in the breaks.  That’s right. Live commercials.  One of the most famous pitch men in Chicago in the 70s and 80s was Linn Burton who worked for Bert Wymann Ford. Here is a classic Chicago TV commercial that first aired live on Saturday morning TV in Chicago September 20, 1980:

 

Harry Schmerler, Your Singing Ford Dealer

Harry Schmerler’s commercials were unforgettable.  Harry Schmerler called himself the singing Ford dealer but he was awful at singing.  Those old car guys all used to have some kind of a gimmick to set themselves apart and Harry was no different.  Something else I have loved about seeing all of these old car commercials again is I love how huge the cars were back then and look how cheap they were too.  Amazing.  This classic Chicago TV commercial aired back in 1980:

 

Eagle Insurance

There are commercials that are so bad they are unforgettable.  Eagle Insurance fits that bill perfectly. It has been recognized as one of the worst commercials ever made and has been shown around the world in several different countries as an example of funny commercials gone wrong.  This classic Chicago TV commercial first aired in 1993:

 

Empire Carpet

This is one of the most famous commercials ever run in Chicago. I know that Empire Carpet is national now and trust me, it irritated all of us here when they added the “800” to the beginning of their jingle.  The Empire Carpet Man was played by Lynn Hauldren who believe it or not was the owner of the advertising company hired by Empire to do their commercials. Hauldren couldn’t find an actor that Empire owner Seymour Cohen would approve so Cohen asked Hauldren to play the role. Hauldren played the Empire Carpet Man in every Empire Carpet Commercial from 1977 to 2011.  Hauldren died in 2011 but he left us a legacy of great classic Chicago TV commercials and one of the most recognized phone numbers in all of America.  This classic Chicago TV commercial aired in 1986:

 

Victory Auto Wreckers

This is the most famous Chicago TV commercial ever aired. There is no one who has grown up in Chicago who doesn’t know this commercial.  The commercial has been running on TV regularly since it first aired in 1985. It is estimated that this commercial appears on WGN and other Chicago stations 30 times per week. If that is true, then this commercial has aired nearly 43,000 times. That is incredible.  There are two very famous addresses here in Chicago.  The first is at 1060 W. Addison (Wrigley Field for those outside of Chicago) and the other, 710 East Green in Bensenville near O’Hare.  This classic Chicago TV commercial first aired in 1985:

 

Ok there they are. 20 classic Chicago TV commercials.  Before anyone loses their minds and tells me what an idiot I am for not putting one of their favorite commercials on this list, here are some that didn’t get on the list but were considered:

Indiana Beach. You know, the one with the song “there’s more than corn in Indiana”? I would have put this one on the list if there were any videos of the commercial out there. There is one commercial available but you are not allowed to put it on your own site. You can only go through YouTube. The folks at Indiana Beach block all use of their stuff.

Al Piemonte. He was on TV a lot but didn’t really have anything distinctive about him other than being on TV a lot. I could have put him on the list if we were doing 25 commercials. Since it was 20, something had to be cut.

Century Tile. Find me a commercial for them.  I would have put them on the list.

That’s it.  If I missed any, be sure to let me know.  Remember, these are Chicago based commercials so don’t go telling me about some old McDonald’s commercial that you loved from 1976. We’ll do a list of national commercials some time down the road.

 

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40 Comments on 20 Classic Chicago TV Commercials

  1. Anonymous // October 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm //

    Peter lawyer,, office on Roselle only open one time a week.

  2. Adam Wolak // October 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm //

    What was the commercial of that girl rapping for some business school. I had a really catchy bad song..anyone?

  3. Niles, Lombard, Calumet City, Oak Lawn. For sports, it’s SPORTMART.

  4. Tim Dwyer // October 30, 2013 at 8:25 am //

    I’m creating an account just for this:

    Seven Seven Three, Two Oh Two, beep BEEP beep BEEP…Lunaaaaaaa

  5. “Pepe’s tacos are very good tacos”

  6. NO BOB ROHRMAN?!?!

  7. Whatever happened to the old CET ad? Remember? Call MOhawk 4 4100 CET for televison? Does anyone else remember that one?

  8. I’m sorry, but where did this guy get the idea carpet cleaners are not around anymore?

  9. Here’s another one that should be on the list. The Lincoln Park Zoo commercial.

    http://youtu.be/FoMyOj2Ou7E

  10. weeeeeee’re the super service, super service, super service store . . . North Shoooooooore Refrigeration!

  11. Kids are king at Dispensa’s Kiddie Kingdom. Fun’s our thing at Dispensa’s Kiddie Kingdom!

  12. Tru Link Fence with Andre Dawson.

  13. FaabulousT // October 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm //

    Remember, the Empire commercials had another spokesperson BEFORE Lynn. It was a black woman and I don’t remember her name but I do know she played the maid in “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart.

  14. Don’t forget about Golf Mill Ford.

    Push it
    Pull it
    Tow it to Golf Mill Ford!

  15. 588-2300 Empire Today with Lynn the Empire man. Even today, living in the Carolinas, I see Empire commercials with an animated Lynn character who has pretty much nailed Lynn’s voice. Maybe they’re national now??

  16. Two Chicago commercials I still remember decades later are for Holsum Bread with the great jingle that began “At two in the morning when you’re in bed, the Holsum bakers are baking bread” and for Lincoln whose phone number was National 2-9000.

    • I seem to remember an establishment with the number MOhawk4-4100, along with good ole HUdson3-2700.

  17. My aunt was in either the Moo or Oink costume in one of those commercials. She worked there and they needed somebody last-minute. And she got my sister and me some cool Moo and Oink stuffed animals. We thought it was just the coolest damn thing ever. Still do.

  18. Or Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man, of Courtesy Motors down near Augusta Blvd and… Cicero?
    Or “Robert Hall, Robert Hall…” the jingle of the mens/boys suits and topcoats store.
    Or Norman Ross doing Talman Savings commercials … before he joined the First National Bank of Chicago.
    Or Uncle Ned with the Smiley Head doing commercials on Lunchtime Little Theater
    Or Uncle Johnny Coons making us eat boloney sandwiches just like his, before they caught him swearing into the microphone that wasn’t turned off…

  19. “Nelson loves me, Nelson loves me, Nelson Brothers loves me; and they’ll love you too…”
    Or Frank Sinatra singing Pete Epstein car commercials to the tune of Kick in the Head (DIno’s song, actually)
    Or Fohrman Motors
    Or “… cookies by Maurice Lennell. He came here from Swe-den… One taste will tell that Maurice Lennell cookies are just simply ..Good!” by the dean of Chicago folk singers, Winn Stracke, with a little bit of “Top of old Smoky” in the tune.
    Or the “Cahpeting, cahpeting, cahpeting!” TV commercials that haven’t changed much in 60 years.
    Or the Nahighian Brothers Oriental Carpet store ads on WFMT done by the mellifluent Mel Zellman between pieces of classical music.
    Or the live Aunt Jemima ads acted by a beautiful, dignified lady (Edith Wilson, I think) who was originally a famous singer, who sang with Eubie Blake back in the 1920s.

  20. Tony Papaleo // October 29, 2013 at 12:20 am //

    What? No “Timmy” the newsboy from Long Chevrolet?

  21. Congrats on the Huffington Post – Post! Way to go Midwest MO and MW Mike!!!

  22. ITA, that is the number one, most famous Chicago commercial. The fact that it is still running cracks me up and I hope they never ever change it! Does the company know what a classic they have created? I have been watching the Victory Auto Wreckers commercial since that guy was in fashion. Who is that guy? Does he know that commercial is still running on WGN?

    • Midwest Mark // October 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm //

      My neighbor from a few years back looked exactly like the victory auto wreckers guy. I’m still secretly convinced it was him

  23. Midwest Mark // October 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm //

    I love the Eagleman commercial with Mancow… a true 90’s Chicago mashup

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