As far back as the ’70s, you would find leisure activities like bike riding, board games, playing twister, and so on already existent. These were the popular (though limited) fun options for an era that gave birth to modern computing. However, the ‘70s era was a good one for cable TV, pay-TV, national cable networks, and the whole TV industry. Because they could rake in more customers. Thanks to the outbreak of commercials in the ‘70s, the industry suffered no form of economic ache. Instead, the industry kept on exploring every socio-economic opening available. Though the TV industry began in the ‘20s, the industry would not reach the 15.5 million subscriber mark until the ‘70s. Up to 4,150 networking systems served those subscribers.
Toy companies saw the growing number of TV subscribers as a productive opening to keep up their appeal to more customers. This growth would lead to abuses directed towards the TV industry. Hence, the introduction of the Action for Children’s Television (ACT). The inauguration of ACT was the highlight of the ‘70s era for toy commercials. ACT aimed to improve the quality of programming that targetted children and adolescents. ACT also succeeded in regulating commercial abuses directed at children.
However, the abuses against the industry did not subside. There were claims that TV subscribers were more endangered than others to what was referred to as the “mean world syndrome”. According to critics, the TV industry caused the drop in Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) results in the ’70s. The industry showed grit, withstanding all its adversaries. Hence, TV programs and commercials took up the roles of counselor and companion.
Join me as we take a trip back down memory lane to see:
10 of the most memorable toy commercials from the ‘70s decade!
10. Ice Bird 
Let’s start this list with a shaved ice treat. Hence, our number 10 is Ice Bird by Kenner. Back in the day, the commercial featured a kid in the company of another kid and a female adult. The kid was laboriously scraping an ice block. After going at that for a while, she has her cone-shaped ice shaving. Now, she adds her flavor then begins to eat up. The commercial continues as the second kid joins in—the commercial ends with a show of the five flavor packets that come with the toy-food-making bird.
9. Charlie’s Angels Hideaway House 
This is the first of many Hasbro toy commercials that will be featured on this list. Its commercial features a huge toy standing at 30 1/2” tall. That is one notable reason it would not leave the memory easily. The commercial depicts the revolving hideaway house of beautiful girls who are living dangerously.
8. Ball Buster: The Home Game 
Here is a board game to slot into the eighth spot: Ball Buster made by Mego Toy Company. Many persons have criticized the name given to this home game. Critics claimed that the name contained an inclination that references the male’s genitals. Another popular description of this ’70s classic is that it is similar to the Chinese checkers.
How would one forget this commercial? It started with four players, which consisted of two kids and two adults. By the end of the commercial, only the latter pair remained. The ball was mounted on a long springy stem, which is mounted on a peg. Each player busts the other player’s plastic ball by pulling back on the adjacent piece.
7. Alien Action Figure 
Here is a toy tie-in of our #1 of the top 10 horror movies of the 1970s. Our seventh commercial is a hilarious one. It is impossible to talk about the movie and not spend some time on its controversial toy, Alien Action Figure. Kenner’s Alien toy was terrifying. Parents would refuse to get one for their kids with claims that it was too scary.
I bet ’70s kids would not allow their parent a break whenever they saw the toy’s commercial. It plays out that a group of boys was running around the house. Their play included locking the windows as a means of escape from the Alien. The standout of the commercial is the gnashing teeth and high-pitched snarls of the Alien Action Figure.
6. G. I. Joe: Adventure Team [1970-1976]
If you are checking this list and you are under 30, it is pardonable to associate this sixth commercial with The Rock and Channing Tatum. Yes, I’m talking of G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. However, Joe has been around for much longer than the mentioned movie. Joe is another creation of the Hasbro Company. There were speculations about the toy. Widespread speculation was that there was a sentiment in the air because of the Vietnam War. This sentiment has led to the unpopularity of military toys. Hence, the speculation led Hasbro to roll out the Adventure Team toys.
In the ’70s, Hasbro restyled Joe alongside its commercial. Now, Joe was no more an ordinary world traveler. He now has “Life-Like Hair,” “Eagle Eyes,” and “Kung-Fu Grip,” which helped him hold his weapons, clasp ropes, or swing from trees. Due to the oil crisis in 1973, Hasbro gave G.I. Joe a lighter but muscled body. Joe’s ad is one ‘70s kids cannot forget in a bit.
5. Hungry Hungry Hippos 
Our fifth pick is Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is a tabletop game for 2-4 players. Some British edition calls the game by Hungry Hippos. This is not far from the common American name. The idea for the game was first mentioned in 1967 by Fred Kroll. It was not produced until 1978 by Hasbro. The production took place under the brand of Hasbro’s subsidiary, Milton Bradley.
The commercial features four children who surrounded the game board. The game is operated by plastic hippopotamus heads of colors red, pink, green, and yellow. Levers control the hippo heads. When a lever is pressed, the hippo extends its head to catch the plastic marbles. Upon catching or eating a marble, the marble travels under the hippo to each player’s corner. Of course, whoever eats the most wins the game.
4. Great Moves 
As part of the memorable initiatives of the ‘70s, this fourth commercial was included. It is the Great Moves from Hasbro. The TV commercial featured popular faces like Fred Allen Berry and Roz Kelly.
The narration of the commercial shows the multiplayer game. One player would wear a small whiteboard on their body. The other player wore a pen on another part of their body. The two players came together concerning the objects strapped to different parts of their bodies. Then they would attempt to draw a picture by moving those parts of their body where a whiteboard and pen were strapped. Imagine “how easy” creating a teacup like that would be? That was what this commercial had to offer.
3. Baby Laugh-a-Lot 
The number three slot goes to a quite disturbing pick. Perhaps that is what makes it a memorable choice. It is the Baby Laugh-a-Lot by Remco. A more familiar reference/description to this toy is The Maniacal Laughing Doll. Some other persons call it The Crazy Laughing Doll. Both maniac and crazy are near perfect descriptions of this toy.
Many ’70s kids would not see a need for their 21st-century kids to see this commercial. The commercial has a horror movie style from the doll used to the freak sound coming out of the doll, the commercial reeks of horror. Wait till you hear the voiceover of this doll when its battery is running low. But it does get the job done. After all, laughter is contagious.
2. Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow 
Another memorable pick for this list is Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow. With the permission of General Foods, Kenner Products introduced Milky to the world in 1977. You may have guessed it…it is a toy that yields milk. It comes with a tablet which you can dissolve inside water. So you can call its yield a pretend milk, or you can just call it milk.
It is a unique commercial. The 10.5 inches tall Milky can be seen waiting for two boys. They made their way onto the scene in a full-blown excited state. One boy is seen pumping the cow’s tail. As he pumps the tail, the other boy watched milky drink the water in the trench. As soon as Milky was full, it went moo. Then the boys grabbed an utter and milked the marvelous milking cow.
1. Mr. Potato Head 
This list will not be complete without bringing to mind the fond memories of Mr. Potato Head. As the name suggests, Mr. Potato Head is a plastic model of a potato. It was invented by George Lerner in 1949. This was a difficult time for such a creative invention because of WWII and food rationing in the air at this time. It was then manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. Mr. Potato Head gets an inclusion in this ’70s list because of its 1975 commercial, which commensurates with the toy’s increase in size.
I am sure ’70s kids whose hearts were captivated by Mr. Potato Head in its commercial would remember the beautiful girl putting the piece together. What was more striking about the commercial is the lyrics. The lyrics had all stint of the nursery rhyme. Getting a place among the toy hall of fame says it all.
If your home is one of the over 69 million homes with a TV set or one of the 15.5 million subscribers, you will bear witness to the astounding memory locked up in this list. Some of these pieces can still be seen in antique shops, pawnshops, and vintage toy stores. You can scour through different YouTube channels to relieve those memories better.
Author: Chris Ingledue
Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!