Ten Classic Denver Commercials: It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World
Since Colorado is a lot less purple this time around, we probably won’t be seeing the plethora of political ads that we have in election years past. That means a lot more room for the usual slate of the usual advertising suspects here in the Mile High City, for better or for much, much worse. These are the ads that you’ve seen for as long as you’ve been a TV-watching resident of Denver, the ones that you’ll remember, the ones that mark you as part of this city as soon as you can recite Tom Shane’s pitch by heart. What TV advertisements are so powerful as to naturalize Denver transplants? Let’s start with these ten classic commercials.
10. Rocky’s Autos
The Shagman and cohorts Officer Odell and Audrey have been a fixture on Denver TV for years now, making viewers laugh or cringe (or both) at their dumb jokes and crude humor. Love them or hate them, you remember them. And if you watch local television for just thirty minutes, you’ll never have the opportunity to forget these omnipresent Rocky's Autos commercials.
9. Elitch Gardens
There are few things that remain from the original Elitch Gardens: the name, a few buildings, the carousel still in operation at the reincarnation of Elitch Gardens in the Platte Valley. And old commercials, of course, which hark back to the glory days of the fabled park, a park in the truest sense: The “gardens” in the name wasn’t a conceit, but an accurate descriptor. “Not to see Elitch’s is not to see Denver,” after all.
8. Vitamin Cottage
These purposefully goofy commercials have been around for decades now, just as the local chain has itself been around since the mid-1950s (though it's now known as Natural Grocers). Amateurish, wide-eyed and good-natured, the ads remain pretty charming despite their rough edges. And make no mistake: All that awkwardness is absolutely strategic. Small-budget and hometown sells, too.
7. Dealin’ Doug
Speaking of which, Dealin’ Doug might be hometown…but he’s definitely not small-budget. Doug Moreland is on Denver TV pretty much all the time, on one channel or another. He advertises during everything from Broncos games to Judge Judy. And you won't just see Dealin’ Doug in his superhero suit: He’s joined by his grandkids, trained to happily exclaim that “Nobody beats a Dealin’ Doug deal…nobody!” All right, kids. Calm down.
6. The Strongarm
The only guy who might be able to give Dealin’ Doug a run for his money in terms of televised media saturation is Frank Azar. The attorney calls himself "The Strongarm,” which makes you think of someone from the circus — and is maybe more appropriate for the legal system than any of us would care to admit. Azar isn’t the only TV lawyer advertising on Denver’s airwaves, but he wins the recognition prize out of sheer ubiquity.
5. Water World
Denver’s most famous water park has advertised frequently since its opening in 1979, but it's also gotten plenty of free advertising. Water World was named one of America’s Top 10 Water Parks by the Travel Channel in 2008, and was featured in the motion picture The Surfer King, which starred Lindsey Wagner and Alan Thicke. That's not aVacation level of film success, but it's not all wet, either.
4. Mattress King
No, not Janice’s ex-husband’s business from Friends — this is Denver’s Mattress King, another commercial celeb who likes pimping out his offspring to shill for his business. Even worse: The King teams them up with the Denver Nuggets' notorious Chris “the Birdman” Andersen. When people are looking for a mattress, do they really need the advice of junior-high kids and the Birdman?
3. Quiznos Subs
Denver’s hometown sub shop was founded in 1981 in Capitol Hill, and the giant chain still operates that flagship location. Quiznos become known in the early 2000s for memorable Super Bowl ads, including those featuring the semi-horrifying Spongmonkeys, and later “baby Bob,” who even inspired an (unsuccessful) TV series.
Remember what they were smuggling in the classic ’70s Burt Reynolds movie Smokey and the Bandit? That’s right: Coors beer. Because when Coors was just a regional beer, it was a great draw for East Coasters who'd enjoyed the Banquet Beer while they were here and wanted to share it with friends (or hoard it for themselves) back home. After Coors went nationwide, its commercials did, too — but they haven’t changed much.
1. American Furniture Warehouse
Jake Jabs is the elder statesman of Denver advertising: always on, always having a sale, always smiling into the camera. Over the years, his product line has expanded as his chain has crept across the country (and everywhere, if you buy online), but his approach hasn’t changed a bit. Jabs is still the quintessential hometown pitchman: a little good ol' boy, a little pillar of the community, and a whole lot of huckster. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.