Free online archive of vintage TV commercials

Carrie McLaren is a guest blogger at Boing Boing and coauthor of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. She lives in Brooklyn, the former home of her now defunct Stay Free! magazine.

The Hartman Center at Duke University has just launched AdViews, a collection of thousands of TV commercials from the 1950s-1980s, all from the archives of ad agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. Early spots for IBM computers, Hasbro, Squibb, and a bunch of others are here. I especially enjoyed the Pampers spots; the narrative in them is so hilariously forced, it's almost porn-like. These ads don't promote a brand so much as the concept of disposability -- still a new idea at the time.

Unfortunately, the videos aren't nearly as accessible as the print ads in the other Duke/Hartman archives--they're on an iTunes channel, which allows for downloading but not much else. The archive is still a work in progress, though, and greater accessibility is planned for the future.

(Thanks, Skip!)


  1. I hope they make a youtube channel! C’mon isn’t this exactly what youtube is *for*?

  2. I’m starting to have a problem with academia publishing stuff on iTunes and claiming it’s “free”.

  3. It is free. The pain is that you have to use the iTunes software (which is free) to access the video files.

  4. Looks like the Duke University Libraries (home of the Hartman Center) has posted videos to a couple of channels in YouTube:



    I only see a couple of videos related to adViews there, but hopefully they will post more. Some of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Videos seem relevant to consumer culture.

  5. I would like to know if anyone can tell me what the 80’s (?) commercial for some sort of cold medication or tissues was that ended with a man in his bed saying to his wife…”I will be dead by then”

Comments are closed.