– By Diane Pivac (NZFA, Director Connect Division)

In late 2009 the Archive launched Sellebration, a selection of TV commercials from decades past. To begin with we uploaded 20 commercials for each decade from the 1960s to the 1990s and we asked viewers to vote for their favourites.


Voting was fierce and while some of the results were pretty predictable – it seemed like everyone (who was old enough) remembered the famous KFC animation from 1975 and the problems ‘Fluffy’ caused David Judge in the 1980s. Others were less so – Billy T James’ Telethon Song for 1985 beat some stiff competition to be the most popular ad from the 1980s, for example.

Fluffy in the 1980s Ansett Airlines ad.
Fluffy in the 1980s Ansett Airlines ad.


The site proved so popular that once the results were in we decided to add the 2000s and to keep the site live – and we’ve continued to add more commercials, often by viewer request.

Sellebration is a snapshot showing change over time, not only has the way ads are made changed – from the 1960s black and white ads with a lot of earnest, scientific voice-over (usually a man with an english accent, try Deb’s Potato Flakes), to the big-budget pre stock market crash of the 1980s. They also show change over time: from the 60s Craven A King Size filters, to the 80s and 90s alcohol advertising (check out Lion 10 Draught Beer) and the 1990 Commission promoting national unity through the Treaty of Waitangi; or technology changes such as BASF cassette tapes in the 70s (and the fabulous Dear John), the 1987 mobile phone, housed a small suitcase and only available in Auckland, to Telecom’s Xtra broadband in 2006.

BASF Tapes, Dear John.
BASF Tapes, Dear John.

It’s hard to imagine now that the 1960s jockey ad starring Peter Harcourt had to be re-edited because it was deemed inappropriate for New Zealand audiences; barely a decade later a bikini clad lady frolics in the surf selling us soap, and in the 1980s a lady, shot in soft-focus with suggestive intercutting, was fronting the new Toyota Starlet; by the 2000s durex gives us 100 million reasons to practise safe sex.

The ads in Sellebration are a small sample of the TVC collection housed at the Film Archive, all the ads are on our main database – let us know if there are others you’d like to see, if we can we will have them digitised and uploaded (email

They sure don’t make them like they used to!

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