40 Years of Scoops, Bloops and Other Surprises From Adweek’s Archives

Plus, what we nailed and where we failed

Michael Jordan, and iPod and Joe Camel
Here's a look at some of the more noteworthy fare that’s popped up in our pages since 1979.

From the Archives

A magazine that produces an issue a week for four decades puts out a lot of information—and we mean, like, a lot. Some quick back-of-the-envelope math reveals that somewhere around 1,800 issues of Adweek have come off the presses, which puts our total article count well into the six figures. (Throw in the web-only content, and we’re easily over a million.) How can we possibly summarize all the news, views, people, companies and trends we’ve covered? Well, we can’t, of course. So instead, we compiled the following sampler. Here’s some of the more noteworthy fare that’s popped up in our pages since 1979.

The Adweek Crystal Ball

Given a front-row seat to developing news, magazines are in a unique position to spot trends before they become trends. Adweek is no exception. Over the course of 40 years, we saw a good many people, products and movements that we flagged—early—as game-changing stuff. But we also missed as much as we caught. So, time to come clean. Below, some highlights of what we nailed and what—at least in retrospect—we failed.

We Nailed It!

“Men are parents, too.” (1981)

Michael Jordan has potential as a brand endorser. (1984)

“The age of bottled water” has arrived. (1985)

“Catering to people with food allergies” is important. (1988)

“Thinking” cars are coming. (1988)

“Most of the kids” consuming black culture “are white.” (1992)

Department stores should “embrace the web” or miss out. (1998)

iTunes is “worth keeping an eye on.” (2006)

“Consumers are growing more comfortable spending real money on virtual goods.” (2011)

Gen Zers are “the new power players of consumerism.” (2012)

We Blew It!

“Companies looking to influence members of Congress directly through issue advertising might be better off writing letters.” (1981)

“AIDS isn’t a twentieth-century black plague. Heterosexuals … are virtually risk free.” (ad, 1986)

Fax machines will do a “bang up business” in the coming years. (1987)

Commercial jingle writing is “rewarding” and a “serious business.” (1987)

“Newspapers remain a wonderful franchise.” (1988)

Joe Camel is “a property that could fare well for the brand for a very long time.” (1988)

“The Trump name has obviously been a success in business travel, real estate [and] casinos.” (1989)

Minivans are a “hot product.” (1989)

A “lucrative new market” is “the Soviet Union and Hungary.” (1989)

Online ads are only “experimental.” (1998)

Well, This is Embarrassing

Any publication that’s put out over 2,000 print issues (never mind the website) is bound to rack up its share of, well, regrettable things—terms that shouldn’t have been used, jokes that shouldn’t have been told and attitudes that would be better kept in check. Adweek is, of course, as guilty as any of them. As the blame-deflecting politicians like to say: “Mistakes were made.” Here are a few of ours.

Now that Americans are aware that body shaming is an actual thing (and a problem), poking fun at someone’s weight is simply not funny. But 33 years ago, it apparently was—at least for us. In the fall of 1986, we selected a new ad for Prince spaghetti sauce as one of our “Best Packaged-Goods Ads” for the year. Designed to promote Prince spaghetti sauce’s Original and Chunky varieties, the spot featured a reproduction of the Mona Lisa above the first headline and, above the second, a Mona Lisa to which the brand had added meaty fingers, a corpulent bust and a double chin.

When tennis legend Billie Jean King separated from her partner Marilyn Barnett in 1981, news of the split—of the relationship, period—nearly destroyed King’s career. In a May story about King being dropped from a sponsorship deal with pharma giant Squibb, Adweek squirmed away from mentioning any specifics (“relationship” or “lesbian” appear nowhere in the copy)—preferring instead to refer to Barnett’s suit as “Galimony.”

This story first appeared in the Dec. 9, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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