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Wander through YouTube to see what TV spots looked like in 1986, and you’ll be in for a lot of … vanilla. This was the year that Chevrolet (the “Heartbeat of America”) showed us cowboys and fields of waving grain. America’s boy next door, Michael J. Fox, bought his Pepsi from a vending machine. Burger King pinned its ambitions on a guy in bug-eyed glasses and flood pants named Herb the Nerd.

This sea of safeness—and, not incidentally, whiteness—is why one particular spot from that year made history.



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This story first appeared in the Oct. 31, 2023 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.