Do You Remember – Coffee Ads from the Past

Okay, kids, it’s pop quiz time! How well do you know coffee ads? Over the years, there have been literally hundreds -if not thousands – of television ads for various brands of coffee. Long before Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts turned coffee into a trendy gourmet product, people seriously debated which supermarket brand of coffee was the best, and the various coffee organizations around the world put a lot of money into getting people to drink coffee. They used catchy jingles, memorable taglines, quirky situations and spokespeople to get the word out. There have been numerous coffee ‘spokespersons’ through the years, and some very memorable coffee ads on television and radio.

Listed below are some names, tag lines and situations from coffee advertisements of the past. Can you identify the brand (or kinds) of coffee being touted? There’s no prize for getting them all correct except bragging rights and the knowledge that you truly are a coffee geek of the trivial variety.

1. Good to the Last Drop.
2. Everything you love about coffee.
3. We’ve secretly replaced the coffee with…
4. Mrs. Olsen
5. Celebrate the moments of your life.
6. The best part of waking up (extra credit if you can hum the jingle)
7. Our House
8. Fill it to the rim.
9. Cora
10. Juan Valdez

Do you remember coffee Ads from the Past
Coffee Ads from the Past image – image copyright Umpqua via

1. Yup, we started you off easy. Good to the last drop may be the single most recognizable coffee ad slogan of all time. Maxwell House coffee has been using it since 1917. For years, the company claimed that the slogan was coined by Teddy Roosevelt, who declared it after drinking a cup of Maxwell House coffee. The slogan is a registered trademark of Maxwell House, owned now by Kraft Foods.

2. Without the jitters. Sanka was one of the first decaffeinated coffees marketed on an international basis. The bright orange label became so well-known and so associated with decaf coffee that it’s typical for the decaf coffee pot to have a bright orange handle. Sanka advertised that it was ‘everything you love about coffee’ without everything you don’t. For a while, Sanka ads featured Robert Young, of Marcus Welby fame, touting the healthful benefits of drinking decaf.

3. We’re here at this famous four-star restaurant where we’ve secretly replaced their usual coffee with Folgers crystals. Can they tell the difference? The “we’ve secretly replaced” ad campaign from Folgers may be one of the most spoofed ad campaigns in history. Just a quick google of the phrase ‘we’ve secretly replaced’ turns up hundreds of references from Jose Canseco to Aunt Mary’s ashes.

4. Mrs. Olsen is the second Folgers reference in this quiz. Mrs. Olsen played by actress Virginia Christine, was the face of Folgers through most of the 1950s. The Swedish neighbor of lots of women who just ‘can’t make good coffee’ stepped in to help out in all sorts of situations. You can watch a whole bunch of vintage Mrs. Olsen here.

5. General Foods went for the warm and fuzzy market with their ad campaigns for International Coffees. Their tag line was “Celebrate the Moments of Your Life”, and the ads all featured girl get-togethers with lines like “It’s like when you eat chocolate and your boyfriend eats a peppermint… and you kiss.”

6. …is Folgers in your cup. That’s three Folgers references out of six. Is anyone still wondering why Folgers is the number one brand of instant coffee in the country? It’s a great slogan, but I can think of lots of things that are better about waking up than Folgers in my cup.

7. The house in the line is a dead giveaway, right? The recent ad campaign from Maxwell House features employees of Maxwell House singing made-up lyrics to the Madness song “Our House”. The new tagline – Make your house a Maxwell House.

8. Only half a cup? Don’t you like my coffee? Brim decaffeinated coffee tried to pull some of the market rug out from under Sanka with their “Fill it to the rim. With Brim.” ad campaign. Each ad featured a hostess pouring coffee and a guest demurring with “ONly half a cup for me”. The solution? Brim decaf, the coffee that doesn’t keep you up all night.

9. Played by Margaret Hamiilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, Cora was Maxwell House’s answer to Mrs.Olsen. She was the proprietor of a little rural general store who ‘only sells one brand of coffee’ – Maxwell House. Because with Maxwell House ‘it doesn’t matter who makes the coffee, as long as it’s Maxwell House’.

10. The face of the Colombian coffee industry, Juan Valdez just recently got a NEW face. He was created by the Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia to distinguish 100% Colombian coffee from other brands that were blended with coffee beans from other countries.