“Not A Flash In The Pan” – Crystal Pepsi Training Video (1992)

Sure, New Coke was a disaster for the Coca-Cola company and the reintroduction of the Classic formula was an expensive hail-mary pass that paid off and the whole debacle would probably serve as a good example to other leaders in the soda industry of the importance of maintaining the integrity of your flagship product, but that was the ’80s and by the ’90s Pepsi was ready to try their bad idea.

Crystal Pepsi launched in 1992 with the help of an aggressive marketing campaign centered around Van Halen’s “Right Now”. The ads were everywhere and the product itself was intriguing just from the sheer gimmickry of it. A clear cola, bereft of caffeine and preservatives, for the consumer seeking a ‘healthier’ soda option. An interesting move for Pepsi – bad moves can still be interesting – and this training video to Pepsi distributors educating them about the main talking points of Crystal Pepsi is also interestingly bad.

The video takes viewers through the main talking points of the ad campaign without all of the production effort. Instead we’re treated to a very low-budget grab bag of ’90s video effects and graphics. This is what the Saved By The Bell intro would look like if it were made by college students.

We’ve also got a lot of talking heads, actual Pepsi employees (!), extolling the virtues of the product. Phrases like “a more subtle cola,” “doesn’t taste like any other clear drink”, “we can’t keep it on the shelves,” and “it took the market by storm” really highlight the effort to bring the distributors into the cult of Crystal. They call it that, by the way, just “Crystal”. Real insider. Real casual.

After downloading all of the marketing points, the video turns to a few practice sessions to anticipate what would ultimately turn out to be justified hesitation on the store-owners’ parts. A few of the questions urge the distributors to passively-aggressively push for more shelf space at no cost to the existing Pepsi line. Even in play-acting, it’s awkward.

Also, they couldn’t do this in an actual store? These sets look to be half-heartedly designed by children.

Crystal Pepsi did okay for a little while, but the fad wore off pretty quickly. Coca-Cola dealt the final blow with “Tab Clear”, a suicide attempt at creating an intentionally inferior clear product that would sour public perception of clear soda and ultimately destroy both brands.

There’s a few bright spots in Crystal Pepsi’s afterlife; a few grassroots attempts to revive the formula resulted in Pepsi’s half-hearted effort to give it another try in the interest of nostalgia. It didn’t stick, maybe it was never meant to.

Here’s the training video.

Five Things – 08.22.16 – Hasta Luigi, Baby

Nintendo 1993 Holiday Demonstration Tutorial

This is the Poochie of corporate training videos.

Nintendo Training Video

Sent to game retailers before the 1993 holiday season, this demo employs a Bill S. Preston/Jeff Spicoli/Zack Morris hybrid being to take employees through the steps of acting properly as a Nintendo representative.  It tries so hard (and fails) to be cool that it doesn’t really accomplish anything else.

Nintendo Dancing

This guy hangs out on the couch for the majority of the tape, in varying levels of splay.

Using a blend of sharp graphics, blaring rock music, grating ‘attitude’ and roleplayed scenarios, employees learn about the differences between the NES, the Super NES, the Game Boy, the advantages Nintendo has over the competition, and how to set up and maintain the various display systems.  There are also some heavily stylized interludes of kids playing video games that make no sense.

Nintendo Rock Out

I really can’t overstate how hard this video tries to be cool.  Its attempts at being playfully subversive results in it not being clear who this is actually targeted at. I can’t imagine a retail employee getting anything out of this video and a consumer would see right through it.  It’s a pretty good example of how corporations viewed kids in the early ’90s, though, so at least it’s worth that. Check it out.


Captain Lou Albano Anti Drug PSA

A good message in this 1980s anti-drug PSA, but a strange one once the religious blanket gets draped over it.


Manhunt Board Game

A group of players travel around a board gathering clues to eliminate suspects of a crime. Sounds like Clue, right? No – it’s much more complicated.

Manhunt Box

In Manhunt the players are all detectives.  A crime is agreed upon by all players at the beginning of the game and entered into the Clue Scanner.  As players move through the game they are given the chance to insert probes into the Clue Scanner which gives more information to the nature of the crime. This information can be used by the players to whittle down their list of suspects and ultimately determine who done it, winning the game.

Manhunt Board

So, Clue.  But with a Crime Computer, a Clue Scanner, a Probe, a Detective Handbook, and some other stuff to complicate it up.  Still, it’s got a great look and if I had seen this game as a kid I’d have been all over it with all of the devices. Now, a game based on the PS2 game Manhunt? Take my money, please.

First Color Videotaping

In 1958, NBC recorded and rebroadcast the first color videotaping, a speech by President Eisenhower. This video starts in black and white and NBC president Robert Sarnoff flips the switch to color a few minutes in. A pretty great capture of a pretty amazing moment, and the movement in the video looks so snappy for 1958.


Rowntree’s Ad

There’s something in 1940s ad for Rowntree’s Fruit Gums that really grabs me.

Rowntree's Ad







Five Things – 04.04.16 – That Men May Fight

You Dont Know Jack

In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack.   It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.

YDKJ Title

The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.


The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.


The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style.  There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.

YDKJ Question

The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.

Dis or Dat

Dis or Dat 2

Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy.  The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.

Jack Attack 2 Jack Attack

All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase.  You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.

Here’s an episode.


Wall Street

Wall Street Title

This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.

Wall Street 1

In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.

Wall Street 2

Here’s some gameplay.  I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.


YWCA Posters

In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I.  Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.

Men May Fight Help Our Boys Care for Her Building For Health Back Our Girls


Clean It

This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant.  I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!


Castlevania Soundtrack

The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?




Five Things – 11.16.15 – The Battleground Is The TV Set

1. 1986 Hardees Training Video – On the surface this is a pretty pedestrian video as far as 1980s training films go – there’s no music video, no stylized effects, no imaginary flights of fancy.  Upon deeper inspection there’s some good stuff here, though, and a pretty good snapshot of 1986 life.


While there’s not a lot of fanciness to this video, the company apparently goosed the graphics budget and got some “memorable” art out of it. I spy both a Timid Futures logo and a graphic from the first edition of distant friends here:

Crew Training

The artwork has its misses, as well.  Here’s their depiction of the “what not to do” restaurant, Dinkos:


The video’s basically a crash course in how to talk to the customer – there are no tips here about how to cook food or clean grills, just how to deal with customers.  All types of customers.  Including very young children who seem to be in the restaurant by themselves.


There’s a point in the video where they advise you on how to place beverages in a bag for to-go orders.  Really? People wanted cups full of liquid in a bag?

Cups in a Bag

On the whole the video is a barrage of one tip after another and it’s pretty tough to keep track, even for a guy who’s just watching this video on the internet and has no financial stake in retaining this information. Imagine how this guy felt.

Uh Oh

A few tips recapped on the Chyron…

Main Goals

This is probably pretty good advice:

Drive Thru

And we end the thirty-minute film with a happy, confident employee. Seriously, this guy’s the best part of the whole thing.

Got It

Here’s the full video. I’m not sure if I recommend watching it or not – this sort of thing scratches a really specific itch. If you do dive in, enjoy the great music and fashion.


2.  Horizons Unlimited – Here’s a recruitment pamphlet from the 1950s for the Air Force, aimed at women.  There’s a lot of great layout stuff happening here that’s pretty inspiring.

Horizons Unlimited

An expected appeal to fashion…


…and a pleasant focus on education.

Technical Training




3.  1983 RCA Video Monitors Showcase – This video was aimed at retailers, attempting to convince them to both stock up on RCA Video Monitors and feature them prominently in their showrooms.  Pretty interesting – they definitely did their homework, and then smeared on a layer of ’80s glitz.  The notion of multiple video inputs being a novel concept really shows how far we’ve come with this tech.  This graphic caught my eye, too. It looks like a Nitzer Ebb album cover.

RCA Graphic


4.  Super Scope Six – A commercial for Nintendo’s followup to the Zapper, the Super Scope for the Super NES.  A freakin’ rocket launcher.


5. Boys’ Life Thanksgiving Cover – Here’s a 1927 cover for Boys’ Life celebrating Thanksgiving.  I simultaneously love and hate it.

Boys Life Thanksgiving






Five Things – 08.17.15 – Taskbars and Email and Shortcuts, Oh My

1.  Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide – Microsoft really went overboard with this goofy tutorial video on the then-new features of Windows 95.  There were a lot of changes from Windows 3.1, and what better way to display those changes than through an overacted, borderline offensive corporate training video? I’m sorry, I mean a cyber-sitcom. That’s what they call it.  The world’s first.

Windows GuideWho better to bring us into the brave new world of cyber sitcoms than the do-no-wrong stars of Friends, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry? Nobody, that’s who.  And do-no-wrong? They did wrong.

Matthew Perry and Jennifer AnistonThe premise of the sitcom is that these two show up to audition for a Windows 95 training video. How Seinfeld-esque! The writers of this bit seem to be keenly aware of that fact, as there’s a funky bassline that provides the ‘rimshot’ to just about every joke in this video.

Anyway, Matt and Jen show up to Bill Gates’ office and Bill’s not there, but his personal assistant tells them to just go right into Bill’s office and use his computer. Because that’s what would happen.  This is Bill’s office.

Bill's OfficeI have a hard time believing his screen is that small.  The assistant seats the two down at Bill’s desk, and they get down to business.  “Business” being explaining the basic functions of Windows 95 as Matthew Perry coughs out one-liners on any term or phrase he can get a hold of.

TrioEventually the cast expands, and this is where it gets a little offensive.  There’s an Eastern European window washer (Microsoft’s “windows expert”. Get it?) who shows how to use plug and play, a Chinese food delivery guy named Jeff Li who demonstrates right clicking (?) by use of an overly halting tone of voice, a kid named Joystick Joey who can’t be beat at 3D Pinball and the Chipster, Microsoft’s email expert.


There’s also a grunge band and a music video and some other stuff.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  Early on in the video they introduce a big red button, which Jennifer Aniston is warned not to touch under any circumstances.  They forget about it for about twenty minutes and then out of nowhere Aniston decides to push it.  This Tron’s the secondary cast into the computer and Matt and Jen leave.  The secondary cast is pretty excited about this development, which begs the question of why the button shouldn’t be pressed in the first place?

InsideThen there’s about 30 minutes of legitimate tutorial explaining the things discussed in the “cyber-sitcom” and 20 or so Frequently Asked Questions.  A real snoozefest after the gold of the first half-hour. Here it is.


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