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Was Coffee-Drinking Ever in Trouble?

By Jack Riccardi

The answer, apparently, is yes, at one time, coffee was on the rocks (and I don’t mean iced).

On this #NationalCoffeeDay I was vaguely recalling these weird tv ads you would see in the early 1980s. “Coffee Achievers” featured truly bizarre blends of celebs like Cicely Tyson, David Bowie, the band Heart, author Kurt Vonnegut, SNL comedian Jane Curtain and NFL QB Kenny Anderson (who now reminds me of “Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite”—once you see it, you can’t unsee it).

These were the early 80s: I had only recently begun drinking coffee as part of my suave, cosmopolitan adulthood. Seemed like all the cool kids (and adults) were slurping the stuff.

Why would coffee need a marketing boost?

Turns out the folks at the National Coffee Association had the jitters. Consumption was down among young people (remember, no Starbucks, just donut shop and gas station coffee, and neither of those places had the hip irony they would achieve later).

So they came up with a good idea, but a weird execution. They strung together celebs gulping coffee with their success— as an example to young, potentially thirsty folks like me. So far, so good.

But…Kurt Vonnegut? A Bengals quarterback? Still, a sound strategy. Somehow, they missed this guy.

“Coffee calms you down and picks you up! Coffee gives you the serenity to dream it and the vitality to go do it!”

Hmm, that’s actually pretty creepy in a cult-recruitment way. And remember, this was when First Lady Nancy Reagan was telling us to “just say no” to drugs

The folks at Big Coffee were urging us to say yes to theirs.

So, did the ads work? Coffee drinking is now more popular than ever, but do we have “Coffee Achievers” to thank for it?

 



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