Cookies & Creme Twix are back. Well, they’ve been back for a few months now, but I recently had a chance to try them, which is something I was never able to do when they were available in the early 1990s. This shouldn’t be cause for celebration–after all, the last thing I need is more candy–but being able to just buy some when I see it at 7-Eleven is one of those aspects of adulthood that never gets old.
It’s not like I was completely deprived of dessert or candy when I was a kid–we had it from time to time but my parents didn’t keep it around the house–but while I sometimes did go down to the local drugstore to buy atomic fire balls, I usually chose to spend what little allowance I got on comic books and baseball cards. So I guess that’s why when I kept seeing commercials for Cookies and Creme Twix I was intrigued but didn’t make much of an effort to pursue them, which is ironic considering that it’s one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Or perhaps I actually did look for them on the candy racks but never found them and eventually gave up and forgot about them even if I never did forget about the commercials.
The candy made its debut in 1990 along with Chocolate Fudge Twix (at the time, peanut butter and caramel were the available flavors) and along with them came an ad campaign with the slogan “one of life’s great kicks.”
Now, there were a few commercials that were part of this overall ad campaign and while they different here and there, they share the same tone and have the same message: Twix knows what you, New Teen of the Nineties, are about. And I’m going to look at three of them because they so very well encapsulate that very early part of the Nineties where culture seemed to be half about looking for something new while also suffering from a major Eighties hangover.
So this is a very short commercial, but it gets its point across in its 16 seconds: Twix understands that it sucks to get friendzoned and it’s the cure for those relationship woes. Here, we see Rick, who is on the phone with his girlfriend. And Rick’s obviously a fun-lovin’ guy. He’s got that “I woke up like this” sufer/skater hair, the type that took considerably less effort than the Aqua Net-laden hair of your average Long Island mall rat but looked a lot cleaner than that of the Nirvana and Pearl Jam disciples that would populate his high school a couple of years later.
I’d say the shirt is probably a Quicksilver shirt because they were all over the place around this time, although the ones I owned weren’t striped but had random patterns. And speaking of random patterns, can we talk about the sheets here? These were pretty much the type of sheets that teenage boys were issued back in the Nineties–neutral, earth tone colors with some sort of innocuous geometric pattern that was chosen off a shelf at Linens n’ Things because it was the only non-pastel or flowered comforter and sheet set available.
I’m serious about this. Here’s a picture of me when I was sixteen, showing off my comics collection (I don’t know why I took it, either, but it is one of only a few pictures of me as a teenager that survived). Behind me is a striped bed spread that I’m pretty sure I got when I was in junior high but really looks like I might have been sleeping in it when I was eight or nine. So the issue was not really finding bed linens that conformed to gender norms; it was more like it was hard to find bed linens that were mature because everything that was “mature” at Linens n’ Things was some floral Laura Ashley print.
I mean, at least Rick had earth tones in 1991. I wouldn’t get earth tones until college, which you can see here in this shot of my dorm room circa September or October 1995. And I’m being completely honest when I say that this was the only comforter and sheet set that I could find at the store. I also can’t let this picture get posted without pointing out how it is, in itself, the epitome of the college experience in 1995. From the Sega Genesis on my roommate’s dresser to the ROLM phone under my Reservoir Dogs poster, there is so much I could talk about that it’s pretty much its own post*. But right now, I have to get back to Rick.
So, Rick’s friendzoned and breaks the fourth wall with a WTF that I swear I not only had but that I will admit to practicing.
Yes, I said it. Then again, I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, and Saved By the Bell all the time in the early 1990s and every guy was giving us an aside. How could I not raise an eyebrow or give a strange look to a camera that wasn’t there? No, I’m not insane.
ANYWAY, two Bill and Ted type guys voice over the words “Bad News”, clearly showing the public that marketers either saw the Bill and Ted movies or had spun the “wheel of teenage cliches” and landed on … well, let’s just say this is very Poochie.
And let’s discuss this font and color scheme for a moment. We’ve clearly moved beyond the bright blues and pinks with scripted writing that we tend to associate with the Eighties (or at least that’s what shown to us in Eighties retro stuff) and have settled for a darker color palate, which is on trend for the Nineties. After all, you can look at just about any music video from around this time and will see that while they still maintained some sort of gloss, the tones were darker and deeper. So we’ve got a black background with kind of an orange-yellow “Bad News” that is written in a serif font with alternating uppercase and lowercase letters in a shaky setting. It’s very “cool”, right? Or at least what someone in marketing thinks the kids think is cool.
Which, by the way, is the inherent problem with most advertising directed at teenagers and twentysomethings in the early 1990s. Those of us who went to high school during 1990-1996 or so** were the very tail end of Generation X (a term that really only came to prominence at that time as it is) and whereas ads aimed at twentysomethings failed so spectacularly, people wrote all the think pieces, those aimed at high schoolers were a shit show, albeit a different kind of shit show where people slapped Nineties onto Eighties coolness complete with kids plucked from the same “cool kid” template that spawned Zack Morris.
Take this one, for example:
Now, this screams Eighties hangover, right down to the use of Yello’s “Oh Yeah”***. I didn’t screencap any images from this one because the resolution was pretty poor, but there are three dominant images: a girl partying at a huge house, a guy in sunglasses floating on an inner tube in a pool, and a guy with slinky-eyed glasses at a graduation ceremony. They all contrast with voice overs that are straight from the “Things Parents Say” block on the $100,000 Pyramid. And now, don’t get me wrong, I like some good teenage rebellion, but this really smacked of Poochie. Did whomever wrote this ad just rent a bunch of ’80s flicks from the video store to get the images they needed to tell teenagers “Hey, Twix knows life has to be fun.”
I guess I also need to bring up the Twix narrator’s voice, which is a guy with a generic “island” accent. It’s cringe-y in the same way Disney has the Castaway Key guy say “Cookies and Cookies Too”. However, I remember Bob Marley/Jamaica/the Bahamas being this thing in the early Nineties, especially after Cool Runnings came out and white people started thinking that saying “Jamaica, mon” wasn’t offensive at all. Between that; saying “Thank you, come again” in an Apu accent; and the Asian, Black, and Latinx “accents” us white people used back then (and in many cases still do), we’ve got a lot to think about and answer for.
Anyway, getting back to the accent, I believe the thought process here was that this was cool at the time. Plus, it was just foreshadowing that we were all going to one day own one of the millions of copies of the Legend Bob Marley greatest hits CD that were issued to college freshmen in the Nineties. All of this–and other Twix commercials–were there to show us how fun and cool we could be with chocolate-coated cookie crunch goodness.
To be fair, these worked. If you were a kid in 1990 or 1991, these were your beer commercials. Not that we didn’t see beer commercials, but I wasn’t walking into Grand Union in search of a sixer of Bud Dry when I was 13. But I could totally see Twix being good for what ails me, especially since after Rick’s bad news, we got a good five or six seconds of Twix porn.
I bought the candy and ate it, by the way, mainly because I didn’t get the chance to do so thirty years ago. And it was … well, disappointing. I was expecting a creamier cream with just enough sweetness, which is what you get when you bite into a Hershey’s cookies and creme bar (and I freaking love those). Instead, this was way too sugary and did not at all complement the cookie, which in itself was too dry. I think the mistake was layering the two ingredients instead of mixing them together. That’s cookies and creme; this is creme with cookie topping.
Not that I wouldn’t eat it again, though, because despite my disappointment, it still tasted like nostalgic promise. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is the hope that the candy in the blue package in 2020 is going to not only be the candy in the gold and brown package in 1990 (and btw, I want chocolate fudge Twix because that’s my favorite color scheme of the four packages and while it probably would also taste too sweet, I can imagine it would be good), but will take me into the cool kid candy commercial life I dreamed about when I was younger.
*Oh, it’ll get its own post.
**It’s probably 1998, but that would mean my sister winds up being a Gen X-er, but we clearly sit on opposite sides of the Nirvana-Britney Spears generational divide, so … no.
***I owned this on cassette at one point, purchasing their album Stella at a Best Buy in Baltimore in 1998. Years later, this Best Buy would be featured on the first season of the podcast Serial. For the record, I don’t know if there was a payphone.