5 Reasons Why Your Favorite '90s Ads Are Still So Influential Today

5 Reasons Why Your Favorite '90s Ads Are Still So Influential Today

A celebration of vintage campaign ads and their lasting impact in today’s fashion industry.

A celebration of vintage campaign ads and their lasting impact in today’s fashion industry.

Text: Jake Viswanath

Text: Adair Smith

It’s easy to say that glam ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements don’t have the same effect on yourself that can on other people. But then you pass by Houston Street and see Bella or Kendall on large billboards hawking the latest pieces from Calvin Klein and Nike, and you fall under the power of persuasion and idolatry, just like these ads are supposed to. This ability that ads possess are undeniable, and it’s been this way ever since our love for ad campaigns first started in the 90s.

Advertising campaigns in the 90s were marked by the clothes that molded our tastes, the models and celebrities that paved the way for today’s crop to rise, and a knack for effortless glamour that we could only dream of attaining. There was a certain je ne sais quoi about them, why ads today are still so influenced by their predecessors. Here are just some of the reasons why their importance will last for generations to come.

1. The Obsession with the Supermodel

The 90s signaled the rise of the supermodel, as people became more fascinated and enthralled by the new models of their day, including Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell. While they have cemented their status as iconic supermodels that will last for generations, we still fall under the same spell for today’s generation of rising models, especially that they’re more accessible than ever via social media. Kendall Jenner, Taylor Hill, Lucky Blue Smith, and the Hadid siblings cultivated an immensely dedicated fanbase, allowing them to blossom on today’s ads much like Kate Moss had the power to do in the 90s. Some things never change.

2. It-Brands of the Moment

Part of the reason why 90s ads are still so important today is that the the most popular brands haven’t really changed between then and now. Many brands have manage to ride the changing waves by providing timeless pieces that go with everything, while others have managed to make spectacular comebacks in the face of the retro revival. All these years later, there’s nothing hotter than Chanel bags, Stussy hoodies, and a great pair of Adidas sneaks, and brands take advantage of their 90s-based classics to create their campaigns today.

3. Celebrity Culture

The 90s cemented our fascination with celebrities, as tabloids and fandom were taken to a whole new level. Brands used this to their advantage beginning in the 90s, featuring then up-and-comers like Anna Nicole Smith and Drew Barrymore in their ads to capture their audience more effectively. The trend hasn’t stopped, as musicians, actors, and socialites alike still take over the spotlight in numerous fashion campaigns today. Brands using our favorite celebs for campaigns take advantage of our idolization, knowing that it will give us something to aspire to be and get. The effect hasn't let up.

4. The 90s Revival 

If one thing’s confirmed in our lives, it’s that history constantly repeats itself, hence why every 90s trend under the sun — jelly shoes, chokers, Birkenstocks et al — has come back in full force. We’re still obsessed with 90s music and the icons that shaped our culture today, so it makes sense that we would idolize the campaigns we viewed as utterly fabulous back in the day and hold them up as the standard. Brands have taken notice, which helps to explain our last point.

5. Timeless Aesthetics

Compare today’s ads to some from the 90s and it becomes evident that there hasn’t been as much of an evolution as one may think for some brands. Calvin Klein has perfected their formula of half-naked models in underwear since featuring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss in their iconic spreads. Nike has virtually never let go of their motivational slogans and bold color schemes, and why would they need to? When a brand finds aesthetics that stand the test of time and still captivate their audience after all these years, and we still fall under their spell, they know they can’t change a proven successful formula.

Versus Versace 1995 by Bruce Weber

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