Hal Riney could sell running shoes to a turtle. You might not know the name, but this iconic ad executive from the 1980s perfected a folksy, nostalgic, tug-at-the-heartstrings tone that he used to sell everything from Saturn cars to Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers [source: Elliott]. Riney often narrated his commercials himself, punctuating the documentary-style imagery with his gravely, straight-shooting voice.
Ronald Reagan was highly favored to win re-election in 1984, but Riney and his collaborators' "Morning in America" ad practically sealed the deal in primary season. The official title of the ad is "Prouder, Stronger, Better," but it's better known by its opening line, spoken in Riney's comforting baritone: "It's morning again in America" [source: TIME]. The ad shows idyllic scenes of smiling suburban families going to work, getting married and raising American flags while Riney recites upbeat statistics about employment and marriage rates [source: Schwartz]. The message is clear: America is in a great place right now. "Why would we ever want to return to where we were, less than four short years ago?" Riney asks.
Reagan eviscerated his Democratic opponent Walter Mondale, taking 49 states with 58.8 percent of the popular vote. Echoes of Riney's "Morning in America" campaign are heard in Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ads that debuted during the 2012 Super Bowl. Since Riney died in 2008, Chrysler went with another charcoal-voiced icon, Clint Eastwood.