Lay’s of Our Lives

Why we couldn’t eat just one.

BESIDES THE TASTE OF ITS CHIPS, Frito-Lay’s advertising has had a lasting impact on Americans. Grown-ups can still sing all the words to “Ai-yi-yi-yi, I’m the Frito Bandito” and “Munch a Bunch of Fritos.” Only time will tell if the supermodels’ plug for Baked Lay’s will join the ranks of Frito-Lay’s memorable campaigns. Here is a history of the company’s advertising highlights—and its one disastrous lowlight.


1956 The Frito Kid appears on the Today show with Dave Garroway, the first time a Texas company advertises on NBC.


1963 Actor Bert Lahr is tempted by the devil (also played by Lahr in a split-screen image) holding a bag of Lay’s. “Betcha can’t eat just one,” says the devil. Lahr grabs the bag out of the devil’s hand. The phrase becomes one of the longest-lasting tag lines in American advertising.


1968 The company introduces the Frito Bandito, a squat Mexican bandit with the requisite sombrero and dark mustache, who sings, “I love Fritos corn chips, I’ll steal them from you.” The Frito Bandito outrages Mexican Americans, and some television stations ban the commercial from the air. Frito-Lay resists pulling the ad, saying that its own poll shows that 85 percent of Mexican Americans like the Frito Bandito. But under increasing public pressure, it eventually replaces the ad with kids singing, “Munch a Bunch of Fritos”—which becomes equally memorable.


1975 Mustachioed actor Avery Schreiber becomes a teen hero by crunching Doritos in inappropriate places. Frito-Lay devises another famous ad line, “They taste as good as they crunch.”


1990 Frito-Lay introduces Sunchips, its popular multigrain chip, with Carly Simon singing the Beatles’ “Good Day, Sunshine.”


1993 In its first national advertising of Lay’s Potato Chips in nearly twenty years, Frito-Lay runs a commercial in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bets Larry Bird he can’t “eat just one” Lay’s. Bird loses the bet and pays the price: He shaves his head. In one variation on the commercial, former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry wins a bet with various NFL stars and the Monday Night Football broadcasting team of Dan Dierdorf, Al Michaels, and Frank Gifford about Lay’s Potato Chips. They too shave their heads.


1994 Former vice president Dan Quayle, who gained great notoriety for his inability to spell “potato,” makes a cameo appearance for Wavy Lay’s Potato Chips on a commercial aired during the 1994 Super Bowl. Child film star Elijah Wood works his way down from the rafters of the football stadium to a better seat by betting people in front of him, including Quayle, that they can’t eat just one.


1995 In one of the most talked-about commercials of last year, Frito-Lay hires former governors Mario Cuomo of New York and Ann Richards of Texas to co-star in a Super Bowl commercial for Doritos. Cuomo and Richards, who have just been defeated in their gubernatorial elections, talk about embracing change. Cuomo says change is inevitable. “You’re probably right, Mario,” Richards says, and she holds up a newly redesigned Doritos bag. “I guess I’ll get used to Doritos’ new bag.”.

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