What gave the baby name Danielle a boost in 1987?

The character Danielle/Danny from the Diet Pepsi commercial "Apt. 10-G" (1987).
“Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

If the Pepsi commercial in yesterday’s post on the baby name Sanjana seemed familiar to you, there’s a reason: That commercial was a scene-for-scene remake of an award-winning Diet Pepsi commercial that premiered in the U.S. six years earlier.

The spot, called “Apartment 10-G,” first aired in 1987 — either during the Super Bowl or the Grammy Awards (my sources don’t agree). It starred Michael J. Fox as the “urban knight satisfying the thirst of [the] damsel-next-door.”

Below is the one-minute version of the commercial:

Here’s a description, in case you don’t want to watch:

A young man is alone in his apartment when there’s a knock at the door. He opens the door to find a pretty young woman, who enters and says, “Hi, I just moved in next door. Could I borrow a Diet Pepsi?” He responds, “Sure, come in” (even though she’s already in). As he heads for the kitchen, he shows his excitement with a jump and a quiet “Yes!” She is idly looking around his apartment when he reaches the fridge…only to discover an empty bottle of Diet Pepsi. He calls out, “How about something else?” She responds, “Listen, if you don’t have a Diet Pepsi…” He already has one leg out the kitchen window as he calls back, “No, I got it.” He goes out onto the fire escape — the window slams shut behind him — and jumps down to street level. It’s raining outside. He spots a vending machine selling Diet Pepsi across the street. He tries to cross, but nearly gets hit by a car, so instead he jumps roof-to-roof over the traffic to reach the vending machine. He has a can of Diet Pepsi in his hand as he climbs up the fire escape ladder. He finds the window locked. Just as the woman starts walking toward the kitchen (calling, “You okay in there?”) there’s the sound of glass shattering. The man comes out of the kitchen — soaking wet, out of breath — and hands her the can, saying, “Here’s your diet Pepsi.” Then there’s another knock at the door. The woman says, “That must be my roommate, Danny.” “Danny?” the man repeats, with a worried look on his face. A second woman suddenly comes into view behind them. She leans seductively against the wall and says, “Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

(The minute-and-a-half version included a run-in with a motorcycle gang.)

So now, the big question: Did this Pepsi commercial give a boost to the baby name Danielle the same way the Lehar Pepsi commercial gave a boost to the baby name Sanjana?

It’s very possible!

The name Danielle was already well within the U.S. top-20 at that time, but it saw a conspicuous increase in usage in 1987:

  • 1989: 15,366 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1988: 16,253 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1987: 17,007 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 14th] (peak usage)
  • 1986: 14,943 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 16th]
  • 1985: 15,411 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 18th]
Graph of the usage of the baby name Danielle in the United States since 1880
The name Danielle saw peak usage in 1987

So far, I haven’t been able to find an explanation better than the commercial.

My next-best-guess would be actress Danielle von Zerneck, who played Donna in the 1987 movie La Bamba (with Esai Morales).

There was also a young character named Danielle on the soap opera As The World Turns at that time. I don’t think she caused the 1987 peak, but — because she was born in the storyline in October of 1983 — I do think she’s behind that steep increase in usage in 1984. (Interesting fact: Her mother, Betsy, was played by future movie star Meg Ryan.)

But, getting back to the Pepsi commercial…do you remember seeing it on television in the late ’80s? If so, do you recall whether or not it drew your attention to the name Danielle?

Sources:

2 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Danielle a boost in 1987?

  1. I DO remember watching that commercial! My niece Danielle was yet to be born – but she was named after her dad. I can say with certainty that the commercial did not make me notice the name. Thanks for sharing that blast from the past.

  2. You’re welcome!

    I don’t think the commercial made me notice the name either. Then again, I was fairly young at the time. (I was 8 when the commercial came out.)

    I do hope some of the Danielles born in 1987 (or their parents!) stop by and offer their thoughts. I’d just love to know what caused that sudden spike — whether it was the Pepsi commercial or something else…

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