The Super Bowl is pretty much the one and only time advertisers can guarantee almost everybody (in the U.S. at least) is avidly watching the television. Which is why the cream of their commercial efforts get saved until the annual event. And with the cost of advertising on TV during the Super Bowl, the ads have to live on in people’s minds in order to warrant the considerable expense. This is a win-win. Brands get exposure, advertising companies win awards, and consumers get to watch ads which haven’t been thought up by the useless intern and made on a tiny budget.
What follows are 10 of the best Super Bowl ads of all time, presented in chronological order to remind you of years gone by. There are dozens more that could have made the list, but these are the ones which really stand out from the crowd. At least for me personally.
Xerox – Monks (1977)
The earliest Super Bowl ad on our list, and it’s one which now looks and feels outdated. As would be expected. But at the time this kind of narrative in a commercial was both rare and innovative.
Xerox cleverly uses religion as a backdrop but adds a touch of humor to lighten the mood. The result is a commercial which straddles the line between the old and the new.
Coca-Cola – Mean Joe Greene (1979)
Coca-Cola’s ‘Have a Coke and a Smile‘ campaign is about as simple as they come. But thanks to this ad, which features Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, it resonated with the public.
The commercial is nothing more than Greene being his typical mean self, until a kid hands him a bottle of Coke. At which point he smiles and throws him his team jersey. Simple but effective.
Apple – 1984 (1984)
What’s left to say about the most-famous Super Bowl ad of all time that hasn’t already been said? It is without doubt Apple’s greatest ad of all time, even though they’re doing much better as a company now than they were back then.
It is rather ironic that Apple could now be considered the Big Brother-style bad guy that needs to be taken down by smaller competitors.
Pepsi – Cindy Crawford (1992)
This Pepsi commercial is actually a little more intelligent than it at first would appear to be. Yes, it’s playing on the fact that Cindy Crawford is (or at least was at the time) beautiful, but the ending plays on our expectations.
I remember the re-branding of Pepsi very well, along with the ‘New Look. Same Great Taste.’ tagline. And this is the ad which launched the campaign into the mainstream and into the minds of the (mostly Coca-Cola-buying) public.
Budweiser – Frogs (1995)
Can there be anyone out there who doesn’t remember this ad? It’s so simple and yet so, so memorable. Three frogs in a swamp are making seemingly random noises, until they come together to chant “Bud-Weis-Er.” Genius.
Having decided to only feature one ad from each company in this list, this ad beat out Budweiser’s Whassup? campaign. Which is probably for the best. Though I still hear people uttering the expression to this day.
EDS – Cat Herders (2000)
They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they’re not at all scary. And that’s just the cowboys featured in this Super Bowl ad from the turn of the century. The cats are another thing altogether.
As a commercial that entertains this works extremely well. But as a commercial selling the company? Not so much. Because I still don’t quite understand what it is EDS does. Herd cats?
Reebok – Terry Tate Office Linebacker (2003)
Take a linebacker off the field and stick him in an alien environment, and what do you get? Terry Tate Office Linebacker, that’s what. This is a viral video made before anyone really knew what a viral video was.
This is probably my favorite Super Bowl ad of all time. It’s funny and it’s relevant, and yet it doesn’t force the brand down your throat in the way some other Super Bowl commercials have been known to do.
GM – Sad Robot (2007)
Way to play on our emotions, General Motors. Even robots have feelings, apparently. So when this one is fired from the GM production line thanks to a simple mistake we see how its life turns out.
Thankfully it was all a dream. Or a nightmare. But it serves to underline GM’s 100,000-mile warranty as even the robots are obsessing about the quality of the products they’re helping to make.
Snickers – Betty White (2010)
A few years ago Betty White suddenly became the go-to girl for showing older ladies can still do it. She may be 90-years-old, but she still has a wicked sense of humor.
This ad plays on that by casting White as the alter-ego of Mike, a young footballer who only starts feeling himself after downing a Snickers bar. I sincerely hope no old people were injured in the making of this commercial.
Acura – Seinfeld (2012)
Possibly the highlight of the 2012 Super Bowl commercials line-up, and unexpectedly so as well. This is the ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld selling us the Acura NSX.
It works because despite having been off the air for many years people still love Seinfeld. The inclusion of the Soup Nazi is a stroke of genius, while the surprise ending with another big name joining the party makes it worth watching all the way through.
You may have noticed that three absolute corkers of recent years are missing from the list, namely Volkswagen: The Force, Old Spice Guy, and Matthew Broderick’s Day Off. That’s because they have already featured in 10 Of The Best Viral Video Ad Campaigns.
As always, this isn’t a definitive list of Super bowl ads. To create one of those would take far too long and bore everyone who even attempted to read it. So please feel free to let us know your favorite and/or most-memorable Super Bowl ads from the past few decades. Or just tell us why football sucks. Because if we’re honest with each other we all know it does.
Image Credit: RMTip21