Every year, millions of Americans sit down to watch the Super Bowl, regardless of their rooting interests. It’s the most marketable sporting event in the country, and you can bet that advertisers are well aware of this. Knowing the reach a short 30-second spot would have, networks began to charge a premium for advertising space, making it so any company that forked over the cash would have to make it worth their while. Now it’s a yearly competition for who can come up with the cleverest commercial, with each company trying to top the other.
It’s a history that dates all the way back to the late ’70s, with the one-upsmanship continuing on even today. The culture has become so pervasive, that companies air previews for their ads to build hype for them in the week leading into the Super Bowl. But sometimes, preview or not, some ads stick with us for longer than the 30-second runtime.
1. Old Spice — ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’
Old Spice has a storied history of ads that defy typicality. From cyborgs in hot tubs to Terry Crews yelling at the top of his lungs, they’ve always managed to make their ads creative and entertaining. But all that had to start somewhere. That beginning occurred back during 2010’s Super Bowl, with actor and former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa wrapped in nothing but a towel.
The commercial won a slew of awards (because there’s an award for everything apparently), and quickly defined the next five years of Old Spice ad campaigns.
2. Coca Cola — ‘Mean Joe Greene’
It’s been parodied, studied, lauded, and made fun of. It’s become the quintessential football commercial. We’re of course referring to Coca Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene” ad that aired back during the 1979 Super Bowl, featuring a hobbled Joe Green tossing his jersey to a grateful young fan.
It’s become so engrained in pop culture over 30 years after the fact that virtually every sports fan knows the catch phrase uttered at the end, “thanks Mean Joe!”
3. Volkswagen — ‘The Force’
Volkwagen’s 2009 ad featuring a child dressed a Darth Vader is pretty much universally lauded as equal parts adorable and hilarious. It shows us the tiny Vader attempting to use his Force powers to move various objects, and thinking he’s succeeded when his Dad turns on the VW in the driveway from the kitchen.
Sure, it’s very a much a fish in a barrel scenario with cute children and Star Wars, but it’s important to give credit where it’s due for a well-made and entertaining ad.
4. Reebok — ‘Terry Tate, Office Linebacker’
Spawning a series of hilarious sequels, Reebok’s 2003 starring Terry Tate, office linebacker, put a creative spin on workplace etiquette combined with football. In it, we see Tate lay out any employee not doing their job and violating the unwritten rules of the office.
We don’t actually hear much about the brand they’re advertising, with the minute-long spot choosing to focus more on entertaining us than advertising, a welcomed relief from a vast majority of what we see on television.
5. FedEx — ‘Giant Carrier Pigeons’
Carrier pigeons aren’t the most popular form of delivery for most mail, but FedEx imagined a world where it was the premier method. We see two employees walking through a room with pigeons flying everywhere, talking about the inherent advantages of bird-mailing. Then the discussion shifts to how larger deliveries are made, and we see freakish giant pigeons terrorizing the city below as they throw cars through windows and generally wreak havoc.
6. Wendy’s — ‘Where’s the Beef?’
Another classic spot that’s gone down in the annuls of quotable ads, Wendy asked the seminal question back in 1984: “Where’s the beef?” Many know the line without quite realizing where it originally came from, but it indeed did come during a Super Bowl slot, showing three elderly women trying to find the patty in a burger that appeared to be tragically short in the meat department.
Next time you hear someone asking the iconic question, remind them of where it came from and revel in your commercial trivia knowledge.
7. Doritos — ‘Ahhh I made gold again!’
This one technically wasn’t aired during the Super Bowl per se, but it makes the cut nonetheless as a clever, hilariously written ad. It was part of a contest Doritos hosted to have fans make and submit their own commercials to be aired during the game, and while this one wasn’t chosen, it’s easy to see that it still was plenty worthy.
See for yourself, and try not to laugh during the final few seconds.
8. Mountain Dew — ‘Puppymonkeybaby’
Falling into the category of “so horrifying it’s hilarious,” Mountain Dew’s ad airing for 2016’s game is… well, something. It leans heavily into the abomination of science and nature featured in the title, combining, you guessed it, a puppy, monkey, and baby.
Notwithstanding the fact that it looks like it was conceived by a crazy person, it’s still oddly funny, and for that, we can’t help but applaud it.
9. HEINZ Ketchup — ‘Wiener Stampede’
What can be said that isn’t already showed to us in a stampede of wiener dogs dressed in hot dog costumes? There’s even a cute kid dressed a tiny ketchup packet in case the dogs aren’t your thing, and if you hate this commercial we have some serious doubts as to the presence of a beating heart inside your chest.
10. Clash of Clans — ‘Angry Neeson’
Liam Neeson’s been riding the Taken gravy train for years now, utilizing it for both dramatic and comedic accolades along the way. For the latter of those two categories, he starred in a Super Bowl spot for Clash of Clans last year, swearing revenge against the unfortunate attacker who leveled his digital village.
Sure, it’s a mobile game that should have died off a long time ago, but it doesn’t make it any less of a great commercial.
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