Each year the world turns its attention to the Super Bowl, and not just for the game, but also for the commercials. In fact, viewers can expect annual high-profile and water-cooler worthy ads from Budweiser, Doritos, and Pepsi to constantly outdo prior advertisements. However, it turns out that spending $4 million for a 30-second commercial may not be worth it.
One study shows Super Bowl ads create new customers in only one out of five spots. And, with commercial leaking early, that must-watch excitement during the live event could dwindle. But, that won’t prevent companies for spending the millions of dollars to be seen when the game goes to commercial break. Why? Because according to Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, it “supercharges their brand”.
We would have to agree with that statement. Where would Budweiser, Apple, Doritos, E-Trade, or GoDaddy be without their buzzed Super Bowl ads throughout the years?
Sure, they may still be in business, but would they be as successful? One thing is for sure – we wouldn’t be talking about their marketing campaigns. And, they certainly wouldn’t be included in the 25 greatest Super Bowl ads of all-time! Without further ado, here are our top 25 Super Bowl ads of all times.
1. Apple: 1984 (1984)
On January 22, 1984, the first-ever Macintosh was introduced in this groundbreaking commercial. This legendary Ridley Scott directed ad featured a woman taking out “Big Brother” (IBM) in a node to George Orwell’s 1984. Not only the greatest Super Bowl commercials, but one of the best spots ever.
2. McDonald’s: The Showdown (1993)
How far would two of the greatest basketball players go for a Big Mac? That’s what McDonald’s tried to answer with this classic ad starring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The NBA legends tried to outdo each other in a ridiculous game of H-O-R-S-E. The ad remains popular – it has over 5 million views and was recently referenced in an ad between quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick.
3. Budweiser: Bud Bowl (1989)
This was the first annual match-up between rivals Budweiser and Bud Light. Throughout the broadcast, updates from the Bud Bowl were provided in a series of commercials. Why was this so successful? Because it was beer bottles playing football. What else do you need in life?
4. E-Trade: Monkey (2000)
Before they relied on talking babies, E-Trade reeled in viewers with this tongue-in-cheek commercial. It opened with a couple of elderly men in a garage clapping offbeat to “La Cucaracha” while a monkey in an E-Trade shirt does a little dance on top of a garbage can. The punchline? “We just wasted two million dollars. What are you doing with your money?” Actually…that’s genius.
5. Reebok: Terry Tate Office Linebacker (2003)
Sometimes the office needs some serious motivation. That’s where Terry Tate “Office Linebacker” comes in. He not only got workers productivity to increase, he caused lots of mayhem. And laughs.
6. Monster.com: When I Grow Up (1999)
There was a time when Super Bowl ads were dominated by dot-coms from the tech bubble of the late ’90s. The one that really stood out was this commercial from Monster.com, which starred children sharing their dreams of the future. Instead of the usual and optimistic responses, the kids dreams included “When I grow up, I want to be in middle management.” It was funny, yet kinda depressing.
7. Pepsi: Security Camera (1996)
Pepsi is so irresistible that even the Coke delivery can’t resist. Unfortunately, as he tries to sneak a Pepsi, the entire shelf crashes down, spilling Pepsi cans everywhere. What makes this ad particularly unforgettable is the use of the Hank Williams standard “Your Cheating Heart”.
8. Coca-Cola: “Hey Kid, Catch” (1980)
Even though this commercial aired prior to Super Bowl XIV, it became an iconic spot during the battle between the Steelers and Rams. Of course, we all know all about this ad. ‘Mean’ Joe Greene has his heart warmed by a young fan. And a bottle of Coke. This ad has been replicated and spoofed ever since.
9. Budweiser: Frogs (1995)
A very simple, yet brilliant, ad by one of the best companies to keep an eye during the Super Bowl. During this commercial, we catch frogs beginning to croak out “Bud.” “Weissssss.” “Errrrrr.” “Buuuuud.” “Weeeeiiiiissss.” “Er.” Despite the simplicity, the spot is one of Budweiser’s greatest.
10. Snickers: Betty White (2010)
Nothing against Betty White and Abe Vigoda, but seeing them get tackled during a football game was surprising hysterical. It turns out that the elderly actors were really some young men who needed a Snickers because they were hungry. The campaign is still running, and hasn’t gotten boring since new actors are rotated into the ads.
11. Volkswagen: The Force (2011)
Blend Star Wars and some heart-warming humor between parents and their son and you’ve one of the most memorable Super Bowl ads of all-time. In fact, the spot became one of the most viral ads in history.
12. Electronic Data Systems: Herding Cats (2000)
Many people were talking about this ad the following morning because of it’s misdirection. It begins with some macho-Marlboro type dudes exchanging tales about their adventures. However, it turns out these cowboys are herding cats, not cattle.
13. Budweiser: Cedric Date (2001)
We’ve all been here before, right? We have a beautiful woman over and are trying to be really smooth. Inside, however, we’re just a bit excited. The result? Shaking up some beer and giving your date a beer bath.
14. Nissan Maxima: Pigeons (1997)
Nissan tapped into one of the greatest fears a new car owner has. Having birds use your new investment. Thankfully, this Nissan owner got the last laugh after one of the pigeons (voiced by John Ratzenberger, aka Cliff from Cheers) collides into a garage door after some awesome Top Gun antics. Crisis averted.
15. Diet Pepsi: Ray Charles and the Uh-Huh Girls (1991)
Diet Pepsi had another hit on their hands when they combined Ray Charles, some lovely backup singers and an incredibly catchy jingle.
16. Chrysler: Imported From Detroit (2011)
Not every Super Bowl commercial as to be comical or light-heated. In 2011, Chrysler celebrated its hometown of Detroit, along with fellow Detroit native Eminem, for a gritty and stirring ad that went viral with over 47 million views on YouTube. And, it seems to have paid off. The automaker posted a $183 million profit in 2012.
17. NFL: Sitcom Football Fans (2011)
What if your favorite sitcom characters showed their loyalty to their favorite teams? The result is catching The Fonz in a Packers jersey.
18. Doritos: Crystal Ball (2009)
One of Doritos earliest ventures into offbeat and memorable Super Bowl ads. This spot featured an office worker who promises free Doritos to everyone by throwing a “crystal ball” into the vending machine.
19. American Express: Yes (1989)
SNL alums Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz head all the way down to Miami for the big game only to discover that they need an AMEX to score tickets to the sporting event of the year.
20. Budweiser: “Wazzzzup?” (2000)
Sure. This got old. Real fast. But this unforgettable ad from 1999 ran for another year and sparked an irresistible catch phrase that can still be heard today if you’re trying to be funny, or just outdated.
21. Xerox: Monks (1976)
A simple concept. A monk must make 500 copies of a handwritten piece of paper. How does he resolve this issue? With a little help from Xerox. It has a twist, some humor, and all the product information viewers needed to know about the copier.
22. Nike: Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny (1992)
Before they teamed for Space Jam, Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny were shooting some hoops together in this classic 1992 spot for Nike. What more could you really ask for?
23. Diet Pepsi: Michael J. Fox’s New Neighbors (1987)
How does Michael J. Fox keep his beautiful neighbors happy? With Diet Pepsi, of course. Only problem is he’s completely out. What will he do….
24. E-Trade: Baby (2008)
It’s still debatable if the talking E-Trade baby is adorable or entertaining. Regardless, this ad from Super Bowl XLII had everyone talking the next morning. And, the campaign is still running years later.
25. Doritos: Pug Attack (2011)
A determined pug tastes sweet, sweet revenge. After taunting the pug with Doritos, a man finds himself pinned beneath the pug – and the glass door – as the pooch chows down on the Doritos. And dog lovers around the world rejoiced.
Which Super Bowl commercial is your favorite of all-time?