Let’s face it: Not everyone likes football. And even for those who do, a lot of them have no desire to watch two teams duke it out for NFL supremacy once their team is eliminated from contention. Why, then, do they tune in anyway?
Frogs that croak the names of beer companies. Monkeys wearing shirts and ties. Kids sucking themselves into Pepsi bottles on beaches. Supermarket ice coolers drowning a stock boy in a barrage of soda cans.
There’s a reason it costs so much to air a 30-second Super Bowl ad (about $3 million in 2009). It’s because the Super Bowl is literally the only time of year when viewers don’t use commercial breaks to get away from the small screen. It’s the only time of year when the commercial breaks have the potential to steal the limelight from the actual programming
In other words, the Super Bowl is the only time of year when the audience is served up on a silver platter.
It’s hard to narrow it down, but we tried anyway. Here are the top 10 Super Bowl commercials of all time.
10. Doritos (2010)
As the one and only ad from this year’s Super Bowl to make the list, you know that it has to be good. It’s also the only one that made me laugh out loud. Cute kids, sleazeball single dudes and Doritos — makes for high comedy.
[Update: Video no longer available.]
9. Apple (1984)
The first of many classics. Before the iPod and the iBook and the iPad and the iNew World Order, there was the plain old Apple computer, introduced to us as the Raiders dominated the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. And given the fact that the Raiders were dominating, the whole incumbent-apocalypse aura becomes all the more eerie.
8. EDS (2000)
There had to be at least one really good commercial for a company that nobody will ever remember. The legendary cat herding ad comes to us from EDS, aka Electronic Data Solutions. Of course, you don’t care what EDS is. You probably have already forgotten what the cat herding ad is for. Does this make it a good ad or a bad ad?
7. Pepsi (2001)
I can already sense the debate over this one, but try to remember — in 2001, getting Britney Spears to sponsor your product was like getting the Super Bowl itself to sponsor it. It was automatic success. In 2001, Britney was like Barack Obama, Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant all morphed into one person. Obviously, times have changed, but the iconicness of this ad stays the same. And it makes me want to sing along. (And yes, it even warrants the creation of a new word.)
6. Budweiser (2002)
The consensus seems to be that the Budweiser “Waaaassssssup” campaign is so good, it’s allowed to be included more than once in the list. I am particularly partial to companies who manage to hawk their product in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with the product itself. And anyone who doesn’t laugh out loud at people in a sushi restaurant repeatedly screaming “Wasabi” … well, they just need more joy in their lives. And to get a head start, they should watch this ad on repeat.
[Update: Video no longer available.]
5. Budweiser (1995)
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Budweiser seems to have more of a lock on Super Bowl advertising success than James Cameron does on Oscar nominations. (Target audience, anyone?) But they just bring their A-game every single time. Every time. And animal noises equal automatic success in the beer market, so cheers to that.
4. Career Builder (2007)
Just as the Budweiser frogs were genius, the Career Builder monkeys were untouchable. Animals in suits never lose, and neither does Career Builder, which is now officially synonymous with primates. How did this become a positive marketing tactic?
3. McDonald’s (1993)
What’s the only thing better than seeing a showdown between two of the greatest in NBA history? A showdown with McDonald’s at stake. There’s so much nostalgia here — for a time when McDonald’s characterized American fine dining, for a time when Larry Bird and the Celtics were unstoppable, for a time before Michael Jordan tried to become a baseball player … the memories. Advertising at its finest.
2. Coke (1979)
I have a hard time suspending my disbelief that Mean Joe Green wouldn’t absolutely snap if a little kid saw him limping down a hallway after a game and then meekly asked, “Need any help?” But I suppose that is the power of Coca-Cola. It has magical powers.
1. Budweiser (1999)
The end of the “Wassup” ad campaign hurt worse than Michael Jordan retiring, Britney Spears going insane, the impending NFL lockout and ‘N Sync breaking up, all in one. It was so ridiculous, so stupid, so obnoxious and yet so undeniably effective. This campaign provided hope to advertisers everywhere — anyone can do it. In its honor, here is the original. (And we’re going to ignore the fact that it first aired on Monday Night Football. Shh.)
What are your all-time favorite Super Bowl commercials? Please let us know in the comments section.
(Screen grab from Budweiser.)
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