One of the most fascinating items to see in pop culture since the mid-1980s has been the production of the Super Bowl ad.
Yeah, there have always been movie stars and cultural comparisons around. Yet Super Bowl advertisements have trended in the direction of Hollywood storytelling, with budgets to compensate, since a certain ad premiered in 1984. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated announced that the cost of a 30-second spot in the 2018 Super Bowl would be north of $5 million.
In recent years, marketing agencies have taken back the hidden curtain and begun doing things unprecedented even 10 years ago, comparable to how the proliferation of game video and football data has made it more accessible: launching ads early or allocating a budget for a trailer for an advertisement that will air during the game.
The following chronicles the journey we have taken through the history of Super Bowl ads so far, as they are the greatest so far of all time.
This ad is stunning and strong, and it doesn’t even bother to display the product so sure in itself. Directed by Ridley Scott, it remains the gold standard for television advertising, helping to create an entire world in a minute, and permanently positioning Apple as the computer for those who “think differently.” This ad has transformed what it meant to be a Super Bowl commercial forever. It began the space race, the first ad that proved that a Super Bowl ad could only be a f f ad.
This is the second ad that became a cultural force that produced a bevy of spinoffs and left their foreheads smacking rivals because they were too plain.
The iconic Frogs commercial was a play on simplified syllables that for years to come created a giant of promotional ads, giving Budweiser some breathing space before the Hollywood path began to go too. Thanks to the lasting power of things like singing frogs, other epics such as the 9/11 tribute and Puppy Love, among many others, have been made possible down the track.
Plus, it had frogs singing. Just easy.
“I’m on a horse.”
Welcome to the dawn of internet memes resembling Super Bowl advertising.
This offering of Old Spice body wash looks like it was fired with production at the YouTube mark, which is not a negative thing given the young target demographic of the commercial.
They had to start somewhere with those funny, special Old Spice spots, which are still going. A campaign juggernaut has found its foothold here. In the years following, though the original remains atop the hill, the company elbowed into a niche in a fashion that many have sought to imitate.
Before she proclaims, “Come on man, you’ve been riding me all day,” and throws down a girlfriend joke made for must-see TV, seeing Betty White seemingly get leveled on a football field.
For the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” tagline that invaded tv screens for years, Snickers landed on a lot of quality ideas. White’s cameo is the most unforgettable, since a snowballing trend of actors who participated in the spots began with the 88-year-old football participant.
Though something about watching White get clobbered stands out to this day and won’t get knocked off an all-time list for decades, if ever, all of the top Super Bowl advertisements have tremendous staying power.
Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are here. These were two of the best players ever to play in the NBA, who had already fought numerous battles on the court and created legends of their own. And here they were, in this ad, playing the most ludicrous horse game ever. But the best thing was, clearly, hyperbole aside, it was probably exactly as you’d picture a horse game going between these two, both only firing the ball from everywhere.
Hank Williams and a competing delivery guy who gets busted betting on the drink he sells to retailers, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”?
In commercial shape, perfection. In this one, the action itself is a comedy: catastrophic for the person involved, enjoyable for the rest of us.
More specifically, though, remember stuff like the Mac vs. PC ads? This was Pepsi’s risky gamble, but it paid off in a major way and began a wave among rivals who specifically referenced each other in high-stakes advertising.
With an assist from one disloyal delivery guy and a country music legend, everybody won with the production.
In prime Super Bowl slots, Pepsi is not the only drink (or pop, for those of us who use a different term) that has thrown down heavyweight ads.
Coca-Cola has a lot of deals that we might mention, but arguably the most basic is the one that stands out the most. “Mean” The “hey kid, catch” of Joe Greene is classic to this day.
This ad was so successful that a movie called The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid was later made by NBC, but the permanent picture of the ad itself and the narrative aspect shattered boundaries for the industry, spurring change.
A powerful emotional tale in an ad is not rare nowadays, but like Greene in the trenches himself, this one was a trailblazer.
A advertisement with Star Wars features is guaranteed to end up on all-time lists, if done correctly.
Volkswagen was wise enough to trot out a Darth Vader mini for the Force show. The premise is clear enough; anyone who saw in motion the latest remote starting technology undoubtedly joked that it was like the Military, and here we are.
Yet the narrative goes even further. This was the big return of Volkswagen to the Super Bowl commercial scene, a roaring re-debut of the company’s modern century. It also helped launch the early release movement.
Star Wars, a nice story, a spectacular return and the launch of the greatest trend in new Super Bowl advertising. What isn’t there to like?
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