Each year, advertisers trot out their best (hopefully) most memorable ideas for the Super Bowl. Each year, fans and critics weigh in giving a collective thumbs up or thumbs down. If a brand is lucky, they’ll dominate the quarter they’ve advertised in, or perhaps the whole game, and these days, even the conversation before and after the game. If a brand is unlucky, they’ll be ridiculed, or worse, simply forgotten.
But there are some ads that transcend that strange creative category of a "Super Bowl ad," a designation that allows for (forgives?) a particular brand of humor and showmanship. They’re the ads that people embrace as amazing cultural moments, the ones they hold on to for a long time.
Where last year we put forth our own picks for the top 10 Super Bowl ads of the modern era, this year members of the Advertising Club of New York weigh in with their favorite big-game spots. Here, the top 9 (1984 was a repeat choice…) all-time best Super Bowl spots, as chosen by the Ad Club.
Coca Cola "Mean Joe Greene"
Take one of pro football’s toughest, meanest players and pair him up with the everyday adorable kid. The refreshing nature of the Coke moment is one of the most touching moments in broadcast advertising history.
Master Lock "Bullet"
Perhaps still one of the most memorable visuals of all time, Master Lock put its entire budget behind a spot showing a bullet going through one of its products, but it still would not become unhinged.
Given Budweiser’s longstanding dominance in producing the top Super Bowl spot under creative whiz Bob Lachky, picking one ad is tough. But "Wassup" transcended ad ratings by becoming a cultural phenomenon, the ultimate achievement for a great ad.
Tide "Talking Stain"
Tide captured viewers’ attention by playing on a situation that we all fear, but have likely been on both sides of—the unexpected, embarrassing stain that becomes a distraction. The talking stain ad not only identified the problem in a playful way, but it clearly led you to the product that could provide the solution. Too often ads are interesting but removed from the value proposition of the product. Not so with this ad. (I did go on to buy a stain stick.)
Budweiser "Bud Bowl"
Anheuser-Busch did a masterful job of being one of the first to successfully bring content from the programming into their campaign in an authentic way. By engaging consumers in the bowl, they made the experience interactive with the consumer having a vested interest in the outcome of a commercial. Even better, consumers looked forward to seeing the program the next year. A high bar for a commercial.
Chrysler "Imported from Detroit"
The Eminem film really stands out for me. Sometimes timing is 99% of the winning formula. Chrysler picked their moment and flawlessly told the world what they are made of. In the film, Chrysler successfully managed that fine line between patriotism and selling by delivering a genuine and authentic execution. As a result, the brand claims a rightful leadership position within the heart and soul of Motor City—and America. The film is crafted magnificently. This Super Bowl standout eschewed the conventional talking animal, or kick-in-the-groin lad humor. Instead, Chrysler went poignant, timely and inspirational. Risky, but it paid off.
29 years ago, this ad aired just once during the Super Bowl, and it never ran again. Arguably the most memorable TV commercial ever made, it stopped America in its tracks and told the audience that Apple would save humanity from the tyranny of conformity. So perfect. And yes, Apple would prevail.
In a world of fragmented messages, striking the right chord with a single-minded message that reinforces what a brand stands for is the right way to go with Super Bowl advertising. The stake in the ground, the foundation, exuding a brand personality that no one else can claim, is the best use of a Super Bowl investment. Whether a brand is staking its claim for the first time, like Apple did with its "1984" spot, or reinforcing an unmistakable position like Pepsi’s "Coke Driver Busted" and E-Trade’s "Money Out the Wazoo" spots, it must be an undeniably authentic expression of who the brand is. Being distinct is especially important today because consumers aren’t afraid to call you out on your authenticity before a spot finishes airing. The long tail on the right messaging pays dividends all year.