50 Marketers On The Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads Ever

Bud­weis­er broad­ly – and Volkswagen’s The Force specif­i­cal­ly – rank among mar­keters’ all-time favorites.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

After 49 Super Bowls, the adver­tis­ing indus­try has pro­duced a lot of big game con­tent. And as brands and mar­keters gear up for the 50th anniver­sary of the Most Valu­able Day in US Adver­tis­ing, Momen­tol­ogy sur­veyed 50 mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als to see which ads stand out in their mem­o­ries – and why.

Some spots, like Coke’s Mean Joe Greene and Apple’s 1984, are endur­ing clas­sics. Oth­ers, like Volkswagen’s The Force, Google’s Parisian Love and Always’ #LikeA­Girl, are more recent inductees to the Super Bowl Ad Pan­theon that have each cut through the prover­bial noise in their own ways and estab­lished mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with view­ers.

Then there’s Bud­weis­er, which seems to be in a class by itself. (Over and over, mar­keters not­ed they don’t drink the beer, but they still love the com­mer­cials.)

If there is a for­mu­la for suc­cess, these experts say it’s a mat­ter of strik­ing the right bal­ance between humor, dra­ma, ani­mals and kids. In addi­tion, to make a mem­o­rable impact, a Super Bowl ad has to arrest atten­tion in a visu­al or audi­to­ry way, tell a sto­ry and use emo­tion.

Here are the Super Bowl ads that have done just that.

Volkswagen’s The Force (2011)

Fred Schonenberg VentureFuel

Fred Scho­nen­berg, Founder of Ven­ture­Fu­el 
The ad was so warm, as it embraced fam­i­ly and the won­ders of our child­hood imag­i­na­tions that we all yearn to main­tain and revis­it. It appealed to moms and techies, while still being hilar­i­ous enough to keep the foot­ball fan mass­es engaged. Bril­liant­ly, it also showed off the tech­nol­o­gy of the car in a unique and sub­tle way. If I were Volk­swa­gen, I’d replay the ad this year giv­en all of the recent Star Wars love.

A theme that emerged from this ad was peo­ple walk­ing around try­ing to start their cars using “the Force.” Too bad Volk­swa­gen could­n’t mea­sure that in some­way. I know I mock­ing­ly tried to start every­thing with the Force – from my cof­fee mak­er to mak­ing the phone ring. Sad­ly, the Force is not strong with me.

Michael Bonfils SEM International

Michael Bon­fils, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of SEM Inter­na­tion­al

It will prob­a­bly always be the Star Wars boy who starts the car engine remote­ly.

His WTF moment… was clas­sic.

Bruce Clark Northeastern

Bruce Clark, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Mar­ket­ing at North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ty

Fea­tur­ing the short­est Darth Vad­er since Rick Mora­nis in Space­balls: The Movie, this wide­ly praised ad tells the sto­ry of a child who knows if he just tries hard enough, he can har­ness the Force.

Dressed in full Darth Vad­er cos­tume, the increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed boy attempts to coerce an exer­cise bike, his dog, a wash­ing machine and a baby doll. The day is saved when, as the boy applies his final effort to the fam­i­ly Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat, his father sur­rep­ti­tious­ly uses his VW remote to start the car from inside their house, thus prov­ing once and for all that the Force is real!

Dave Leitner Assembly

David Leit­ner, Man­ag­ing Part­ner at Assem­bly

It plays off my love of Star Wars.

It plays off the abil­i­ty to con­trol the Force – which many peo­ple wish they had.

The ad shows off the fea­ture of start­ing the car with the touch of a but­ton – not quite the Force – but not an ana­log key either.

And, yeah, it’s fun­ny.

The theme of fam­i­ly in the ad appealed to me – in this case, the link­ing of old­er and younger gen­er­a­tions. The Super Bowl and Star Wars were both mem­o­rable moments of my child­hood and pass­ing that along to my kids helps to build a con­nec­tion, while reliv­ing old mem­o­ries and mak­ing new ones for years to come.

Kate Garofalini Dstilleryjpg

Kate Garo­fali­ni, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing at Dstillery
This is by far one of my favorite Super Bowl ads and not because I was a loy­al Jet­ta own­er at the time. This was the first time an adver­tis­er released an ad before the big game and the real­i­ty far exceed­ed their viral expec­ta­tions, chang­ing how adver­tis­ers approach Super Bowl Sun­day ever since.

With only a few days until it offi­cial­ly aired, it racked up more than 17 mil­lion YouTube views! It was a per­fect com­bi­na­tion: nos­tal­gia and humor of a child dressed as a noto­ri­ous vil­lain, endear­ing moments between a father and son, the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Star Wars and a con­flict-to-res­o­lu­tion nar­ra­tive.

Greg Jarboe with the Vidpow team at VidCon 2015

Greg Jar­boe, Pres­i­dent and Co-Founder of SEO-PR
One of the method­olo­gies for eval­u­at­ing video per­for­mance that has a lot of mer­it is the num­ber of times the con­tent has been shared on Face­book, Twit­ter and in the blo­gos­phere. This avoids the whole debate over the def­i­n­i­tion of a “view.” (Face­book says you pay for a “view” when a video is dis­played in a user’s news feed for 3 sec­onds or more, even if the per­son doesn’t actu­al­ly click on the video to watch with the sound turned on. With True­View in-stream ads, YouTube says you pay for a “view” when a view­er watch­es 30 sec­onds of your video – or the dura­tion if it’s short­er than 30 sec­onds – or engages with your video, whichev­er comes first.)

And accord­ing to Unruly, the most-shared Super Bowl ad of all time is Volkswagen’s The Force – with 5.4 mil­lion shares – from the 2011 Super Bowl. It’s also worth noth­ing that this Super Bowl ad gen­er­at­ed a 127 per­cent uplift in web­site traf­fic and drove the sale of 20,902 units.

The price range for a new Pas­sat five years ago was $19,995 to $32,950, so “The Force” drove from $417,935,490 to $688,720,900 in incre­men­tal sales. That makes it my favorite Super Bowl ad of all time.

Budweiser, Budweiser, Budweiser

Duane Forrester Bruce Clay smaller

Duane For­rester, Vice Pres­i­dent of Organ­ic Search Oper­a­tions at Bruce Clay

Damn it — I’m sit­ting here cry­ing rewatch­ing my fave videos!

What is doing this to me? Bud­weis­er ads…and I don’t even drink!

See, the Bud­weis­er ads with their draft hors­es, and espe­cial­ly last year’s ad with the pup­py that gets lost, are very pow­er­ful, emo­tion­al­ly attach­ing moments in adver­tis­ing.

Let’s look at the 2015 ad here.

Cute pup­py. Tough world out there. Dan­ger. Courage. Loy­al­ty. Fam­i­ly. Sup­port. All con­cepts that shine clear­ly through­out the adver­tise­ment. Yeah, every­one knows the hors­es haul the famous trail­er full of suds. But this ad isn’t about beer. It’s about us, the watch­ers, and what mat­ters to us. The ad attach­es the brand to con­cepts we hold dear, would lay down our lives for.

It’s a clas­sic sto­ry of what’s pos­si­ble when YOU don’t give up, and get a lit­tle help from your friends.

It helps more than a lit­tle bit that as we watch the pup­py, we anthro­po­mor­phize human feel­ings on the dog. It’s rain­ing, it’s cold — how mis­er­able! The wolf threat­ens from behind the tree, the pup­py stands tall and barks — how brave! Truth is, the dog isn’t like­ly as cold as we think it is and the pup­py does­n’t under­stand the dan­ger the way we do. This is nor­mal, though, as Amer­i­can con­sumers spent just over $60 bil­lion on pets in 2015. We love ’em, we lav­ish them. Last I checked, that’s almost dou­ble what we spend on chil­dren in the nation.

So, yeah, Bud­weis­er gets my nod for hit­ting so many home runs, and for so clev­er­ly attach­ing their brand to our hearts.

Jen­nifer Hoff­man, Glob­al Head of Part­ner­ships at Linkdex

They’ve had sev­er­al EPIC Super Bowl com­mer­cials that have gone on to spur entire cam­paigns for months if not years to come. Like the Bud­weis­er frogs – who doesn’t remem­ber laugh­ing at that one?

They sell beer, how­ev­er not a sin­gle one of their com­mer­cials talks about their prod­uct — it’s all about the brand and you will always remem­ber their brand and com­mer­cials because of the cre­ativ­i­ty behind them. And they tap into people’s emo­tions. If that pup­py com­mer­cial doesn’t tug at your heart­strings, then, well, let’s just say you prob­a­bly don’t have a pulse!

Budweiser’s Iconic Clydesdales

Alan Bleiweiss

Alan Blei­weiss, Foren­sic SEO Con­sul­tant
Just about every Bud­weis­er Clydes­dale ad ever made. And I don’t even drink alco­hol.

Jessica Hoenes Dstillery

Jes­si­ca Hoenes, Region­al Vice Pres­i­dent – Cen­tral at Dstillery

Before we had “The Great­est Show on Turf,” St. Louisans had Bud­weis­er, cre­ator of some of the most nos­tal­gic and icon­ic Super Bowl ads of the late ‘90s.

The frogs were fun­ny, but the Anheuser-Busch Clydes­dales are the stars of my favorite moments in Super Bowl adver­tis­ing. No mod­els, no flashy imagery, just pure Amer­i­cana with a focus on hard-work­ing Mid­west­ern farm­ers. When these ads played, peo­ple were silent.

The Clydes­dales were beau­ti­ful, they played foot­ball, and in per­haps their most mem­o­rable moment of all time, they brought tears to eyes as they paid trib­ute to 9/11 vic­tims and respon­ders. I was hap­py to see them make their tri­umphant return in last year’s Super Bowl and I know I’ll still feel a tinge of that St. Louis pride when I see their much antic­i­pat­ed sequel to “Lost Dog” this year.

Ashley Orndorff Visual Impact Group

Ash­ley Orn­dorff, Mar­ket Research Ana­lyst and Copy­writer for Visu­al Impact Group

My favorite Super Bowl spot (in this case, spots) of all time are the Bud­weis­er com­mer­cials fea­tur­ing the Clydes­dales and the series in recent years adding in pup­pies.

I don’t drink beer and I still love these com­mer­cials. For one, you can’t go wrong with hors­es, at least not for me.

As for wide appeal, they’re fun and enter­tain­ing (like hors­es play­ing foot­ball), they’re poignant and incite emo­tion (like the 9/11 trib­ute, tear­ful reunions and epic adven­tures for friends). These com­mer­cials make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you appre­ci­ate your friends – this is what makes them so pow­er­ful and so mem­o­rable.

Budweiser’s Whassup (2000)

Steve Jukes Jumbleberry

Steve Jukes, Chief Inno­va­tion Offi­cer at Jum­ble­ber­ry

The first time I saw the Bud­weis­er Whas­sup com­mer­cial was dur­ing Super Bowl XXXIV in Jan­u­ary of 2000. I was a uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent at the time and “whas­ss­suppppppp” became the de fac­to greet­ing amongst my group of friends for many months after­wards.

Per­haps it was because it was dur­ing a time in my life when I drank a lot more beer than usu­al, but I can’t recall any oth­er com­mer­cial hav­ing such an imme­di­ate and wide­spread impact on my social group.

Rob Gregory WhoSay

Rob Gre­go­ry, Pres­i­dent of Sales and Mar­ket­ing for WhoSay
This cam­paign is a favorite because it res­onat­ed with a new youth­ful audi­ence and also had total cul­tur­al pen­e­tra­tion both nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. After the cam­paign aired, it was impos­si­ble to hear male friends every­where greet one anoth­er with­out say­ing the phrase.

The cam­paign became an indus­try award win­ner and ran through 2001. It was lat­er then devel­oped into a larg­er cam­paign titled, “True.”

Andrew Beckman Location3

Andrew Beck­man, Chair­man of Location3 Media

My favorite com­mer­cial is Bud­weis­er with Whas­sup and friends con­nect­ing via the phone. I start­ed doing the whas­sup with my friends.

Budweiser’s Frogs (1995)

Ben Johnson HA Digital

Ben John­son, Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Man­ag­er at HA Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing

My favorite Super Bowl com­mer­cial of all time has to be the Bud­weis­er Frogs ads.

This is one of the first com­mer­cials I remem­ber grow­ing up that real­ly took on a life of its own and out­side of the tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials spawned mer­chan­dise, cloth­ing and even com­mer­cial reboots lat­er on.

Rob McCarty Popshorts

Rob McCar­ty, COO of Pop­Shorts

Upon the orig­i­nal suc­cess of the first ad, Bud­weis­er did a great job pro­gress­ing the sto­ry­line to include new char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions that kept audi­ences engaged. I still remem­ber most of those com­mer­cials to this day even though they were cre­at­ed in 1995.

Like the Bud­weis­er ad, the­mat­ic rep­e­ti­tion seems to be the name of the game for adver­tis­ers — why change some­thing that already works? By keep­ing the sto­ry­line sim­ple and cre­at­ing minor vari­a­tions to the orig­i­nal con­tent along the way and through­out the years, Bud­weis­er was able to keep their brand­ing in the fore­front of all spec­ta­tors.

I see this rel­e­vant to the snack­able con­tent mar­keters are cre­at­ing on social net­works such as Vine and Insta­gram today. Often­times, when mar­keters on these plat­forms find a theme that works, they keep build­ing the plot to intro­duce new char­ac­ters and sce­nar­ios that keep audi­ences engaged. They may be able to thank Bud­weis­er for a small yet pro­found sam­pling of that.

Budweiser’s 9/11 Tribute (2002)


Max Cron Online Optimism

Max Cron, Cre­ative Strat­e­gy Direc­tor at Online Opti­mism

My favorite Super Bowl spot of all time is the Budweiser’s trib­ute to those that died on Sep­tem­ber 11. This com­mer­cial aired only once in 2002, but remains the most watched Super Bowl com­mer­cial of all time.

Per­haps I am some­what biased because I am from New York, but this com­mer­cial real­ly hits the spot. Bud­weis­er, a com­pa­ny whose com­mer­cials always have class, style and emo­tion­al attach­ment, did a great job show­ing respect to all New York­ers.

In adver­tis­ing, hav­ing com­mer­cials that peo­ple emo­tion­al­ly con­nect to is key to hav­ing them con­nect to the prod­uct. This advert cer­tain­ly hits that note and there­fore was very effec­tive.

Budweiser’s Puppy Love (2014)


Kristin Babcock Cramer Krasselt smaller

Kristin Bab­cock, Vice Pres­i­dent and Direc­tor of Paid Search at Cramer-Kras­selt

I know I am not alone when I say this but, I would have to pick Budweiser’s Pup­py Love from 2014. It pulled on your heart­strings and was just trade­mark Bud­weis­er. Plus, you can see the impact of it very dra­mat­i­cal­ly in Google Trends.

Since it’s been report­ed that they won’t use the pup­py this year, it will be inter­est­ing to see how peo­ple react to their ad.

Budweiser’s Lost Dog (2015)

Colette Trudeau Spark SMG smaller

Colette Trudeau, Search Direc­tor at Spark SMG

My favorite Super Bowl spot of all time is Budweiser’s Lost Dog ad. Who doesn’t love that moment when the Clydes­dales come run­ning up the hill to save the pup­py from the wolves? It taps all of the right feel­ings and for any brand adver­tis­ing dur­ing the game, why not incor­po­rate pup­pies? Instant audi­ence grat­i­fi­ca­tion, guar­an­teed.

Budweiser’s Brewed The Hard Way (2015)

Gary Nix BDot

Gary J. Nix, Chief Strat­e­gy Offi­cer at bdot

In recent his­to­ry, Bud­weis­er has been known for Super Bowl com­mer­cials with cute and cud­dly crea­tures. While they did have a pup­py in some of their Super Bowl XLIX spots, the one that stood out to me was Brewed the Hard Way.

This was the com­mer­cial where they made bold claims on what their beer was and what it was not. They stuck their flag in the sand and staked their claim.

Grant­ed, some peo­ple had a strong neg­a­tive reac­tion in real time, but I noticed that most, if not all, of those peo­ple were unhap­py because Bud­weis­er was talk­ing about craft and fla­vored beers in a less than good light. How­ev­er, that’s exact­ly what I liked. They were clear and con­cise regard­ing how they say they make their beer. They spoke to their audi­ence and there’s noth­ing wrong with that.

Google’s Parisian Love (2010)

Purna Virji Microsoft

Pur­na Vir­ji, Senior Bing Ads Client Devel­op­ment and Train­ing Man­ag­er at Microsoft

I like Google’s ad about the dif­fer­ent search­es. It told the sto­ry of some­one’s life jour­ney through their search­es. Very poignant.

Jon Goldberg KBS

Jon Gold­berg, Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tor at KBS

They were able to intro­duce an entire­ly new way to tell a com­pelling, emo­tion­al sto­ry through a prod­uct demo.

Quan Hoang HZDG

Quan Hoang, Cre­ative Direc­tor of Inter­ac­tive at HZDG

Google’s Parisian Love, which told a love sto­ry through the use of Google that still delights me to this day. The ad did a few things very well.

First and fore­most, it stood out from the clut­ter. Super Bowl spots are usu­al­ly known for their high pro­duc­tion val­ue or star appeal. Parisian Love had nei­ther but still crushed it.

The sec­ond thing it did well was use the brand’s prod­uct in a rel­e­vant and believ­able way. Prod­uct place­ment is usu­al­ly a sto­ry killer, but not in this case. If any­thing, it made the sto­ry.

The third thing it did well was tap into the roman­tic in all of us. The sto­ry was well writ­ten and uni­ver­sal. I’m pret­ty sure the moment after that ad played was an all-time record for humans to be col­lec­tive­ly day­dream­ing about love in Paris.

Go foot­ball.

Apple’s 1984 (1984)

John Gross Struck

John Gross, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing at Struck

It was so epic in its con­cept and pro­duc­tion — prac­ti­cal­ly ush­ered in the era of the Super Bowl TV spot all by itself.

Mike Grehan

Mike Gre­han, CMO and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor at Acronym Media

It rep­re­sents the dawn­ing of a new age in com­put­ing and it used “fear mes­sag­ing” to huge advan­tage, which has made it one of the few clas­sic ads that still gets dis­cussed now.

Not only that, it was direct­ed by Hol­ly­wood giant Rid­ley Scott, who is from my part of the world in the north of Eng­land, and his broth­er used to teach media class­es in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment at my col­lege.

Brian Hersholt Dstillery

Bri­an Her­sholt, Region­al Vice Pres­i­dent of Sales — East at Dstillery

I think it’s got­ta be the Apple ad from 1984. Maybe the most famous Super Bowl ad ever?

It was clear­ly ear­ly days for today’s most valu­able brand and was a launch­ing pad for Mac­in­tosh com­put­er. Plus the ad’s impact is still felt today.

Dirk Schwarz Linkdex

Dirk Schwarz, CROUS at Linkdex

It broke new ground and was epic.

Always’ #LikeAGirl (2015)

Claudia Page Crowdtap

Clau­dia Page, VP and part­ner­ships at Crowd­tap

P&G real­ly nailed it with this cam­paign and showed the indus­try that large, estab­lished brands can adapt to the times and strike a cul­tur­al chord in a gen­uine way. What I like most about this is the insight that Super Bowl view­ing is tru­ly a fam­i­ly event and that includes par­ents and their young daugh­ters.

The cam­paign used a com­bi­na­tion of real­is­tic por­tray­al of their tar­get con­sumer and an empow­er­ing mes­sage to make a dif­fer­ence and ignite a social con­ver­sa­tion around the #LikeA­Girl hash­tag, which, more than a call-to-action, was a call-to-arms. The “Like a Girl” cam­paign helped pio­neer a wave of female empow­er­ment cam­paigns, which togeth­er have trans­formed the media land­scape and helped brands (final­ly!) catch up to shifts that were already well under­way in cul­ture.

Brent Csutoras Pixel Road Designs

Brent Csu­toras, CEO of Pix­el Road Designs

As we all know, Super Bowl com­mer­cials are some of the best com­mer­cials we see all year long, so to pick a sin­gle one as my favorite is very tough, but this is the one that is on my mind right now and is amaz­ing to me.

When I see this com­mer­cial it makes me hap­py, because I see an exam­ple of some­thing that a lot of brands are doing these days, which is using their pow­er and mon­ey to improve the social stan­dards that are hold­ing us back from evolv­ing into the pro­gres­sive future we all hope for. It is also a very vivid reminder of the pow­er we have to shape the future views of our chil­dren.

Coca-Cola’s Mean Joe Greene (1980)

Tom Lyons HYFN

Tom Lyons, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor at HYFN

My favorite ad was the 1980 Mean Joe Greene Coke ad. I was old enough to already be dream­ing of play­ing foot­ball and young enough to not yet under­stand how bad of an ath­lete I would grow to be and how much I don’t love being pum­meled.

But, come on, it’s a kid and the guy’s name is Mean. That spells mag­ic.

Even today as a grown man, if Mean Joe Greene said hel­lo to me, I’d be so fired up. At the time, every sev­en-year-old in Amer­i­ca want­ed to be that kid. Want­ed to befriend Mean Joe Greene (again, his first name is Mean) with a Coke. In school, the social media of 1980, I remem­ber every­one talk­ing about it and then, well, I remem­ber Mean Jim Crat­ty beat­ing me up for not giv­ing him my Coke, but it was worth it.

But real­ly isn’t that ad what all of adver­tis­ing — regard­less of medi­um or event — is about? Hav­ing a view­er put his or her­self in that car, in that hotel, eat­ing that chip. And one more time it was a kid with a man whose name was Mean. Mag­ic.

Scott Davis of Prophet

Scott Davis, Chief Growth Offi­cer at Prophet

The ad blend­ed humor, emo­tion and Amer­i­cana into the sto­ry and the spir­it of it res­onat­ed uni­ver­sal­ly. It is still a stan­dard bear­er of great Super Bowl ads that many oth­ers mea­sure them­selves against.

Chris Hart, Head of Client Devel­op­ment – US at Linkdex

This ad was so pow­er­ful, it even became part of folk­lore — that he gave away his jer­sey and lost his pow­ers.

Monster.com’s When I Grow Up (1999)

Hilary McCarthy Zenzi

Hilary McCarthy, Vice Pres­i­dent of Zen­zi Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

You can’t help but laugh at Monster.com’s When I Grow Up. Though tar­get­ed at peo­ple who are focused on achieve­ment, most any­one can relate to the 30-sec­ond spot.

Who hasn’t aspired to become some­thing “great”? It’s not until we get old­er that we’re jad­ed by career prospects.

But not for the Monster.com kids; they tell like it is, “When I grow up. I want to file all day…Claw my way up to mid­dle man­age­ment,” or “be replaced on a whim” — just a few of the “aspi­ra­tions” spo­ken with sin­cer­i­ty by the kids, with the Amer­i­can Boy­choir play­ing in the back­ground.

We can’t help but chuck­le at the sar­casm and real­ize we can aspire to be so much more.

Mark Alves

Mark Alves, Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Con­sul­tant

My favorite Super Bowl spot of all time? Monster.com’s “When I Grow Up…” com­mer­cial from the 1999 Super Bowl. This was the dead­pan mon­tage of kids explain­ing how they want to grow up to be mere cogs in the work machine.

The ad was fun­ny, mem­o­rable, com­plete­ly on-mes­sage, cap­tured the atten­tion of every­one at the Super Bowl par­ty I attend­ed and, most impor­tant­ly, it worked. This spot put Mon­ster on the map for job sites as traf­fic sky­rock­et­ed.

Tide’s Miracle Stain (2013)

Jon Bailey of Idea

Jon Bai­ley, Chief Rela­tion­ships Offi­cer at the i.d.e.a. Brand

Bril­liant work by Saatchi & Saatchi three years ago.

What I love about this spot, aside from the incred­i­ble enter­tain­ment val­ue, is the strat­e­gy and plan­ning that went into pulling it off. The team at Saatchi had to plan for sev­er­al poten­tial out­comes to the play­off games, and line up the star play­ers asso­ci­at­ed with those teams that might ulti­mate­ly make it to the Super Bowl in advance. They did­n’t know this infor­ma­tion in order to shoot the spot until a cou­ple of weeks before the big game and were able to pull the trig­ger with the right tal­ent in place – what a feat of pro­duc­tion in a very short amount of time.

Even bet­ter, the spot aired in the third quar­ter direct­ly after the Ravens scored. And to top it off, the Ravens won! Bril­liant oppor­tu­ni­ty played bril­liant­ly. Tide wins the Ad Super Bowl, fol­lowed by awards at Cannes, Clios and more.

Vas­silis Dalakas, Pro­fes­sor of Mar­ket­ing at Cal State San Mar­cos

It was great because:

1. It specif­i­cal­ly incor­po­rat­ed the two teams play­ing in the Super Bowl, mak­ing it eas­i­er to pay atten­tion to it and remem­ber it.

2. It clev­er­ly and cre­ative­ly lever­aged Tide’s NFL spon­sor­ship, which allows them to use NFL trade­marks. These trade­marks were essen­tial for the sto­ry­line to come to life.

3. It was fun­ny but not just for the sake of being fun­ny; the humor relat­ed to the brand and helped the brand mes­sage (no stain is sacred) and ben­e­fit (Tide can remove all stains) get com­mu­ni­cat­ed.

EDS’ Herding Cats (2000)

James Fox Red Peak Branding

James Fox, CEO of Red Peak Brand­ing

Cat Herders ran in Jan­u­ary 2000, dur­ing Super Bowl XXXIV, a game often referred to as the Dot-Com Super Bowl, due to the large num­ber of dot-com com­pa­nies who adver­tised dur­ing the Big Game. It fea­tures griz­zled cow­boys herd­ing (new­ly) dig­i­tal ani­mat­ed cats. It’s a giant West­ern metaphor to describe an incred­i­bly bor­ing IT ser­vices com­pa­ny.

It’s all in the details though: from the cow­boy using his lint roller on his jack­et to the sub­lime ratio­nale line, “In a sense this is what we do.” It’s the best of what ad agency Fal­lon was pro­duc­ing — fun­ny, poignant and out­smart­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

The spot was a huge suc­cess both cre­ative­ly and com­mer­cial­ly. Then-Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton cit­ed Cat Herders as his favorite Big Game com­mer­cial and EDS exec­u­tives praised the com­mer­cial for meet­ing busi­ness objec­tives.

Vis­its to eds.com quadru­pled to near­ly 2 mil­lion the Mon­day after the game and reached near­ly 7 mil­lion in the week after the event, per a news release. The com­pa­ny esti­mat­ed that for every dol­lar spent on Super Bowl adver­tis­ing, it gar­nered a $5 to $7 return in media val­ue.

Dodge’s Farmer (2013)

Erin Everhart Home Depot

Erin Ever­hart, Lead Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing – SEO at The Home Depot

I was a huge fan of the God Made A Farmer spot. It was such a com­pelling sto­ry that real­ly stuck out through oth­er over­ly sales pitch­es.

Kathy Delaney Saatchi and Saatchi

Kathy Delaney, Glob­al Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer of Saatchi & Saatchi Well­ness

One of my recent favorites is Ram Truck’s God Made a Farmer. It’s such a sim­ple, under­stat­ed ad, but, at the same time, so arrest­ing and beau­ti­ful. It was able to cut through the noise on what might be the loud­est night of the year by just being qui­et and focus­ing on mak­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion.

Snickers’ You’re Not You with Betty White (2010)

Simon Heseltine AOL

Simon Hes­el­tine, Inde­pen­dent Con­sul­tant

Back in 2010 I was work­ing on a sports site — Fanhouse.com — at AOL. Fan­house held the #1 spot in the SERPs for “Super Bowl ads” and “Super Bowl com­mer­cials” and #2 for “Super­bowl ads” and “Super­bowl com­mer­cials.” Which meant that the Mon­day after the Super Bowl was a huge traf­fic day for us.

That said, we also want­ed to com­pete on each indi­vid­ual ad (this was before the ads were placed on YouTube before the game, as they are now). So we had a team of peo­ple, watch­ing the com­mer­cials, try­ing to deter­mine what the right key­words were for each ad…what should go in the title of the post along with the video of the ad.

One that sticks out is the Snick­ers com­mer­cial that was released that year, the one that launched the “You’re not you when you’re hun­gry” tagline. The next day I looked at our com­peti­tors to see what they’d gone with. Some went with “Snick­ers com­mer­cial,” one even went with “Abe Vigo­da com­mer­cial,” but we had the #1 rank­ing and a bunch of traf­fic for the right term — “Bet­ty White Snick­ers com­mer­cial.”

John Gallegos Grupo Gallegos

John Gal­le­gos, Founder and CEO of Grupo Gal­le­gos

It had the right amount of what makes a great Super Bowl ad: sin­gle-mind­ed mes­sage, a celebri­ty, humor and a sur­prise twist. The prod­uct was the hero and it led to oth­er work for the brand.

Doritos’ Ultrasound (2016)

Matt McGowan Google

Matt McGowan, Head of Strat­e­gy at Google

Have you seen it? The child­birth one…Timely for me, too.

Doritos’ Live the Flavor (2007)

Aaron Levy Elite SEM

Aaron Levy, Man­ag­er of Client Strat­e­gy at Elite SEM

Favorite of mine is def­i­nite­ly Dori­tos “Live The Fla­vor” from 2007 — it was the first (and prob­a­bly best) con­sumer-gen­er­at­ed ad to air ever.

As an aspir­ing mar­ket­ing stu­dent at the time, it gave me a ton of hope for the “lit­tle guy” in all of us.

Pepsi’s Just One Look (1991)

Tobey Van Santvoord Dstillery

Tobey Van Santvo­ord, Region­al Vice Pres­i­dent — West Coast at Dstillery
Per­haps Pep­si’s most icon­ic Super Bowl ad of all time, this spot used one of the most rec­og­niz­able super­mod­els in the world, Cindy Craw­ford, to pro­mote their new­ly redesigned soda can.

As a mid­dle school boy myself, see­ing a super­mod­el in a tank top and daisy dukes step out of a red Lam­borgh­i­ni was enough to switch me from Coke to Pep­si.

Most mem­o­rably, how­ev­er, was the impact on the brand’s new design. While this com­mer­cial lever­aged sex appeal, it was able to intro­duce a new can design that became arguably the most icon­ic Pep­si can design of all time.

Pepsi’s Cheatin’ Heart (1996)

Dana DiTomaso Kick Point Smaller

Dana DiT­o­ma­so, Part­ner at Kick Point

I’ve got to say that I real­ly love this spot from 1996.

It’s just so sweet and fun­ny and does­n’t have to say much.

Microsoft’s Braylon (2015)


Mel Carson Delightful

Mel Car­son, Founder, CEO and Prin­ci­pal Strate­gist at Delight­ful Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

My favorite (bear in mind I’ve only lived here for 3 Super Bowls) is Microsoft’s Bray­lon spot – I love how this is less about a prod­uct but more about a move­ment to empow­er and help peo­ple over­come adver­si­ty and do amaz­ing things. It was a great stage for Microsoft to show the pow­er of tech­nol­o­gy and keep the wheels turn­ing on its resur­gence.

Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit (2011)


Carolyn Hadlock Young & Laramore

Car­olyn Had­lock, Prin­ci­pal and Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tor at Young & Laramore

Besides 1984, of course, the ad that made me want to go into adver­tis­ing, the ad that gave me that same stop-me-in-my-tracks moment was the first Import­ed from Detroit spot by Chrysler in 2011. Every­thing about it — the grit­ty film, the writ­ing, the spare use of Eminem, the sleek­ness of the car and the final punc­tu­a­tion of the tagline at the end — was Super Bowl wor­thy.

Plus, I adored the fact that they didn’t hype it before the game. They had enough con­fi­dence in it to know it only had to play one time and peo­ple would remem­ber it as one of the great­est Super Bowl ads of all time.

Reebok’s Terry Tate: Office Linebacker (2003)

Nicholas Papagiannis Cramer Krasselt

Nicholas Papa­gian­nis, Vice Pres­i­dent and Search Direc­tor at Cramer-Kras­selt

Reebok’s Ter­ry Tate ads are some­thing my friends and I still talk about. At the time, I remem­ber laugh­ing, but it was also sort of shock­ing.

The quotes from the ads are clas­sic — “When it’s game time, it’s pain time” — and it drove a lot of peo­ple to Reebok’s site to down­load it.

Emerald Nuts’ They’re Kind Of Hard To Share (2004)

Derek Glea­son, SEO Ana­lyst at Work­shop Dig­i­tal Derek Gleason Workshop DIgitalNot many com­mer­cials are ambi­tious enough to try to unite uni­corns, San­ta Claus and the East­er Bun­ny, but the absur­dist com­e­dy makes this Emer­ald Nuts spot fun­ny and mem­o­rable. (After all, these are the same folks that brought us Ego­ma­ni­a­cal Nor­mans and a bevy of oth­er “E‑N” non sequiturs dur­ing pre­vi­ous ad cam­paigns.)

Wendy’s Where’s The Beef? (1984)

Kenneth Harlan Mobilefuse Smaller

Ken Har­lan, CEO of MobileFuse

This spot real­ly put Wendy’s on the map and helped dif­fer­en­ti­ate the brand from com­peti­tors such as McDon­ald’s and Burg­er King.

Anoth­er mem­o­rable moment was the Super Bowl in 2014 — that’s because it was the first time that we start­ed to real­ly see mobile buys accom­pa­ny TV buys to fur­ther ampli­fy the spots, and pro­vide addi­tion­al con­text and engage­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. Super Bowl com­mer­cials pro­vide the best oppor­tu­ni­ty for exposure/branding in all of adver­tis­ing, but they lack the abil­i­ty to accom­plish any low­er fun­nel activ­i­ties. We’re see­ing more and more brands think about adding mobile into their Super Bowl mar­ket­ing plans to make their bud­get go fur­ther, and I think this sig­ni­fies a major shift in how we think about Super Bowl adver­tis­ing.

Did your favorite Super Bowl ad make the list?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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