It’s not just football fans who will be tuning into Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, as the parade of high-priced commercial spots has become just as much of an attraction as the game itself. The structure, attitude and tone of the “Super Bowl spot” has changed dramatically over the years, but one fact remains: the perfect spot is nearly impossible to achieve.
The rise of Internet connectivity and social media marketing has changed the game, with many of the most anticipated Super Bowl commercials for this year already available to view online. That being said, nothing can compare to a well-written, well-executed ad aired out to millions of consumers simultaneously.
With that in mind, we decided it was worth it to take a look back at the best Super Bowl spots we’ve seen to date. Obviously, some of our entries are no-brainers that have earned a place in history already, but whether these ads managed to say something important or simply resonate with their target audiences like no other, we think they’re just as enjoyable, memorable, and influential to this day.
Volkswagen – “The Force”
The German car manufacturer has distinguished itself in recent years as one of the hands-down best commercial makers around. Never going for the cheap laugh, Volkswagen spots are almost always witty, well-made, and downright unforgettable. While the small boy starring in the company’s “The Force” commercial may be among the most recent on our list, it’s not going anywhere.
As one of the most influential film sagas in history, plenty of advertisers have attempted to use Star Wars to help sell their products. But the timing of this commercial was so spot-on, it instantly became one of the most talked-about commercials for weeks after the game aired. Its widespread popularity is a sign of what social media can do for marketers, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one great ad.
Reebok – “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker”
Simply utter the words “Terry Tate” (with or without his official title of ‘Office Linebacker’) and there’s a good chance any Internet-savvy consumer will have come across a video of misbehaving office workers being tackled at their desks by the titular enforcer. Played by Lester Speight, the character appeared in several spots, putting the hurt on employees for not following company policies.
The commercial’s premise and star became so iconic that they eventually outshone the product they were meant to be selling. The ad campaign has been cited as potentially wasteful, since few viewers could actually tell you that the campaign was run by Reebok, illustrating a key point for Super Bowl marketers: an ad being memorable is key, but if it shares no link with the product being sold, don’t expect to earn anything more than YouTube views.
E*Trade – “Monkey”
The average TV viewer may not know much about advertising contracts or marketing campaigns, but they know this: Super Bowl commercials are as expensive as they come. So when the horde of overnight millionaires created by the Internet wave lined up to carelessly spend their money for the status, not just advertising gained by buying a spot in the big game, E*Trade decided to approach their pitch differently.
The financial services company decided to call out the ludicrous price tag required for the advertising slot and make a memorable impression at the same time. With an ad featuring a chimpanzee dancing besides two men on lawn chairs and the tagline “we just wasted $2 million,” the company managed to be clever and blatantly honest about misusing money.
While the ad became one of the most memorable ever aired due to its irreverence, we like to think E*Trade’s follow-up in 2001 – after the Internet bubble burst, and dot-com businesses failed left and right (obviously due to unwise spending) – turned out to be just as brilliant, even including a cameo from one of the monkey’s fallen dot-com mascots.