The Super Bowl is easily the most watched event in America each year, so naturally advertisers jump at the chance to show off their product to the masses. Super Bowl commercials have become almost as important as the game itself, as advertisers use the big game to kick off their year-long campaigns. While the Super Bowl serves as the end of the football season, it marks the beginning of the advertising year.
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What all companies strive for is to have the most memorable and talked about commercial that following Monday. There is no better way to get brand recognition than to hit it big and have everyone saying your companies name on Monday. They teach it in business school, executives wait all year long for it and when it arrives, Super Bowl Sunday can either make or break everything you’ve worked for.
The best ads not only are talked about the next day, but enter into rarefied air when they become a part of American pop culture. Before we start, honorable mentions go to the 1984 Apple ad, the E*Trade babies and that weird sock puppet that interviewed people about Pets.com.
We’ve had 46 Super Bowls to date, but only a handful of ads have truly hit it out of the park.
15. Reebok – Terry Tate: Office Linebacker (2002)
Terry Tate is not only a modern day ad legend, it stands as one of the most successful ad campaigns in advertising history. The premise is simple: what would happen if you put a linebacker in charge of an office full of dweebs and annoying co-workers?
Well, the result was Terry Tate: Office Linebacker. As soon as Tate nailed ‘Mitch’ at the start of the commercial, we knew we were in for something special. Apparently there is roughly 10 minutes of original footage that contains intense and brutal language (guess where they derived ‘Mitch’ from) which was edited down to clean 30 seconds.
The Reebok commercial took off and spawned numerous spin-offs and even merchandise. This is exactly what you want a Super Bowl commercial to be, although it’s defined as a one-hit wonder — no pun intended Terry.
14. Bud Light – The Dog Sitter (2011)
Bud Light has turned out some pretty hilarious ads, but once they moved away from those damn frogs they really started to make waves in the Super Bowl ad world. One of the best ads Bud Light has ever come out with is the ‘Dog Sitter’ ad from 2011. Man’s best friend helps out in the most fantastically manly way possible, when a dog sitter uses his dogs to get beer and bed women.
Is it animal cruelty? Who cares, it’s hilariously stupid and that’s really all you can ask for from a Super Bowl ad that has dogs picking up chicks and serving booze.
13. Budweiser - Separated At Birth (1999)
When you think of Super Bowl commercials, cute isn’t usually a word you commonly think of. But Budweiser has made it their business to create the higher brow classy brand of commercials. From their stunning and silent tribute to 9/11 where the Clydesdales run across the country to simply bow at the gaping hole in the New York skyline to this gem from 1999.
Two Dalmatians, separated at birth are reunited when the puppy who mocked his brother upon being adopted by a firehouse passes his sibling who’s riding in the Budweiser sled. The dog sticks his tongue out at him, ribs it in and hearts melted everywhere. For a beer company, Budweiser sure knows how to avoid clichés and create insanely memorable commercials.
12. Pepsi – Ray Charles Diet Pepsi (1991)
Here’s a tip if you want to get into advertising: come up with a catchy jingle and you’re going to be a millionaire. Pepsi rolled out a rare Diet Pepsi ad in 1991 and who better to get behind a catchy jingle than music legend Ray Charles? Think about this commercial in context as well — Communism had just crumbled in Russia (well at least the Berlin Wall had fallen) and the world was learning to love itself one more time.
The Cold War was over, so basically think of this as the global Ewok song from the end of Return of the Jedi if Pepsi had been a corporation on Endor. Picture that, and you’ve got what this commercial really means.
11. Budweiser – Rex The Dog (2000)
Budweiser doesn’t always roll out he Clydesdales for it’s commercials, but it proved in 2000 that even if it went in a different direction it could still produce a funny ad. An acting dog (how convenient) needs to find motivation to act in a heartbreaking an emotional scene in a movie, so a director tells him to go back to his darkest day to draw on emotion.
That darkest day? Running across a yard, chasing a Budweiser truck, leaping for it only to smack into a van.