Greatest Super Bowl Commercials
By Jennifer Jordan
For people who aren’t sports fans, the Super Bowl isn’t about winning or losing. It’s not about which player is named MVP or which team hoists the Lombardi trophy overhead at the fourth quarter’s end. It’s not about which coach is submerged in a Gatorade bath. It’s about one thing, and one thing only: the commercials. Without the commercials, the TV airing the Super Bowl may as well be turned off, or worse, turned to Lifetime.
Super Bowl commercials are expensive to air; a thirty second spot in last year’s game cost 2.5 million. This makes them great: advertisers don’t want to waste their money so they burn more midnight oil, flow more creative juices, and order much more Thai food for those office all-nighters. Some of these advertisers succeed with brilliant commercials, others leave us scratching our heads and asking, “Seriously?” The good, the bad, and the ugly all find a way into our television sets on Super Bowl Sunday. The following is a list of five of the best commercials generated over the years.
Apple “1984”: A commercial that aired in, well, 1984, this Apple commercial is still revered as one of the greatest of all time. A parody of George Orwell’s novel about a man living in a world marked by totalitarianism, this ad was directed by Ridley Scott of “Blade Runner” fame. IBM plays the roll of “Big Brother” – a euphemism used for “dictatorship” in Orwell’s novel – and is featured in the commercial as a giant TV screen that rattles on to an audience of emotionless drones. Out of nowhere, a hip-looking woman enters the room and throws the new Macintosh into the screen, shattering it in the process. The voiceover says, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
McDonald’s “Showdown”: In 1993, this commercial featured a game of “call your shot Horse” between two of basketball’s greats: Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The winner won none other than a Big Mac. Each shot was followed by an even more spectacular shot and preceded by the catch phrase, “nothing but net.” As the players dueled, hitting shots off the rafters, and off of floors, it became clear that no winner was going to be decided. The commercial ends with Jordan and Bird sitting outside on top of a building as Jordan tells Bird, “Off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothing but net.”
Budweiser “Clydesdales Play Ball”: In 1996, this commercial proved that Clydesdales, despite popular belief, can actually play football. During a snowy pick-up game, two men look on as one team of Clydesdales scores a field goal against another. In 2004, Budweiser updated the ad to parody the video replay of the NFL. This ad featured the game’s referee, a zebra, reviewing a play under the ref tent.
Nissan Maxima “Pigeon”: America loves ads with talking pigeons, especially when those pigeons sound like Cliff Clavin from “Cheers.” In this 1997 ad, three pigeons see a new Maxima emerge from a carwash. They immediately sense it is their duty to, well, doodie on the car windshields. As the theme to “Top Gun” plays in the background, two pigeons miss their target and leave it to their leader, the Cliff Clavin-esqe bird, to fly down onto the Maxima. Despite his confidence, he only ends up colliding head first with a closing garage door.
Budweiser “Cedric”: In keeping with the theory that Budweiser generally has some of the best Super Bowl commercials, 2001 was a year where they didn’t disappoint. This commercial is simple enough: Cedric the Entertainer is seen romancing a good looking women. He goes to the refrigerator to get two Bud Lights and proceeds to do a “happy dance,” demonstrating his elation and unknowingly shaking up the bottles in the process. His date quickly comes to an unwelcome end when Cedric opens up the Bud Light, only to have it explode all over his highly annoyed date.