Every year, companies like Budweiser, Pepsi and Snickers spend millions on Super Bowl advertisements. The reason? The Super Bowl is the most watched event of the year - over 100 million for Super Bowl XLVIII - and, as a sporting event, remains “DVR-proof.” (Take that, Walking Dead.) This year, NBC is asking $4.5 million per 30-second slot. The fact that that figure is considered reasonable tells you everything you need to know.
The reason the airtime is so expensive is that the Super Bowl serves as a sort of stage for ad men to show off their best work. For months, top executives have been pitching novel combinations of puppies, beautiful women, footage of lush American farmland and rugged-but-not-intimidating “everyman” actors in their early forties. We’re excited to see what Madison Avenue comes up with time around and to feed our anticipation, will be rewatching these ten Super Bowl classics.
Cindy Crawford in jorts? Betty White in mud? Check and check.
Claim to Fame: A guttural “wassup” became a legitimate greeting among a very specific American demographic (men) for the better part of the decade. Saturating culture with an annoying catchprase was a huge win for Budweiser.
Claim to Fame: Ridley Scott directed this dystopian montage that called on more poli-sci language than a term paper. The imagery, the voiceover, and the colors made this ad iconic, and it helped that the advertised product turned out to actually be bold and disruptive.
Claim to Fame: Leaning on boyhood fantasy has always been a reliable way to move units and Pepsi chose about the best furnishings: one red Lamborghini, some early-nineties Cindy Crawford, and a tiny pair of cut-offs.
"You’re Not You When You’re Hungry"
Claim to Fame: Snickers got this in at the peak of Betty-mania, and the charm of the 88 year-old perpetually-Golden Girl playing football in the mud took this ad to the end zone.
"Do You Have It in You?"
Claim to Fame: This ad relies on simple arithmetic: If one Michael Jordan is awesome, then two Michael Jordans is otherworldly. Weave in some Michael-to-Michael trash talk and a couple aging chestnuts about hard word and you have a slam dunk.
Claim to Fame: The only weak spot in this delightfully profane office scene is the conceit: Would you cuss out a co-worker for a Bud Light? Maybe a Bud Light Lime.
Claim to Fame: This VW spot harnessed the power of cute kids, Star Wars and remote-starters to make a sweet little short film that just happened to end with a beauty shot of a Volkswagen Passat.
Claim to Fame: You need sturdy heart strings for this ad, because they are about to be thrashed harder than those on Van Halen’sStrat. Friendship is human, but Golden Retriever-Clydesdale love is divine.
"Halftime in America"
Claim to Fame:
It’s always uncomfortable to watch the struggles of American workers used to sell cars, but damn if Clint Eastwood doesn’t know how to deliver gritty
voiceover straight to camera
. This is how he got elected Mayor in Carmel.
Claim to Fame: For the first 90 seconds of this ad, no one knew what they were being sold, but they were already buying. A mammoth budget, otherworldly cinematography and Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis made a compelling case for the power of the underdog, though the idea of Maserati as the transport of the downtrodden still doesn’t fit quite right.
Photos by Pepsi/Getty Images