9 Super Bowl Ads That Were Actually Good
Sunday, you will see ≈0 good ads. (Taste levels vary, obviously.)
90% of Sunday’s groundbreaking commercials will feature (expensive) celebrities in lieu of an original good idea. 50% of them will have a “popular” (expensive) song. You’ll also see TikTok “creators” (also not an idea). You’ll see a (rehashed) “talking” baby (brilliant). UPDATE: The Pringles spot (Ad agency: Grey NYC) is pretty good. Sorry. UPDATE #2: The Coinbase bouncing QR code was the best spot of the game.
Below, you will see zero celebrities. You will not see the usual lazy Super Bowl best ads “list” entries. No Apple-1984. No Coke-Mean Joe Greene. No Volkswagen-The Force. No kneeling horses across the bay from World Trade Center-bereft downtown Manhattan (Seriously, Fuck You Budweiser, you exploitative Fucks.). Anyway…
Caveat: the ad only aired in Colorado during the game. But then, FirstBank only has branches in the West, many in the State. Also, :60 would have been a better piss break but Super Bowl ads are very expensive, even a regional one. They got their customer service point across. Good casting. Ad Agency: TDA_Boulder.
Hey look, no celebrities, no cute animals (OK, a mosquito), no overblown CGI horseshit. No voice-over, minimal production cost. Just a funny, unforgettable product “demonstration.” Agency: DDB Needham, Dallas.
It was a cheap (albeit, hilarious) stunt ad, but you fucking remembered it. And it raised awareness of E-Trade about a million percent (≈). Breaking the 3rd (or is it the 4th?) wall by telling viewers how much money they were wasting on the commercial was a great idea for a financial company. Fuck the talking baby. Ad agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners. (The CW was Gerry Graf who of course went on to start his own very good agency.)
The much-loved Xerox “Brother Dominic” campaign is what creatives (used to) call a Big Idea. It wasn’t the best Big Idea ever, or even “great”, IMHO. But this launch spot had a smart narrative, drama, and what became an iconic sign off line: “It's a miracle”. And it sold the Hell out of Xerox. Today’s Tech brands, with their mostly shitty and/or bland ads, should take note. Ad agency: Needham, Harper & Steers, Chicago.
Yes, this ad only aired in Canada because American sports fans don’t like hockey because they’re idiots. But! This is how you do a Flash Mob, an ad linchpin that was big 10 years ago. The looks on the stunned amateur players’ faces are priceless. It’s one of the best things Bud has ever done. Ad agency: Anomaly.
“GAME TIME IS PAIN TIME BABY!”
Well, this ad sure as shit didn’t sell me on Reebok sneakers (ew). But it is one of the funniest Super Bowl spots ever. “Tate” (ex-NFLer Lester Speight) is great. And the hits! OMFG. Even on women. That would def not go over well in 2022. The idea and character were created by director Rawson Marshall Thurber.
OK, this ad didn’t “air” during the Super Bowl. It was one of five finalists in Doritos’ eighth annual Crash the Super Bowl contest. It was better than the top-vote-getting “winner” (which was pretty good). It is one of the best snack food ads ever made. A finger glory hole—brilliant! It is perfectly cast. It is forever memorable. It makes me want to eat Doritos (something I don’t do). The commercial was created by Australian director Tom Noakes.
But here was the controversial rub: “Finger Cleaner” on the morning after the game had over 600,000 more YouTube views than the two top contest vote-getters, combined. Frito-Lay, very conveniently, didn’t published the tally from their supposed online poll.
I think the results of this contest were bullshit. I think what happened was “Finger Cleaner,” and its admittedly creepy premise, scared the living shit out Frito-Lay’s execs and they just ignored its (winning) vote tally. Read more about what happened here in my article on VICE.
Lastly, it’s the best Super Bowl commercial in history. Period. Simple, smart, and it hit the nerves—Hard—of a lot of unhappily employed people. And, it made Monster an instant job-search player. Agency: MullenLowe, Boston.
UPDATE: Tide 2008
Sorry! I forgot another funny spot, the first Super Bowl ad Procter&Gamble ever ran. The stain’s gibberish-talking "voice” is goddamn knee-slappingly, side-splittingly hilarious. Ad agency: Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
You got a favorite Super Bowl ad? Leave it in the comments for me to rip to shreds.