By: Hilary Rocks

  • Published:
  • Under: Media & Advertising
super bowl ad

Super Bowl Sunday means hours of athleticism and rabid fandom for spectators. But for those of us in the marketing and advertising industry, the game takes on a different meaning. We sit patiently through the game, waiting for the nail-biting, heartstring tugging, gag-inducing ads from the nation’s most well-known brands. We watch, we listen, we tweet. We remark on the ad dollars spend, the impressions gained, the perspectives changed. This is where brands have a moment (or really, 30 seconds) to shine—after all, America is watching.

This year’s starting lineup of ads was impressive, but some ads from past years still rank first for CHIEF. Below, a few members of our team recall their favorite ads from years past:

Chris Lester, Principal and Chief Creative Officer

  • What was the most memorable Super Bowl ad?

The most memorable ad for me was the 1984 Apple commercial—not because of the ad itself, but because of what it represented. It perfectly framed what Apple represented in a simple and powerful narrative. There was no confusion about what it meant and whose ad it was, and it set the stage for the company that Apple has become.

  • What made that ad "sticky?" 

The ad was powerful and memorable because of the iconic nature of the narrative—the classic David and Goliath/good vs. evil story that clearly put Apple on the “good” side, making the brand relatable and a hero of the people.

Amanda Nguyen, Director of Strategy

  • What was the most memorable Super Bowl ad?

While there are many that stand out, the Budweiser Wassup? ads were remarkable in that the expression crossed over into pop culture.

  • What made that ad "sticky?" 

The tone connected with a cross-section of America in a big way, making it a big winner. It's also worth noting that Budweiser's Clydesdales captivate audiences through an entirely different approach, with an emotional appeal that often tug on our heartstrings. Cute animals are always a winning strategy. 

Lauren Villenueve, Associate Director, Strategy:

  • What was the most memorable Super Bowl ad?

I was brought to tears by the USO/Jeep Super Bowl commercial in 2013. It was the first time in over 25 years of watching the game that I understood Super Bowl advertising could mean so much more than just being a funny punch line or an innovative concept. Jeep placed a two-plus minute commercial (30 second cost: $4 million...woah) that focused solely on honoring our military and their families.

  • What made that ad "sticky?" 

The USO/Jeep ad really stood apart from the other commercials that year because it focused on highlighting pride in our nation. Plus, Oprah was the narrator. Super Bowl, Jeeps, Military Pride and Oprah...I can't think of anything more American.

Karine Bailly, Associate Director, Strategy

  • What was the most memorable Super Bowl ad?

I cooed and chuckled my way through the Heinz “Weiner Stampede” spot—and I don’t think I’m alone on that front.

  • What made that ad "sticky?" 

The spot essentially boils down to a brilliant double entendre: a fleet of wieners (the dog) dressed as wieners (the hot dog). It’s so good—but it doesn’t stop there! Those cute little wieners are running full-speed ahead toward a coterie of (people dressed as) Heinz condiments. It’s a well-played nod at offensive and defensive football field positions, and so too does it convey the clear message that “It’s hard to resist great taste,” in the words of the closing voiceover. All of the above to say: it’s one of those spots that leaves viewers roaring, “Who thinks of these things?!”

Anuj Vedak, Chief Performance Officer

  • What was the most memorable Super Bowl ad?

I've always loved the McDonald's 1993 spot titled "The Showdown," featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing an eternal game of Horse for a Big Mac and fries. 

  • What made that ad "sticky?" 

It had everything I ever wanted as a kid living in 1993—basketball, superstars and McDonald's! As a sports fan, there was nobody bigger at that time than Jordan and Bird. Above all, it was fun, entertaining and something you could actually imagine happening. Maybe Jordan and Bird weren't really making shots off of scoreboards and over expressways, but you could realistically believe that two of the most competitive athletes of their generation would be challenging each other's greatness for pride, let alone a bag of fast food.

Clearly, our favorites from past years are Super Bowl champs. Although this year’s ads followed in their footsteps, the advertisers also had to consider today’s technological challenges. Amanda Nguyen noted that today, even though brands spend big bucks on their Big Game spot,  “it's less about what happens during the game and more about [what happens] before and after.” With more and more at-home spectators using multiple screens (television, tablet, mobile, etc.), brands are more likely to “release content via owned channels to appeal to a broader audience and seek to engage customers on a deeper level.” 

Apart from adapting to consumers’ media habits, brands have also made the leap into politics and social issues—something that might once have been foul play. Karine Bailly commented that “in times of uncertainty, generations of people have looked to beloved brands to whom they can pledge their allegiance.” Lauren Villeneuve added that today’s political landscape will likely encourage brands to promote “messages about unity and coming together.” Chris Lester noted that this year, whether it was “Audi’s vocal commitment to gender equality or 84 Lumber’s statement on immigration and the American dream, brands are using ads to make a statement—and that’s exciting.”

So while some of you recap the play-by-play of the game itself, we’ll wax on about the ads, the brands and the messages. After all, it’s only a football game.