by Robert Ferringo - 01/31/2006
The 120 million people that tune into the Super Bowl on Sunday won't be doing so just to worship the athleticism and determination of men who thrive in systems of controlled violence. The gathering will also be a global celebration of Capitalism and Consumerism and the Almighty Economy.
In certain circles, the actual sporting event is a sideshow. For some, the avalanche of commercials and advertising is the real entertainment. The stakes are high in their game, as many fortunes have been won and lost on the success and failure of a single marketing campaign.
For this year's game, businesses will pay an estimated $2.5 million for a 30-second spot. That's $83,333 per second. For many businesses, the Super Bowl is their only TV marketing operation for the entire year. For others, it's the time to flex their muscle and sway the market with a catchy slogan or clever mascot.
While the goal of Pittsburgh and Seattle is to enter the record as a Super Bowl champion, the focus of advertising executives across the country is for their spot to enter the Pantheon of ad commercials remembered long after the final play. Here is one man's look at what they're competing for - a spot on Doc's Sports Top 10 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All-Time:
10) Master Lock (1974): "Marksman"
After this ad, people looked at padlocks the same way I look at guys who wear socks and sandals or pink polo shirts - they just wanted to put a bullet in them. I wasn't even born when this ad debuted, but I know exactly what it looks like. That's staying power.
9) Pepsi (1996): "Security Camera"
This was the spot with a Coke delivery man who tries to sneak a can of Pepsi out of the cooler. Soon after he grabs the can, several hundred Pepsis come pouring out onto the floor. I'm normally nauseous at the sound of country music, but the background tune of "Your Cheatin' Heart" was a great call.
8) Coke (1979): "Mean Joe Greene"
While I don't understand what the big deal surrounding this ad is, it's on the list out of respect. I suppose it would be like Mike Tyson doing an ad for Huggies. Or something like that. But personally, I was always a little disturbed by the fact that "Mean Joe" started stripping down in front of some kid.
7) Monster.com (1999): "When I Grow Up"
"When I grow up, I want to be a 'Yes' man."
"When I grow up, I want to be stuck in middle management."
It's no often that you get a chance to push a product and mock your target audience at the same time. This ad did both. While some people thought "Oh, that's funny" or "Oh, that's cute", there was definitely a guy in the back of the room thinking, "Man, those kids make me want to bring my double-barrel to the box factory tomorrow."
6) Reebok (2003): "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker"
Hey, pain is funny. Especially when it's weak white guys getting pummeled by a large black man. I mean, who can't identify with wanting to spear a co-worker? As for Tate, the guy parlayed those 30-seconds into an entire career. He still tours the country as a motivational speaker for god's sake. Talk about living your shtick.
5) Budweiser (1995): "Budweiser Frogs"
Toads are good for licking (in order to hallucinate) and frogs are good for selling beer. Beyond that, I don't know much.
Right now, somewhere, someone you know has a shirt, a doll, or a drinking glass with something related to the Budweiser frogs. The premise is absurd - three frogs in the swamp croaking the name of the beer - but the campaign made drinking a Bud seem like the most natural and relaxing thing in the world.
4) Budweiser (2001): "Whassup?"
Every now and then someone trying way to hard will break this out as a way to greet their boys. It's usually met with ridicule. While it's amazingly annoying now, at the time it was an acceptable way for men from all backgrounds - geeky Jewish guys, wannabe gangster rappers, and blue-collar hicks from the sticks - to break the ice.
3) Budweiser (1988-1992): "Bud Bowl"
An underappreciated aspect of these commercials is that they were usually more entertaining than the game. While Budweiser didn't invent the concept of "chapter ads", this annual series was the ultimate execution of it.
(You'll notice that Bud dominates this list. That's because in a capitalist economy the one with the most money wins. Anheuser-Busch has spent more on Super Bowl ads than any other business for eight years in a row. That includes a reported $24 million in 2005 for ten 30-second ads. Not like that money couldn't be used for something more meaningful, but I digress.)
2) E-trade (2000): "Wasted Two Million"
Hilarious. Confusing. Bizarre. No spot has ever summed up the absurdity of the Super Bowl Commercial Craze than this. If you don't remember, this ad featured a monkey and two "slow" men in a garage. The monkey is jumping and dancing on top of a box, and the two inbreds are clapping to the polka music in the background. After 30 seconds of this pure nonsense, a simple and ironic phrase flashes across the screen: "Well, I guess we just wasted two million bucks. What are you doing with your money?"
No one knew what had just hit them, the product message came across loud and clear, it made a mockery of our Dollar Worship, and it got people talking. Home run.
1) Apple (1984): "1984"
Brilliant, and socially relevant, this ad starts as a dull spot set in an Orwellian age. Big Brother, representing IBM, is droning on in front of a group of soulless drudges on a gigantic monitor. Suddenly, a blonde woman comes charging in from the back of the room and hurls a slow-moving sledgehammer (representing the new MacIntosh computer) at the screen, shattering it.
This ad is an artistic success because of its sharp contrasts, smooth cuts, and the utilization of a clever literary reference. Due to the clear vision and over-arching message of the spot, this is clearly number one.
I still get chills seeing it on the screen, knowing now that the metaphoric rebellion that took place in that 60 seconds actually manifested itself into the Information Revolution, and has changed things for all time.
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