Winning the Brand Bowl: Our Favorite Super Bowl Ads

As this year’s Super Bowl approaches, there seems to be as much hype about the commercials as there is about the football game. And now that most brands release their spots (or teasers) on YouTube prior to the big game, there is less suspense about the content. But with thirty-second spots selling for as much as $5 million, the stakes for winning the “brand bowl” – having your ad recognized as one of the best of the day – are still very high.

Every year there are some clear winners – ads that made us laugh or tugged at our heartstrings – yet few stick with us longer than the indigestion from the game day nachos. Over the years, though, there have been a few examples of ads that were so creative, effective or just downright memorable that they remain one of our favorite Super Bowl ads to this day.

Sure, we’ve all heard about Apple’s groundbreaking “1984” ad, and remember Budweiser’s “Wassup?” ad because of all the parodies it spawned. But which have been the most memorable for you personally?

We took an internal poll, and here are a few of Prophet’s all-time favorites:

Coca-Cola, “Hey Kid, Catch!” – This classic feel-good ad expertly blended humor, emotion and good old-fashioned Americana. With the help of an adoring kid and a bottle of Coke, “Mean Joe” Greene shows his softer side, fulfilling every kid’s sports hero fantasy. It’s a story that resonates universally, and also reinforces the brand’s then-tagline, “Have a Coke and a smile,” because it’s basically impossible to watch it without doing just that.

Tide, “Talking Stain” – Not only is the ad hilarious, but it also clearly communicates the product’s value proposition. How many times have you remembered an entertaining ad, but not been able to recall the company that produced it? Too many Super Bowl commercials place so much emphasis on humor that the connection to the product gets completely lost. But in this case, Tide was able to make a boring product (a stain remover pen) funny by depicting its usefulness in a real world, albeit exaggerated, scenario.

Chrysler, “Imported from Detroit” – This ad brilliantly tapped into the climate of the country and the psyche of the audience in the midst of the Great Recession. Chrysler’s two-minute ad depicted familiar landmarks in the Motor City while the voiceover talked about a town going “to hell and back.” Set to “Lose Yourself,” the rousing anthem from Detroit’s own Eminem, the spot captured the essence of a city rising from the ashes, and provided hope that the whole country could do the same. The tagline at the end, “Imported from Detroit,” was poignant and inspiring.

Miller High Life, “One Second Ad” – Although some could have literally blinked and missed it, if you saw the one-second ad from Miller High Life, it’s likely you still remember it. Consisting only of the High Life beer truck driver standing in a warehouse full of beer yelling “High Life!” the ad is the shortest in game day history. Functioning both as a nod to how expensive ad time is during the Super Bowl, and as a jarring contrast to the normal over-the-top commercials, this ad stood out. It also proved to be very effective – High Life sales rose 8.6% the week following the game.

Budweiser, “Clydesdales Honoring New York” – Budweiser’s Clydesdale commercials are Super Bowl tradition, and each year they tend to be audience favorites. Yet one stands out as particularly special. The 2002 Super Bowl aired a few short months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and seeing the classic and familiar Clydesdales walking from their country stables to the outskirts of New York City and bowing down in respect helped comfort a nation. The brand only aired the ad once, and included a call to action to donate to the September 11th memorial fund at the end.

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