…at least according to us.
There are many similar lists of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, and this one is ours. To be on this list, the spot needs to be memorable, incite conversation, and clearly represent the value proposition of the brand. Some of these spots are laugh out loud funny. Some of these spots are real tearjerkers. But, they are the best of the best. Here are our top 20 Super Bowl commercials of all-time, spanning five decades.
20. 2010: Google – Parisian Love, by Google Creative Lab
This spot probably won’t appear on too many lists of best Super Bowl commercials of all time, but this is a fantastic ad. It’s essentially a :50-product demo wrapped in an emotions-tugging story. How cool is that? No agency here, it was created by 5 young Google recruits. As we say, great ideas can come from anywhere.
19. 2006: Dove – Little Girls, by Ogilvy & Mather
If you’re a father of daughters, this spot probably makes you a bit teary eyed. Set to Cyndi Lauper’s, True Colors, it shows beautiful young ladies of various ethnic backgrounds and some of the insecurities that plague our youth. Sung by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, this self-esteem building spot is key in Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.
18. 1998: Tabasco – Mosquito, by DDB Needham
You can sell a lot of hot sauce with a sweaty guy in a swamp eating some pizza. That may sound a bit odd, but that’s what Tabasco did in 1998. This spot, created by DDB Needham, helps to turn brand loyalists to brand fanatics. Hot sauce folks are obviously passionate about their favs, but this spot was before the craze hit. #original
17. 1975: McDonald’s – Big Mac Song, by Needham Harper & Steers
McDonald’s has had some great Super Bowl spots throughout the years (i.e Michael Jordon and Looney Tunes, Magic and Bird), but this one is tops. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. No CGI. No special effects. No babies. No animals. It only had a really catching jingle. Remarkable!
16. 2009: Doritos – Crystal Ball, by Dave & Joe Herbert
Our philosophy is that a great idea can came from anywhere, and this spot proves that point. Dave and Joe Herbert submitted this spot in an open contest Doritos was running to find their next Super Bowl commercial. It’s simple. It’s funny. People were talking about for days. Inspiring, Herberts.
15. 2010: Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, by Weiden+Kennedy
Probably the most steamy spot on our list is this one by Old Spice. Viewed over 55m times on YouTube, the commercial starred Isaiah Mustafa, who played in the NFL as a wide receiver for 4 years, as the shower-taking, horse riding hero. It’s hard to believe that the only special effect used in this spot is the seashell turning into diamonds.
14. 1979: EF Hutton – Joggers, by Benton & Bowles
“When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” When I was a kid, that was one of the first commercials I remember that transcended advertising. I remember tell my parents, “When Tony talks, people listen.” They usually laughed and dismissed it though. Although the brand has fallen on hard times, this spot started an iconic campaign that resonated for years.
13. 1984: Wendy’s – Fluffy Bun (Where’s the Beef?), by Dancer Fitzgerald Sample
Who can forget Clara Peller and this iconic catch phrase? The goal of this commercial was to combat the Big Mac and the Whopper. Wendy’s believed those burgers were all bun with little meat, and the spot was born. The spot is credited to have lifted Wendy’s sales 31%. Unfortunately, Wendy’s ended their relationship with Peller a year later when they claimed her appearance on a Prego commercial violated a non-compete.
12. 1971: Coca-Cola – Hilltop, by McCann Erickson
So this commercial wasn’t the brainchild of Don Draper, but rather Bill Backer, a creative director at McCann-Erickson. Due to heavy fog, his flight to London was diverted to Ireland. The next morning, he went back to the airport to fly to London, and he noticed that many of the passengers that were irate the day before, were now laughing and sharing stories over bottles Coke.
11. 2000: EDS – Cat Herders, by Fallon
When I first saw this spot during the game, I started laughing in the first 5 seconds. Maybe it was the deadpan delivery of the actors, but as it turns out, those weren’t actors. Fallon wanted to use real cowboys and not actors, so they searched western states until they had their group. While the cowboys on horses were shot separate from the cats (nobody wants to see cats get trampled), the end result was a classic western tale. EDS no longer exists, but this commercial does.
10. 2000: Budweiser – Whassup, by DDB Worldwide
Many of the commercials on this list have transcended advertising and became a part of pop culture, and this gem is no different. The spot started as a film called, True, and the creator of the film was also one of the 4 friends in the spot. To this day, the spot stands up as a showcase on how to take an older brand and make it hip and cool again.
9. 1992: Pepsi – New Can, by BBDO
This spot may epitomize Super Bowl advertising more than any other spot on this list. Take an iconic advertiser. Check. Add a popular song. Check. Feature a beautiful super model. Check. You have this 1992 spot starring Cindy Crawford. Pepsi has done other versions of this spot in 2002 and 2018, and while the cans change, the iconic song and the beautiful Cindy Crawford appear to be ageless.
8. 2002: Budweiser – Respect, by Hill, Holliday, Connors Cosmopulos
With the attacks during 9/11 still fresh in our memories, Super Bowl advertisers were faced with a difficult decision—should brands mention the national tragedy, and if they did, how to do it with respect and humility? Leave it to Budweiser to get it right. Bravo bud, and bravo Hill Holliday.
7. 1995: Budweiser – Frogs, by D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles
In 1995, the commercials were more entertaining than the actual game between the 49ers and the Chargers. This bright spot came to us from Budweiser (the first of 2 spots on my list). Directed by famed Gore Verbinski, and shot at Universal Studio’s Phantom of the Opera set, this spot is pure genius.
6. 1984: Apple – 1984, by Chiat\Day
It’s no wonder this spot is #1 on many lists. Filmed by the great, Ridley Scott, and under the creative direction of Lee Clow, this commercial was a true watershed event in American Advertising. This piece of art was launching the new Apple Macintosh personal computer. This spot is in every advertising hall of fame that anyone cares about. Not bad for a spot that only aired on TV twice.
5. 2011: Volkswagen – The Force, by Deutsch
The Force was one of two spots to air during the Super Bowl for Volkswagen in 2011, but it is clearly the most memorable. The spot was released on YouTube 4 days prior to the game, and it had 17m views before the Super Bowl began. It paid for itself before the Super Bowl even began. That’s incredible.
4. 2008: E-Trade – Baby Trading, by Grey
Who doesn’t love a hip-talking baby encouraging you to invest in the stock market with E-Trade? The babies went on to star in 6 consecutive Super Bowls, from 2008 – 2013. However, a change in leadership at E-Trade followed, and Gray and the talking baby were out, but its still a top 5 ad to us. “Check it.”
3. 2013: Dodge – Farmer, by Richards Group
Oh my goodness. Paul Harvey narrating with those photos of what seemed to be taken from my childhood. I literally cried when I saw that spot. The 3 top spots on my list can be interchanged, and I wouldn’t put up an argument. I still show new employees this spot as an example of how great advertising can be. I spent an hour the day after the Super Bowl watching YouTube videos of Paul Harvey.
2. 1999: Monster.com – When I Grow Up, by Mullen
Before the spot aired during the 1999 Super Bowl, Monster.com averaged 1.5m visitors to the website per month. After the spot aired, Monster.com averaged 2.5m visitors per month for the rest of the year. I started working at Mullen in June of 1999, and the agency was still buzzing about the success of the spot. Well done, comrades.
1. 1980: Coca-Cola – Early Showers (Hey Kid), by McCann-Erickson
It’s hard to imagine this brilliant spot with any other football player besides “Mean” Joe Greene. According to the ad’s copywriter, Penny Hawkey, “Several names were thrown out – Tony Dorsett, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene,” she said, admitting that she wasn’t a big football fan at the time. And I said, ‘Wait, there’s somebody actually named ‘Mean’ Joe Greene? Can we get him?” The rest is history.