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You’ve loaded up on chips, packed the fridge with brewskies and have the upholstery cleaner on speed dial. In other words, you’re ready for the Super Bowl (or, as those of us who haven’t forked over big bucks to the NFL are supposed to call it, “The Big Game”).

Not so fast. Before you settle in for…The Big Game…take a few minutes to get primed for the onslaught of quality commercials you’re about to see.

Luke Sullivan is one of the great admen of our generation. In addition to winning more awards than would fit in a two-car garage, he’s written what is perhaps the best book ever on the craft of copywriting, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.

He also writes a mean blog, aptly named Hey Whipple (well worth subscribing to).

This week he posted an essay on his favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time. Rather than join the ranks of the Monday Morning Quarterbacks (last football analogy of the post, I promise) who’ll be picking apart this year’s spots scene by scene, I thought you might find his post more enjoyable. With Luke’s permission, I present it here.

My All-Time Fave Super Bowl Commercials

By Luke Sullivan (aka Hey Whipple)

I’ve just spent a good bit of time on a site that has pretty much every Super Bowl spot that’s ever aired. I concentrated on just the last ten years of spots; looked at ’em all, one after another kinda like they do in award shows. After awhile all this watching created a new kind of clutter, “Super Bowl Clutter” if you will. But a few spots still stood out. I’ve listed 11 of them below, countin’ backwards from 2010. Not every year had one of my faves and a couple of years, like 2000, had a buncha great spots. For what it’s worth, here’s my list and a word or two about why.

2010 Google’s “Parisian Love” – First of all, I like how inexpensive it is. Just being inexpensive is one way to stand out out in the Super Bowl clutter. Being simple helps too. I love how they didn’t try to be funny. Everybody tries to be funny. This spot has real emotion to it. This a great brand spot but it’s also a great product demonstration. Lastly, I loved hearing the spot was created by a few interns at Google.

2009 Miller High Life’s One-Second spot – What a cool way to leverage the huge audience without paying for a full :30. I guess you call it an :01. Most of the marketing was done before this spot ran on the Super Bowl – in PR and online. What’s more, the spot itself (as well as all the other marketing they did around this unique media buy) it all stayed true to the Miller High Life message of “Don’t spend money on any high-falutin’ expensive bullshit.”

2008 Tide To Go – OMG, for sheer laugh-out-loud power, this spot just killed me and killed pretty much all other spots in the 2008 Super Bowl (except the next one on this list). And imagine, it was done for TIDE! Whoodathunk? Again, I like how low-key and inexpensive it is. That, and how damn funny it is.

2008 CocaCola – While the Tide-To-Go spot was the funniest spot that year, this Coke spot also killed. And it did it with emotion, not humor. And I’m not even sure which emotion. Was it … nostalgia? I’m not exactly sure, but damn this spot from Weiden + Kennedy kicked ass. I hope they keep running it during the holidays forEVer.

2005 Budweiser – In this spot, some soldiers arrive at an airport (presumably going to or coming back from the Middle East) and all the travelers in the airport honor them with a long round of appreciative applause. The whole scene has diddly-squat to do with beer but nobody cared because it was so cool. (NOTE: “Best Commercial Ever” title above video not mine.)

2004 Fed Ex – Over the years, Fed Ex has been a regular contributor of some great Super Bowl spots, but in 2004 they did my favorite. I can only imagine what the pitch sounded like … “Okay, so in this spot an alien (‘disguised’ as a human by a stupid paper face-mask) anyway, the alien, he’s landed a job at some corporate mail room, and these two guys are trying to expose him, but because the alien knows to say, ‘Why don’t we use Fed Ex?’, he both impresses and fools the boss and the kicker is it’s the guys who get in trouble.” Damn, wish I coulda been in that room. (And that last “I’ll be watching you” gesture? Kills me.)

2003 Bud’s Clydesdales – Yes, these spots are good, they’re iconic, but overall I’m still not crazy for most of the Clydesdale commercials. But this one, running as it did on the Super Bowl, man I thought it rocked. I love how the story starts off with the image of the Clydesdales’ feet on tape; being played, rewound, played, rewound. Camera pulls back and it all makes sense. So nice.

BBDO may have the most Super Bowl buys and lots of great work, but pound for pound, Goodby Silverstein & Partners is the best agency on the Big Game. They’ve had great stuff for Doritos, for Emerald Nuts, the Bud lizards, but this spot for eTrade…”He’s got money coming out of the wazoo”…Man oh man, Goodby, I bow to thee, I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy … (VO FADES)

2000’s EDS’s Cat Herders – My buddy Dean Hanson did this one when he was at Fallon. (I think Greg Hahn was the writer.) Not only is the spot funny, its big production values actually add to the humor. (Usually people overspend trying to buy their way to a funny spot, and it doesn’t work.) Also noteworthy is how they succeeded in describing a complicated service like EDS.

2000 eTrade – Two doofuses and a monkey in a garage do stupid things for 25 seconds and then the super comes up: “We just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?” Yet another monstrously great spot from Goodby, and one that could make sense only on the Super Bowl.

Apple 2001 – Remember how everyone was worried about “Y2K” and how the world would grind to stop because of a computer glitch? Apple wasn’t worried. This is probably my favorite spot on this list. It was timely; the year is 2001 and they’re leveraging a popular and relevant image from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its extremely low production values, its simplicity, its newsy and relevant message all made for a spot that just blew away the Super Bowl Clutter around it.

I want to thank Luke for allowing me to share his post with you. He’s picked some real gems, though I must admit I have an issue with the Coca Cola “Balloons” spot…a little too syrupy for my tastes, plus the Spielberg-ian score makes it sound like a movie trailer. Plus, it creeps me out in a I-hate-clowns kinda way.

So now that we’ve all been reminded at how high the “ad bar” is set for Sunday, let’s get at it.

And if you need one, I know a great upholstery guy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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