Super Bowl ads are looked forward to almost as much as the big game itself. Sure to astonish, horrify, or otherwise entertain, Super Bowl ads are a chance for the brightest minds in marketing to flex their creative muscle and hit the world with the most effective ad they can think up. Sometimes these ads flop, but others create lasting impressions that are talked about at office water coolers for weeks following the game. Today we recall the best Super Bowl ad from each year of the past decade, and examine what made it such a hit.
2000 – E-Trade: Dancing Monkey
Easily the most memorable commercial of 2000, the E-Trade “Dancing Monkey” commercial features two goofy-looking men in a garage making a monkey dance to music. The spot has no over-all point to it, and concludes with “Well, we just wasted $2,000,000. What are you doing with your money?” Everyone knows that Super Bowl commercials are astronomically expensive to run, and this commercial was successful because it openly poked fun at itself by blowing money on nothing, and then challenging you to use your money more wisely. Essentially, it became the best commercial of the year by trying to be a terrible commercial.
2001 – Budweiser: What Are You Doing?
Budweiser is known for creating some of the Super Bowl’s most memorable commercials. In 2001 they gave us “What Are You Doing,” a hilarious parody of their famous “Wuzzup?” commercials from years prior. In this ad, they explore how a typical “Wuzzup” conversation might go between ultra-preppy suburbanites.
2002 – Budweiser: Respects To 9/11
Super Bowl commercials are known for being comical, but in 2002 the most memorable ad was a tastefully done tribute to the 9/11 disaster that occurred only several short months earlier. The commercial featured the famous Budweiser Clydesdales trotting through the streets of America, rousing attention from passerbys, until they came to outskirts of New York. The horses then stare in solemn recognition at the spot where the Twin Towers once stood, and kneel with respect. The emotional tone set by the commercial was just right for the time period, and it was a moving success.
2003 – Terry Tate: Office Linebacker
Terry Tate is one one heck of an imposing force – a giant, loud wall of a man sent to clean up corporate America with good old fashioned football violence. Despite not being a real NFL football player, Tate takes to the headquarters of Felcher & Sons to set the employees straight. Hollering out lines like “Break was over 15 minutes ago, Mitch,” and tacking office drones to the ground, Tate showed America that they should be happy their bosses don’t employ professional linebackers.
2004 – Budweiser: Sleigh Ride
In 2004, Budweiser showed us all why horse drawn sleigh rides aren’t always as romantic as they seem. As our winter Romeo breaks out a candle and some Bud Light for his lucky lady, the horse breaks serious wind and literally ignites the moment. This commercial didn’t exactly paint the most appetizing picture for Budweiser, but the laughs it got from buzzed viewers nationwide more than made up for it.
2005 – EDS: Cat Herding
Halfway through the last decade of sports, EDS gave viewers one of the downright funniest Super Bowl commercials of all time. The ad featured a completely ludicrous situation in which a ranch full of cowboys began herding cats instead of cattle. Reaching for them in trees and chasing them down on horseback, the cat herders praised their profession as a dream job. Somehow, EDS brought this incredibly ridiculous situation around and effectively compared it to the way they move information and services around for their clients.
2006 – Degree: Stunt City
Welcome to Stunt City, a town thought up by Degree in which everything is always how it is in big Hollywood action movies. People drive on two wheels, throw themselves through glass, and hitch rides on the tops of taxi cabs. The idea here was that if it Degree was strong enough to prevent citizens of Stunt City from sweating, it could clearly work for your every day life. The special effects and cinematography of this commercial were impressive, and combined with the comical idea of Stunt City, made it one of the most memorable ads from 2006.
2007 – Budweiser: Fist Bump
Apparently tired of the traditional fist bump, Budweiser set out to create a new fad in 2007: the friendly open-hand smack across the face. Having nothing at all to do with Budweiser, this commercial succeeded in making America double over in laughter at the idea of slapping their friends and bosses across the face. Much like Budweiser’s other commercials, this ad proves that you don’t always need to focus on your product to arouse interest in your brand.
2008 – Pepsi: Justin Timberlake
While celebrity appearances don’t automatically make a commercial a winner, Pepsi showed the world how to do it effectively in 2008. Promoting a special contest that gave Pepsi drinkers the chance to meet Justin Timberlake, the ad utilized a clearly beefy budget and clean special effects to show Timberlake being yanked by invisible forces into a girl’s backyard. Along the improbable journey, some painful injuries take place until he is eventually knocked unconscious. In this ad, Justin showed the world that he has a sense of humor, and Pepsi showed us that they have more creativity than to just have a celebrity walk on screen and say a few nice comments about the soda.
2009 – Denny’s: Nannerpuss
Meet Nannerpuss, the loveable and flamboyant spokesperson for those who aren’t serious about their breakfast. Alternatively, for those who don’t play games when it comes to the first meal of the day, there’s Denny’s. This ad got people laughing with the random and absurd image of Nannerpuss dancing atop pancakes, but succeeded when it drove the point home that Denny’s breakfast is bigger and heartier than any other restaurant. To prove this bold claim, the ad went a step forward and offered a free breakfast to everyone in America who came to Denny’s the following Tuesday.
2010 – Old Spice: Smell Like A Man
Perhaps the most successful Super Bowl ad of all time, Old Spice’s “Smell Like A Man” commercial inspired a cult following of a YouTubers. In the months following the airing of the commercial, it received tens of millions of views online and quickly became one of the most talked about YouTube videos on the entire site. This was enough to inspire Old Spice to create several follow up commercials, and eventually a full-blown social media campaign in which hundreds of Twitter followers and YouTube commenter could have their questions answered by the commercial’s actor in their own personal video.
2011 – Volkswagen: The Force
Volkswagen’s commercial, “The Force,” which had 15 million views, 72,000 likes, and 13,000 comments by 8 a.m. Monday. BrightWave Marketing CEO Simms Jenkins pointed out that the ad appeared on Facebook 24 hours before the Super Bowl. “Well played on the viral leak which built anticipation and a lot more eyeballs than just during the game,” he said in an e-mail interview.