Even if you don’t know which team is wearing white or what the hell a “safety” is, you, like many others across the country, will tune into the game for two reasons: the halftime show and the commercials. With an expected audience of over 100 million people and an average 30-second slot costing around $5 million, the Super Bowl commercials have become just as much a spectacle as the game itself. In preparation for this year’s festivities, let us follow the Spirit of Super Bowl Past and relive five of the most iconic moments in American advertising history.
#5 “Hey Kid, Catch!” (1980)
Throwing it way back to where it all began, this Coca-Cola ad features then Pittsburgh Steelers lineman “Mean” Joe Greene and a young fan who offers the disgruntled giant his Coke. Greene begrudgingly accepts, downs the bottle in five seconds flat, shoots the kid a gleaming smile and shouts, “Hey kid, catch!” as he tosses him his game towel. It may seem rudimentary and cliché by today’s standards but that’s only because Coca-Cola paved the way for the simple and clever setup-reward concept that would come to characterize ads for the following decades.
#4 “Betty White Snickers” (2010 - present)
We all know the slogan, “You’re not you when you’re hungry. Have a Snickers.” Countless spinoffs are still being made, but it all started with Betty White. In a game of backyard football, she portrays a teammate who isn’t performing up to par. It is only when she eats a Snickers that she transforms back into one of the guys. The fact that we see Betty White – an aging, foul-mouthed lady with white hair – berating her teammates and getting body slammed into the muddy grass makes even the most stoic of audience members chuckle.
#3 “Wassup?” (1999 - 2002)
The catch phrase that developed into a cultural phenomenon. Budweiser, a brand famous for their simple and humorous advertising, turned three beer-drinking, football-loving friends into one of the most successful campaigns of all time. The phrase has made appearances all over pop culture, including shows such as “The Office,” “Friends” and “The Simpsons.” If that wasn’t enough, “Wassup?” won a number of prestigious awards in communication and advertising like the Cannes Grand Prix award and the Grand Clio award just to name a few. In May 2006, the campaign was inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame.
#2 “The Showdown” (1993)
McDonald’s managed to get two of the greatest players in NBA history on the same court for a game of Pig wherein the winner got a Big Mac and the loser had to watch the other eat it. The shots get increasingly more absurd and implausible as they start calling shots standing literally outside of the building. They go back and forth for 60 seconds, never missing a shot because the delicious taste of Big Mac is just simply too good to lose. This commercial was a fan favorite from its release and has since become one of the most iconic moments in advertising.
#1 “Cat Herders” (2000)
Electronic Data Systems (EDS) may not have the brand recognition of some of the other companies on this list, but that didn’t stop them from producing arguably the wittiest, most cinematic commercial in Super Bowl history. The premise is a clever allusion to the corporate idiom, “It’s like herding cats,” which refers to the difficulty of managing a group of people. To convey this, they create an elaborate Western metaphor that tells the story of a group of grizzled cowboys who have made a tough living herding wild cats. Their tales mock many of the genre’s cliches about family tradition and blue-collar living. Then-President Bill Clinton even cited it as his favorite commercial of the year; it’s funny, smart and effective.
Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.