Most fans who watch the Super Bowl on TV at home or at a local bar don’t care that commercials during the annual sports extravaganza cost advertisers millions. During almost a half-century of Super Bowls, advertisers are always willing to pay top dollar just for the bragging rights of being part of the event. During those years they’ve come up with some memorable commercials that are today considered classics. Here are my top five Super Bowl commercials of all time:
Apple Macintosh Computers (1984)
This was the moment when computers were evolving from rooms full of massive machines to desktops. Because the year number had already been popular in George Orwell’s 1949 book predicting the grim future, Apple’s newly-introduced Macintosh was sensationized in this classic commercial. It showed futurist scenes of a huge Big Brother face and a running girl athlete who smashed his screen image. A confusing idea, but the dramatic impact is still talked about to this day.
Budweiser Beer (1995)
Three animated frogs sit on swamp lily pads croaking out the beer’s name, each saying one of the three syllables. It may have caused many viewers to pause on their way to the refrigerator for more beer or to the bathroom. They could enjoy a chuckle before the Super Bowl resumed play. The scene ended when the camera pulled away from the frogs to a tavern with a lighted Budweiser sign. This great commercial may have spawned other animated animal ads, such as the GEICO gekko and the AFLAC duck.
Coca Cola (1979)
Mean Joe Green earned his nickname in the years he was All-Pro tackle on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact that the Steelers won three 1970s Super Bowls made his presence in this commercial all the more effective. The scene shows him limping wearily toward the locker room after a hard game. A little boy offers Green a Coke, and after taking it, the big athlete takes off his jersey and gives it to the boy. Shakespeare couldn’t have staged it more charmingly.
Xerox Monks (1977)
Quaint by today’s digital wonders, this Super Bowl commercial takes a humorous look at how duplicating has progressed since Medieval times to the 1970s. A monk is impatient with manually copying Biblical passages on parchment. With a new awareness and instant jump of at least five centuries, he smilingly puts down his feathered pen and uses a Xerox 9200 duplicating machine. The narration that brags of reproducing documents at an “incredible two pages per second” was impressive at the time.
Wendy’s Where’s the Beef? (1984)
The commercial featuring the little old lady complaining about the lack of beef in her fast food burger has become a classic punch line. It’s still quoted today with a variety of meanings, including questioning the veracity of other foods, products and politicians.
Wendy’s executives claim the enormous publicity from the Super Bowl commercial helped the chain increase sales by more than 10 percent.