The power of potential


The best Super Bowl commercials

For people who aren’t sports fans, the Super Bowl isn’t about winning or losing. It’s not about which player is named MVP or which team hoists the Lombardi trophy overhead late in the fourth quarter. It’s not about which coach dunks in a bath of Gatorade. It’s about one thing, and one thing only: commercials. Without the commercials, the television that broadcasts the Super Bowl could also be turned off, or worse, switched to Lifetime.

Super Bowl commercials are expensive to broadcast; a thirty-second spot in last year’s game cost $2.5 million. This makes them great: Advertisers don’t want to waste their money, so they burn more midnight oil, flow more creative juices, and order a lot more Thai food for all-nighters in the office. Some of these advertisers make it big with brilliant ads, others leave us scratching our heads and wondering, “Really?” The good, the bad and the ugly find their way to our televisions on Super Bowl Sunday. The following is a list of five of the best commercials generated over the years.

Apple “1984”: A commercial that aired in, well, 1984, this Apple commercial is still revered as one of the best of all time. A parody of George Orwell’s novel about a man living in a world marked by totalitarianism, this ad was directed by Ridley Scott of “Blade Runner” fame. IBM plays “Big Brother,” a euphemism used for “dictatorship” in Orwell’s novel, and appears in the commercial as a giant television screen rattling before an audience of emotionless drones. Out of nowhere, a hip-looking woman walks into the room and throws the new Macintosh at the screen, smashing it to smithereens in the process. The voiceover says, “On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

McDonald’s “Showdown”: In 1993, this commercial featured a game of “call your shot Horse” between two of basketball’s greats: Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The winner got nothing less than a Big Mac. Each shot was followed by an even more spectacular shot and preceded by the slogan, “nothing but net.” As the players dueled, taking shots off the rafters and off the floors, it became clear that no winner would be decided. The commercial ends with Jordan and Bird sitting outside on top of a building as Jordan tells Bird, “Off the freeway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothing but netting.”

Budweiser “Clydesdales Play Ball”: In 1996, this commercial proved that Clydesdales, despite popular belief, can actually play football. During an impromptu game in the snow, two men watch as one Clydesdales team scores a field goal against another. In 2004, Budweiser updated the ad to parody the NFL video replay. This advertisement featured the game’s referee, a zebra, reviewing a play under the referee’s tent.

Nissan Maxima “Dove”: America loves commercials with talking pigeons, especially when those pigeons sound like Cliff Clavin from “Cheers.” In this 1997 ad, three pigeons watch a new Maxima pull out of a car wash. They immediately feel that it is their duty to, well, paint the windshields of the cars. As the “Top Gun” theme plays in the background, two pigeons miss their target, letting their leader, the Cliff Clavin-esque bird, fly toward the Maxima. Despite his confidence, he only ends up running headlong into a closing garage door.

Budweiser “Cedric”: According to the theory that Budweiser usually has some of the best Super Bowl commercials, 2001 was a year in which they didn’t disappoint. This commercial is pretty simple: Cedric the Entertainer is seen having an affair with a pretty woman. He goes to the fridge to get two Bud Light and proceeds to do a “happy dance”, showing elation to him and unknowingly shaking the bottles in the process. His date quickly comes to an unintended end when Cedric opens the Bud Light, only for it to explode on top of his very upset date.


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