MVPs: Our All-Star panel picks their favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time.

Posted Feb 3, 2021

Last year we asked a handful of industry insiders to tell us about their favorite Super Bowl ads of all times, and we got a mouthful. The choices ran from “1984” to E-Trade’s clapping chimps to Budweiser’s “Frogs” – and with Bud skipping the game this year for the first time in 37 years, we’re guessing their brand won’t score a repeat!

While sports broadcasts have certainly changed thanks to the pandemic, there’s no denying that the Super Bowl is still a big deal. And our panel’s responses are still fresh and relevant as we surge into the 2021 game, with the only notable candidate for ‘best of’ being last year’s beloved Jeep “Groundhog Day” spot, featuring Bill Murray reprising his role from the classic movie.

Our group is a great cross-section of the industry: an agency creative director, a former head of production, a director, a production company owner, a music company owner, a pair of independent sales reps and a consultant who’s worked with just about every discipline in the biz. And this year, we’ve added our own POV, courtesy of our well-traveled communications guru. What gems did they select? Read on to find out! Maybe your favorite made their list, too.

Marc Lucas

Marc Lucas, Creative Director, Lucas & Co. and SVP/Creative Director at McCann Health
Lucas & Co.


So what was the most memorable Super Bowl commercial you’ve ever seen?
Twenty years ago, Goodby ran a spot for E-Trade – the infamous ‘Monkey,’ with the clapping chimpanzee – that nailed the Super Bowl.

What made it stand out?
The spectacle of such a ‘high-stakes,’ ‘career-making,’ ‘important media opportunity,’ ‘the world is watching’ event is what makes the Super Bowl compelling. This spot both satirized the very idea of Super Bowl spots while taking full advantage of everything it’s making fun of.

Generally, do you think there’s too much hype surrounding Super Bowl ads?
Yes, especially now. The current on-demand world has only a few events where people will tune in live and endure interruptive media – Super Bowl, Oscars, elections, breaking news, etc. However, in their attempt to amplify their investments, clients remove the very reason to tune in by releasing the spots before the game.

Do you like seeing the spots before the game, or do you think they should be unveiled for the first time on the broadcast?
I like seeing them before, because I’m not a fan of American football, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for clients. The Super Bowl is a spectacular media event, and there’s huge value in keeping your powder dry until the day of.

What was your best Super Bowl experience, as either an advertising professional, a sports fan, or a bemused spectator? How ‘bout your worst?
To be honest, they’re all a bit of a blur, but along the way I have learned that a career as a media pundit is not for me.

Marc Lucas

David Perry, Former Director of Broadcast Production, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York


So what are your most memorable ads?
I loved the durability of the Budweiser “Frogs” campaign and the E-Trade “Monkey” spot from Goodby Silverstein. But my absolute favorite is the Tide “Talking Stain” spot.

It was great advertising in a low-interest category for a functional brand. That’s heavy lifting. And it was a cultural reference for 10 years afterwards. It also contrasted nicely with the scale and bombast of so much other Super Bowl work.

Is there too much hype surrounding Super Bowl ads?
Yes, but there's no choice because everybody else is hyping, and you can’t really opt out. But it displays a lack of confidence in the work itself if you need artificial stimulants like a Twitter war room and influencers and teasers starting two weeks before the game.

What’s your take on previewing ads before the event?
I like seeing them first in the context of the game and surrounded by the other ads in the show. It’s a much purer experience than watching an ad that you already have an opinion of.

What was your best Super Bowl experience?
Producing for the Super Bowl is always a near-death experience. Occasionally, some of my producers who’d shot a Super Bowl spot would get invited by the client to go with them to the game. Watching them go was my best Super Bowl experience. Plus, the New York Jets winning in 1970.

Scott McCullough

Anthony Vagnoni, Simian Communications director, industry gadabout and former journalist


What was your most memorable ad?
Tough call, there have been so many – and no shortage of clinkers. I’d have to say my favorite is still the gerbils spot from, in which they fire “cute little guys” out of a cannon and through the ‘o’ in an Outpost sign. It was from Cliff Freeman & Partners and was one of the earliest examples of a school of overly aggressive, in-your-face ads they did for brands like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Fox Sports and Budget Rental Car. All had an element of absurdity to them, which made them even better.

Is there too much hype surrounding the ads on the game?
Yes, even today, during the pandemic. The ad trades are simply agog with coverage of who’s running ads on the big game. It’s become a media free-for-all, in some respects, with celebrity teasers and so-called ‘leaks.’ It seems the concept, the creative and the execution have become secondary.

What do you prefer, seeing the spots for the first time on the game, or beforehand on the web?
I used to be a purist who only wanted to see the spots during the big game, but now that I’m older and find myself going to the bathroom more frequently, I actually like watching them online before the broadcast. That way I don’t miss a thing!

What was your best Super Bowl experience?
I actually switched off the game before Apple’s “1984” spot ran in the second half and was watching professional wrestling with my buddies. My hometown team (the squad formerly known as the Washington Redskins) were in that year and getting manhandled. I just couldn’t watch. The next day, everyone was talking about this Apple spot. I played dumb until I got a chance to see it on videocassette, days later!

Roe Bressan

Roe Bressan, President, Navigating


What’s your most memorable ad?
Since the year it premiered, Apple’s “1984” has been called the greatest Super Bowl spot to ever air. I’d have to agree. That said, when it comes to memorable commercials, Volkswagen’s “The Force” wins my vote.

How come?
The kid in this spot always gets me. His frustration, his disappointment, his focus, his surprise, and shock. We never see his face behind that mask, but his hands and his little body say it all through heartfelt gestures. Equal billing goes to the editor. The timing and build are sheer perfection.

So do you feel there’s too much Super Bowl ad hype out there?
No, I actually find it an entertaining diversion in today’s world – especially if the work is good.

What about seeing the spots before the game, or during?
I’m a purist. And although it might sound old school, I like feeling we're watching the spots the same way we’re seeing the game, together and in real time.

What was your best Super Bowl experience?
I had a few people over the year of the Beyoncé Super Bowl black out. I took to the Twittersphere and started reading the various comments aloud to keep us occupied and engaged. Better than any network sportscaster. We were all in stitches. One of the best laughs I‘ve ever had.

Jason Menkes

Jason Menkes, Partner & EP, COPILOT Music + Sound


What made it so memorable?
The Budweiser Clydesdales “Respect” spot that aired during the broadcast in 2002.

What made it so memorable?
I was still struggling with the aftermath of 9/11, and wasn’t sure how brands were going to acknowledge or ignore it. Amongst the cacophony of celebrity cameos and predictable punchlines, the quiet solemnity of that commercial stood out. Budweiser paid respect to the city without trying to force the story into a celebration of the brand. They only aired the commercial one time, but it’s stayed in my memory.

Is there too much hype around these ads?
There’s probably too much hype around everything nowadays! I don’t think Super Bowl ads are the end-all-be-all of creative or effective advertising, but it’s a time when our colleagues get to flex their creative muscles and make some entertaining and often beautiful content, and that’s always worth recognizing.

How do you feel about seeing the ads before the big game?
I personally like the communal experience of seeing the commercials for the first time with a group. But I’ve also been to Super Bowl parties where everyone stays quiet during the game and talks over the commercials, so I appreciate the opportunity to see them beforehand, too. Unveiling the commercial before the game may also help you get press attention outside of the “Which Brand Won the Super Bowl?” reviews that follow the game.

Best Super Bowl experience? Worst?
Professionally, I was lucky enough to work on spots for Cadillac and AT&T that aired during the Super Bowl. They’ve always been chaotic stumbles towards the finish line, with last minute revisions and second-guessed creative decisions. But the work itself is some of the best I’ve been involved with which I’ve been involved. I’m not a big football fan, so my favorite memory is watching the game from a bar in the British Virgin Islands a few years ago. I was expecting to see the impressive new ads, but instead got to see was treated to locally-produced spots on the Caribbean Broadcasting Network.

Bernadette Rivero

Bernadette Rivero, President, Cortez Brothers


Your most memorable Super Bowl spot?
If you haven’t chanted “Puppy Monkey Baby” – Mountain Dew’s 2016 opus – have you ever really worked in advertising?

Okay, what else made it stand out?
There’s something to be said for mnemonics, but also for the poetic device of assonance, that simply makes “Puppy Monkey Baby” fun to say. Repeatedly. Even when Super Bowl 50 has come and gone.

Is there too much hype around the ads?
Well, if the Super Bowl is the apex of a year’s worth of football – and an example of two teams at the top of their game displaying their best athletic skills and prowess – then it makes sense that the advertising industry, which is so tied into fighting for and earning an audience in a way that’s not all that different from pro sports, would see the Super Bowl commercial breaks as a creative apex, too.

What do you prefer – previews and teasers, or breaking during the game itself?
As a viewer, I’ve enjoyed the recent trend towards brand “teasers” prior to the big reveal of the spot during the game, because there’s something fun about getting a sneak peek and trying to guess where the creatives are going. As someone working in the industry, I appreciate brands giving their spots legs that last longer than just a few seconds during the game itself. Teasers extend the amount of time a brand can take up space in a crowded marketplace, even if just for a bit, and that’s smart in a business sense.

Name your best Super Bowl experience.
For me it was meeting people, both in real life and virtually, during the 3% Movement’s annual live Super Bowl Tweetup. #3percentSB!

Brett Froomer

Brett Froomer, Director, French Butter


What was your most memorable ad?
Apple’s “1984.” This was and continues to be a revolutionary idea, and it was executed brilliantly. Epic is the word here. It changed everything as we knew it then, and today.

Is there too much hype surrounding the ads on the game?
Absolutely not. The Super Bowl is the premiere showcase for our craft, bar none.

What do you prefer, seeing the spots for the first time on the game, or beforehand on the web?
My view is the ads should be first shown during the actual game. I like to react with the others in the room, especially when we’re blown away by amazingly creative ideas. That first experience is important and effective.

What was your best Super Bowl experience?
All Super Bowls are great to me, some better than others, but in general I really love this American spectacle.

Perry Schaffer

Perry Schaffer, Owner, SchafferRogers


So, what’s your most memorable pick?
Same as most everyone’s – Apple’s “1984.” It was great creative, great execution and great hype beforehand – the trifecta.

Generally, is there too much hype surrounding the ads?
One thousand percent. So hard for these ads to live up to the hype. I kinda feel sorry for anyone working on Big Game spots these days.

What about seeing the spots before the game?
Sure, I like knowing who’s doin’ what and to whom before the masses. Gives me a head start on who to congratulate. Or pity.

What are your best Super Bowl experiences? And your worst?
Best: 1) Seeing my teams win, e.g., Giants; 2) Seeing the occasional spots a client or friend's worked on; 3) Enjoying the tasty victuals my trophy wife often prepares. Worst? Seeing the Patriots win, and win, and win, and win…

Sharon Lew

Sharon Lew, President & Founder, Lew & Co.


What’s your most memorable Super Bowl spot?
For some reason, the one that always stands out is the Pepsi spot when the boy gets sucked into the bottle. I’m sure the little curly redheaded sister helped make it so, too :)

What made it stand out?
It was one of the first times I remember seeing VFX used in a simple yet fun way to get the message across.

Generally, do you think there’s too much hype surrounding Super Bowl ads?
I only think there’s too much hype when its a year I don’t have a connection with any of the spots! In general, I think it’s a great reflection on popular culture. The non-advertising people seem to love it too, so why not?

How do you feel about the trend of releasing ads before the game?
I wish they’d go back to keeping the ads a surprise. I think it would be better for the brands, more fun for the audience and a better experience for fans watching the game in real time.

Speaking of experience, what was your best Super Bowl experience?
That was when there were two or three spots in the game that I had helped bring to life somehow…or when I watched games with players or coaches I’d worked with on shoots. Those were most memorable. My worst have been being with non-ad friends at big parties when no one but me was interested in the commercials. Very frustrating!




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