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Super Bowl Standouts: Industry All Stars Pick Their Favorites of All Time

Posted on Jan 28, 2020

Hey, what’s that smell? Why, it’s the unmistakable aroma of Super Bowl ads! Every year at this time the ad industry – not to mention the media in general – gets its shoulder pads in an uproar over the unveiling of the most recent crop of commercials scheduled to run during the ‘Big Game.’ Some are mind-blowing, others barely memorable, but all of them come with big price tags, big expectations and tons of pressure.

So what was your most memorable Super Bowl ad? We asked that question – along with a handful of others – to a panel of industry All Stars from the creative and production ranks. A lot of thing have changed about the Super Bowl over the years, most importantly being the role of social media. No longer do we have to wait until the actual broadcast to see all these colossal ads, as many advertisers preview their spots on social media beforehand – a tactic about which our players have mixed opinions.

And believe it or not, despite what Perry Shaffer has to say, not everyone picked “1984” as their most memorable ad. What did they like? Read on to find out!

Marc Lucas

Marc Lucas, Creative Director, Lucas And Co.
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 Head of Production, Saatchi & Saatchi

 

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.

Why?
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.

Brett Froomer

Brett Froomer, Director, French Butter
www.frenchbutter.com/

 

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.

Roe Bressan

Roe Bressan, President, Navigating
www.navigating.tv

 

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
www.copilotmusic.com

 

What was the most memorable Super Bowl commercial you’ve ever seen?
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 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
www.cortezbrothers.com

 

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!

Perry Schaffer

Perry Schaffer, Owner, SchafferRogers
www.schafferrogers.com

 

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, Lew & Co.
www.lewandco.com

 

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 didn’t have a connection, with any of the spots!  In general I think it’s a great reflection on popular culture.  The non-advertising peoples 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 coachesI’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!

Scott McCullough

Scott McCullough, Director/DP
www.scottmccullough.com

 

What are your most memorable Super Bowl commercials?
EDS “Cat Herders” from ‘05, and anything with the Budweiser Clydesdales (but not “Dilly Dilly” – sorry).

What made it stand out?
Sarcasm, unexpected, funny and well done digitally, with some clever storytelling.

Is there too much Super Bowl hype?
Yes. With the cost of the media, agencies often hire the biggest, most expensive names to direct the spots, and they may not be the best for that ad to mitigate the risk. This trend has migrated to the entire industry for years.

Do you like seeing the spots before the game?
Nope. I’d rather see them on the game, placed where they paid for them. And if the game is lame, at least the ads haven’t been spoiled.

Describe your best Super Bowl experience? And your worst?
Best: A nice Cuban cigar by the fireplace on the big screen outside...you get the idea. Worst: Hosting the game where Seahawks dominated.