What Is The Greatest Super Bowl Ad Of All Time? The Industry’s Top Creatives Fess Up!

What Is The Greatest Super Bowl Ad Of All Time? The Industry’s Top Creatives Fess Up!

It’s one of the biggest days of the year in the advertising calendar, with astronomical price tags and major celebrity endorsements. From the iconic 1984 inspired Apple Macintosh launch to the viral “Like A Girl” social impact campaign, the Super Bowl is so much more than just touchdowns and Taylor Swift.

B&T sat down with some of the top creatives in the industry asking one simple question: what is the greatest Super Bowl ad of all time? And boy did they deliver!

So, without further ado, from the best in the business, here are the top Super Bowl ads of all time!

Hannah Lawson and Kate Idle – Today The Brave

In our many, many, many years in the industry we have become experts in the cultural zeitgeist that is the Super Bowl. Do we know the rules of American football? Nope. Do we know what a Quarterback is? Is it Zac Efron? Would we ever watch the Super Bowl live? Couldn’t pay us. But do we enjoy the annual event when the whole (advertising) world comes together for a singular moment of lols, judgement and god-I-wish-I-made-thatism? Duh. So, because we love having an opinion, our criteria for a good Super Bowl spot is as follows (and feel free to take it as gospel): Must be clever, simple and a little bit silly. Celebs are welcome, but only if it makes sense and doesn’t feel like there’s a knife to their throat. The lols must be funny in a way that makes us giggle and not in a ‘you’ll only get this if you have a degree in film studies and philosophy’ kind of way. And it can’t take itself too seriously. Nothing ruins the vibe like a self referential five-minute digital film on the dark web with a 7-step activation extension that nobody in the real world cares about. So, without further ado here’s our favourite bangers

Hannah’s # 1:

There’s a lot I love, honourable mentions are the E-Trade ‘Wasted $2 Million Bucks’ and the new Kawasaki ‘Mullets’ spot because the punchlines are as satisfying as the silliness of the spots. But my all time favourite would have to be Tourism Australia ‘Dundee.’ The impact it had and the hype that the ‘movie’ got was so big and so real you can’t not love it. It was one of those ideas so perfectly pulled off you experienced it within actual pop culture as a normal person and not through the back links of industry publications. It was for the fans, and fans were made from it. And celeb power was on point, the idea of Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Chris Hemsworth and Russell Crowe in an Aussie movie together? Sick. I’m still holding out hope that they’ll actually made the movie. Because at the end of the day it was full of Aussie pride and it was bloody funny. Even watching it now for the billionth time, Danny McBride still makes me kick my legs and giggle. 5 Star hell yeah straya.

Kate’s # 1:

What do you do with a Super Bowl spot when the general public has no idea what your company really does? You could spend your multi-million dollar minute on a glorified infomercial, or you could wrangle a bunch of cats and cowboys to entertain the shit out of everyone and leave viewers with just the general gist about what you do. Despite the fact that it aired before I could spell Super Bowl, EPS ‘Cat Herders’ stands the test of time and still cracks the list as a favourite SB ad of mine and of fans across the globe. It’s got just the right amount of WTF deadpan entertainment, plus the world-building and attention to detail of what a ranch of cat-herders would be is incredible and utterly ridiculous. The way that it all ties back to a tech company that just wants people to kinda-sorta understand their brand just enough without overdoing it, is the self-aware cherry on top of the sundae.

Nat Kuznetsova – Strategy Director, Dentsu Creative

Delving into the power of emotions for impact and behaviour change usually leans towards the positive, as seen in the funny or heart-warming approaches of most Super Bowl ads. While there is no doubt this can be effective, in my opinion, the weirder the better.

The human instinct for blending in is powerful. Weirdness feels risky and divisive, yet for me, it’s within this alienation that the magic happens. Discomfort fosters distinctiveness, cultivates opinions, and turbo charges interest.

With this in mind, creepy bunnies dragging people into giant Tubi rabbit holes felt like a refreshing palate cleanser and was a firm favourite last year. Playful, unconventional, a little dark – it makes absolutely no sense, until it does, and you realise it’s brilliant.

Equally brilliant is the way Tubi took the idea of freaking out the nation one step further with the “interface hijack” element; a surprise promo that turned panic and frustration (again not your usual run of the mill, warm and fuzzy emotions) into a memorable “gotcha” moment. Simple and effective. Tubi didn’t just advertise; they showed the idea in action in a way that made it impossible to ignore.

Gavin Chimes – Howatson+Co

This is a difficult task. Like picking a favourite song or movie. Which is why I have two favourite Superbowl ads. And neither of them ran in the Superbowl. One of them isn’t even an ad.

The first is Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical by DDB Chicago. With a 30s Superbowl spot costing over $5million dollars, it’s marketing’s biggest stage. To stand out from every other brand, Skittles took to an even bigger stage and created a 30-minute Broadway Musical. What I love about this idea is the creative ecosystem that surrounded it. From writing an original musical dripping with self-aware Skittle absurdity, to the costume and prop design, to taking over Playbill guides, there was so much care and craft put into the execution. And there’s a level of difficulty to that which transcends a traditional 30s commercial.

The second is Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Can Smell Like, created by Weiden + Kennedy, Portland. Launched online the weekend before the Superbowl, this brilliant spot quickly became a cultural sensation, blitzing any other brand that year. It’s an advertising masterpiece. Perfect strategy (talking to both product buyers and users at the time), impeccably written, shot in one take by the great Tom Kuntz. This is a commercial that every creative team in the world needs to study, dissect, try to emulate, fail at emulating, become dejected that they’ll never amount to its greatness, consider a career change, pick a fight with their spouse who doesn’t deserve it, sleep on the couch, be visited in a dream by Isaiah Mustafa dressed as an angel who’ll explain that greatness doesn’t come from copying one’s idols but forging an original path forward, wake up feeling refreshed, apologise to their spouse, head to the office, throw out whatever script they’re working on and come up with a new game-changing idea that launches them into superstardom. Such is the inspiring power of this ad.

Pete Sherrah – Senior Creative, Havas Host

In an age where Super Bowl ads are defined by the power of celebrity to cut through one of the most crowded and monolithic media spends of the year, exceptions to the rule are a rare breed. Which is why last year’s Coinbase QR code rocked everyone’s socks off. Do less and people will talk more. And one of the defining examples only just this side of the millennium was Budweiser’s iconic “Wassup?” commercial in 2000.

Widely recognised as one of the greatest beer ads of all time, the spot has gone on to be parodied in pop culture, repeatedly reimagined in spin-offs and even picked up a Cannes Grand Prix and Grand Clio. Not bad. All without celebrities or a meaty CGI-laden production budget. Pure entertainment made for its audience that effortlessly earned its way into culture, and still holds up 24 years on. Firmly filed under “wish I’d made.”

Tommy Cehak – Group Creative Director, Leo Burnett Australia

A lot of people will say It’s a Tide Ad is the best Super Bowl ad of all time. And they’re probably right. Imagine being another brand, buying a Super Bowl spot, paying a big celebrity truckloads of cash only for Tide to swoop in and steal your moment? Genius. Luckily there’s other ways to win the Big Game. Whether you’re a an aging quarterback or a benched kicker with a bung knee or a brand, when an opportunity arises, you’ve got to step up, seize it and make the play.

Which is exactly what Oreo did when the lights went out mid-game in 2013. When confused fans turned to Twitter looking for answers, Oreo had one for them. And it didn’t cost them anything.

Simon Lee – Partner and CCO, The Hallway

When it comes to great Super Bowl ads, I have a lot of affection for Droga5’s “If we made it” campaign for Newcastle Brown Ale.

It was a classic bold challenger brand move to capitalise on the hype of the big game without having to buy a spot in an ad break. Full of “battle apes, party sharks and friendship”, the storyboard of the “mega huge ad” they would have made if they’d had the budget did a great job of poking fun at the over the top nature of Super Bowl ads in general, and a smart celebrity “anti-endorsement” strategy meant that Newcastle Brown were able to do the celebrity thing whilst satirising the way other brands do the celebrity thing. As BuzzFeed said at the time: “This non-Super Bowl, Super Bowl commercial is pure genius”.

Lucinda O’Brien – Senior Creative Strategist, Amplify 

After taking a five year hiatus, Rihanna returned for a highly anticipated halftime show, the most-watched in history. While artists aren’t paid to perform at the Super Bowl, the event is all about creating a cultural moment, and Rihanna did just that.

 

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She effortlessly performed her catalogue of hits, announced her second pregnancy, and reapplied her Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder. Forbes reported that within the first 12 hours, Fenty Beauty earned an impressive US$5.6 million in media impact value from this moment. More broadly, this reflects our acceptance of product placement and the role of sponsorship in the cultural space. We no longer hate the artist for selling out but celebrate them for securing the bag.

Carlo Mazzarella – Creative Director Saatchi & Saatchi/Publicis Team One

Picking the greatest Superbowl Ad of all time? That’s hard. I could possibly give you a different answer tomorrow or in 5 minutes. But right now, I’m feeling patriotic and going with Tourism Australia’s Dundee campaign.

I’ve always loved a prank so to keep one going globally for two weeks was genius. But it’s my pick because it was more than just a TV spot during the Superbowl and so much more powerful and clever than any teaser ad that has become the standard these days. A perfectly executed big idea. Ok I’ll stop typing now before I change my mind…

Vince Lagana – CCO and Co-founder, It’s Friday

To pick one all-time best Super Bowl ad is almost impossible.

The temptation is to pick something funny or something with over-the-top, big budget scale. Instead, I have picked an ad that had an impact on me. I was in Detroit a couple of years before ‘Imported from Detroit’ aired.  I was mesmerised by its rawness and how discarded the rundown Motor City felt by the rest of America. 

The city had suffered badly in the years leading up to the ad, and still faced huge challenges when it aired. Raw and gritty, yet also beautiful, the commercial became an anthem that rallied all Detroiters, making them feel proud of who they are and what they do. It made the rest of America take notice. Smart and thought provoking, ‘Imported from Detroit’ was bigger than just another big Super Bowl ad.

Rob Barnett – Executive Creative Director, Think HQ

Watching #LikeAGirl from Always during the Super Bowl immediately struck a chord with me the first time I saw it. I love the campaign because it was so much more than an ad selling a product; it was a social movement that challenged traditional gender stereotypes and sparked conversations globally.

It was a stroke of strategic brilliance to launch the campaign during a male-dominant event, reaching the some of the biggest offenders of the derogatory phrase to challenge their views on societal norms. The story telling of the campaign is powerful and emotive, juxtaposing the confidence of younger girls with internalised stereotypes of older women. As a father of a young daughter at the time, the campaign challenged me on a deeper level to reconsider my views on gender stereotypes, what it meant to be a girl, and more specifically the power of my words in shaping my daughter and instilling her with self-confidence. The conversations it sparked extended far beyond the confines of industry circles and even came up in conversations with friends, with the commentary on social reflecting the discussions I was having at home. The ad elevated the brand as a champion of female empowerment and showcased how brands could stand for values and beliefs, not just benefits and features. It set the strategy for Always moving forward and created a lasting legacy for other brands to follow, marrying product marketing with social advocacy in a way that was both authentic and impactful.

Rachel Blacklaws – Creative Director, R/GA Australia

Everyone’s chosen this one, haven’t they? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s smart, it’s creative, and it makes good business sense – a winning trifecta in my books.

When I watch a Superbowl spot I want to see more than celebrity power, I want to see a killer idea and I want to think ‘phwoar, how did they get that made?’.

But they didn’t just make an ad, they changed a category. Making the decision to pivot from the well worn strategy of ‘owning stains’ to ‘owning clean clothes’. In doing so, they hijacked the Superbowl, turned all 53 ads into Tide ads and made their competitors quake in their boots. Genius.

The idea is good, the craft is arguably even better – intelligent casting, smart script-writing and a hot shot director duo to bring it home. Nailed it.




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