warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Super Bowl Ads: Looking Back On 9 Memorable TV Commercials

Danny Lee |
January 29, 2012 | 5:38 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Over the years, Super Bowl advertising has transformed into a lucrative industry of its own. A 30-second commercial during the NBC-televised New York Giants-New England Patriots game on Feb. 5 could cost $3.5 million on average, according to Reuters. The asking price for a 30-second spot during last year's game was about $3 million. Here are some of the more memorable ads from recent years, along with classics from the distant past.

Coca-Cola: Mean Joe Greene (1979)

The Troy Polamalu spoof of this ad might be fresher in the minds of younger audiences. But the original version is one of those sentimental "Aww...why don’t they make ads like these anymore?" commercials that will make nostalgists yearn for the good old days.

Apple (1984)

 This ad introducing Apple’s Macintosh is widely considered the Super Bowl commercial that changed all Super Bowl commercials. Looking back on it kind of puts some perspective on how much the company’s products have evolved ever since those childhood days of playing "Oregon Trail" on the old Macs.

Pepsi: Cindy Crawford (1992)

 All it took was Cindy Crawford in a tank top and denim shorts to make this one stand out. Pepsi struck the fine balance between using the proven "sex sells" formula, while keeping it understated. Fellow supermodel Adriana Lima will appear in two spots during this year's Super Bowl, but it might be tough to recreate anything as iconic.

McDonald's: The Showdown (1993)

Only in the world of commercials would two millionaire basketball players try to one-up the other over a Big Mac and fries. This spot featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird spawned this new-age version starring LeBron James and Dwight Howard. To this day, I still wonder if MJ's shot from atop the formerly named Sears Tower ever made it through the window, off the wall and nothing but net.

Budweiser Frogs (1995)

One recurring formula for memorable Super Bowl ads seems to be the use of animals, and the Budweiser frogs successfully engraved the brand into people's minds when they first debuted. The ad eventually became so overplayed that many viewers probably wanted to turn those little guys into a side of frog legs to go with their beers, but it definitely has its place in Super Bowl commercial lore.

Budweiser 9/11 Tribute (2002)

 This entry from Budweiser aired during the first Super Bowl after the Sept. 11 attacks. There will always be cynics accusing Budweiser for capitalizing off the public's emotions to sell a product. But considering the generally over-the-top nature of beer commercials, this spot shows that the companies can be classy when they want to. No played-out "Man Up" shtick here. The signature Budweiser Clydesdales lowering their heads on bended knees produced a subtle, yet powerful enough "We've moved on, but we'll never forget" message.

Reebok: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker (2003)

Ever had a colleague forget to place a coversheet on a report, or who would rather play solitaire on the computer than be productive at work? Terry Tate represents that office linebacker within us who wishes all workplace grievances could be resolved with one bone-shattering tackle. When it’s game time, it’s pain time.

Snickers: Betty White (2010)

This ad transformed Betty White into the female Chuck Norris. I still don't see how telling someone "You are playing like Betty White" can be considered an ego-shattering insult. Judging from the clip, the former star of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls" looked like she can take a hit like a pro.

Chrysler: Imported From Detroit (2011)

 "We're not New York City, or the Windy City or, for sure, anybody's Emerald City," the voiceover actor says, while Eminem's "Lose Yourself" plays in the background. Detroit's decline in industry and population over the decades has made it the poster child for urban decay, but this spot for the Chrysler 200 is an appropriate rallying cry to let the nation know that the beleaguered city still has life in it.



Reach Danny by email or follow him on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.