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October 10, 2015

Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads

by Scott Harris, posted Jan 27th 2010 4:00PM
The Super Bowl is fast approaching and for millions of Americans that means it's almost time to watch the biggest television event of the year. No, not the football game, silly: the commercials.

Over the past four decades, the Super Bowl has emerged not only as the biggest sporting event in the country but, more importantly to many people, one of the biggest cultural events. And a big part of the package is the array of innovative and memorable commercials that debut during the game; with so many eyes glued to the tube, advertisers have an unparalleled opportunity to seize instance name recognition, usually, it seems, by employing some combination of monkeys, talking animals and slapstick humor.

But while not every ad campaign lives up the hype (we love you, Naomi Campbell, but those Sobé ads with the dancing lizards were awful), some ads are so indelible that they become in many instances more memorable than the games themselves. Quick: who played in the 1973 Super Bowl? Hardcore fans know it as the end of a perfect season for the Miami Dolphins, but for most of America, the lasting images were of Farrah Fawcett coyly stroking Joe Namath's face in sexually charged Noxzema ad that became the first big breakout Super Bowl commercial.

So to get you ready for the big game -- the advertising game, that is -- we've collected the 10 most memorable Super Bowl ads of all time. Because let's face it: this is one sporting event where you use the bathroom during the game so you won't miss anything during the commercial breaks.

And we start things off with what is undoubtedly the most famous advertisement in Super Bowl history: the groundbreaking Apple ad that introduced the Mac to America. Equating IBM's dominance with Big Brother from George Orwell's dystopian novel '1984' may have ensured that the arty clip went over most people's heads, but it was also the perfect way to kick off the year in question.

While Apple went high concept, Budweiser proved in 1995 that even the simplest idea can turn into a classic ad, as three frogs croaking in unison kicked off a massively popular campaign that lasted for over two years.

One of the most famous commercials of all time, Coca-Cola's "Mean" Joe Greene commercial didn't actually debut during the Super Bowl. But the presence of Greene's Steelers in the 1980 game gave Coke the perfect opportunity to turn this crowd-pleaser into an iconic moment.

Back when the internet was new, the dot.com boom launched a thousand websites and seemingly every one of them aired some lame, offbeat Super Bowl ad. While most of them ended up crashing and burning, however, Monster.com became one of the premier job hunting resources in the country, thanks in part to this classic commercial.

Here's one for old school viewers: if the gently humorous style of this 1976 Xerox ad seems familiar, it may be because this commercial set the pattern for all Super Bowl ads to follow, using unexpected irreverence to turn old advertising paradigms on their ear.

Two of the biggest names in basketball history came together to film this 1993 McDonald's spot, which remains a blacktop touchstone thanks to its famous game of HORSE between Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The only thing more memorable than Jordan's "off the billboard" monologue? His hideous outfit. Youch.

Regardless of where you fall on the Coke vs. Pepsi debate, everyone agrees on one thing: Michael J. Fox is cool. Few stars have ever managed the trick of being timeless while also embodying a specific era, yet Fox pulls it off perfectly; this 1987 Diet Pepsi ad is a prime example of his unique magic.

The late, great Christopher Reeve may not have been the most likely person to front an ad campaign for an investment firm, but in 2000 he did just that. Few remember the fact that this ad was for Nuveen Investments, though; people were too busy buzzing about the CGI work that allowed Reeve to walk once more in this uplifting clip.

The most recent ad on our list, Reebok's Terry Tate: Office Linebacker debuted during the 2003 Super Bowl and became a viral hit: though it aired just once on television, viewers downloaded it over 7 million times.

Finally, no list would be complete without this 1995 Pepsi ad. Anyone who's ever been a kid remembers the endless enjoyment you can get form simply combining a straw and a soda, but as this spot proves, there are dangers if you take the fun too far.

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