February 02, 2017 / Katya Fainbark

The Video Whisperer: 6 Best Super Bowl Commercials of all Time

With the biggest sports event of the year coming up, the Super Bowl, I’ve decided to have a closer look at what makes it so interesting - aside from the game itself, of course - the commercials. Every year brands seem to go above and beyond to create no less than a masterpiece.

From commercials featuring famous athletes, kids, a reference to George Orwell, and even user generated content - Super Bowl’s hall of fame has seen it all over the years.

Let’s dig in, shall we? Here are my top 6 Super Bowl commercials of all time [+ a cheat-sheet of video marketing tricks to take with you]:

1. “Mean Joe Greene” Super Bowl Commercial Coca-Cola (1979)

The iconic commercial has brought us the famous “Hey kid, catch!” phrase. But it’s not just the phrase that’s pushed this Super Bowl commercial to the top. The video is a very clever contrast of emotions, with a very positive message in the end - Coke makes you smile; it changes the way you feel. You can see it as Greene’s face changes; it seems as he’s forgotten all about being tired earlier.  

This message develops all along during the 60-second commercial’s powerful story arc. You may not have a memorable soundtrack here - and the jingle is actually quite weak (it appears only in the end, and you can barely hear it), but it doesn’t make the story weaker, thanks to Greene’s outstanding performance.

Making such a Super Bowl commercial turned out quite profitable for the brand, putting its name in the center once again as the two ad stars met 40 years later. Their reunion was as emotional as the commercial, if not more.

Hot Tip:

Emotions are key - don’t forget to play on emotions. What’s more, you can even use the emotional connection created in the future, featuring your brand once again.

2. “Introducing Macintosh” Apple (1984)

Have you read George Orwell’s 1984? Well, this 60-second Super Bowl commercial is a perfect illustration of the classic. As with Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene”, the story arc trend seems to continue; only now it is even stronger, thanks to the ironic relation to the novel.

The ad rightfully takes place in the top Super Bowl commercials list, marking the beginning of the new era for Super Bowl ads: commercials turned into mini-movies and not just clips.

It’s a mini-movie that, like the novel, dares viewers to be different, hence the depiction of a running woman, taking your own path in life. Must admit, I found myself lost in the moral of the story, and forgot it was an actual marketing video - that’s when you know it works:)

Hot Tip:

References go a long way - if you want to make your branded videos even more effective, making a reference to a well-known literature or art piece can do it.

3. “Love Letter” Pepsi (1990)

In 1990, you can still see that storytelling and emotions are among the most valuable things for brands to focus on in their Super Bowl commercials. Jingles and sountrack get second place in importance, but still add to the message being delivered using story arcs.

I love the way in which the brand dissolves in the storyline in this particular Super Bowl commercial. Unlike with Coca-Cola, you do see it almost in every frame of the video, and it’s not just that. Pepsi becomes an integral part of the letter the boy is writing. The transitions between the frames where you see the drink are smooth, so there’s no feeling of “Where the heck this came from?”, don’t you agree?

This Super Bowl commercial wouldn’t take a spot among the best ones if it wasn’t for it’s wise use of wordplay, which also makes sure no viewer is overwhelmed with the brand’s presence. Here’s what I mean: the fact that the boy says “I don’t usually pour my heart out...” and actually pours the drink is a genius script move.

Hot Tip:

Build continuous flow - for better viewing experience and results from your branded videos, ensure your products or services are made part of your video in a way that doesn’t turn the video into a simple series of frames: ones that feature the product; and ones that tell the story around it.

4. “Bump is out, Slapping In” Bud Light (2007)

No Super Bowl goes on without a Bud Light commercial. In 2007, the brand showed us a new way to to say “thank you” to your buddies - by slapping. They went even further by showing what can happen if you behave the same way without having Bud Light present - a very smart use of contrast in marketing, by the way.

What’s more, that contrast play appears right at the end, when viewers got used to seeing similar frames over and over again, and they don’t expect a twist coming. The story’s twist is what makes the message even more powerful.

And while we’re on storytelling….You don’t see the brand’s product in a separate frame at all, even when compared to Pepsi’s “Love Letter”;  it’s a much smaller part of the video. In fact, there are frames you don’t see it at all, but rather, because of the magical story work, you just assume it’s there. After all, it all started with a bottle of Bud Light beer.

The most interesting thing is that Bud Light doesn’t reverse it all back to the brand and its slogan at the very end - something that’s seen all over earlier Super Bowl commercials - the brand does it near the end, leaving some space for more story afterwards.

Hot Tip:

Let’s twist - want your message to have a stronger hold? Try thinking of some story twist in the end of your branded videos.

5. “Ultrasound” Doritos (2016)

A big step for the Super Bowl commercials evolution. This Super Bowl 2016 Doritos commercial shows how to take branded video creation a step further with user generated content.

Want to see other UGC video campaigns at work? Check out 5 successful UGC campaigns in our new eBook.

Combining humor and story together, the video has earned a place among 2016 #CrashTheSuperBowl campaign favorites.

But, the story would not have the same “LOL effect” without the right use of montage and technology - a baby fetus reaching for Doritos, how can that be?:)

The montage is so professional, it actually makes you think: “Is this really UGC?”. But, it is. That’s one reason the video is so popular. As of right now, it has over 2M views.

Hot Tip:

Go UGC - try tapping into your brand’s followers talents, turning them into brand ambassadors all the while getting higher exposure, engagement and brand awareness scores.

6. “Big Game First Spot” Wix (2017)

Are you ready for some action? Cuz this year Wix turned a Super Bowl commercial into a real movie, together with Jason Statham and Gal Gadot.

How to describe this Super Bowl commercial? Imagine if someone took all the above elements like storytelling, montage, tech, humor, twists, and brilliantly put it into one. Launched on January 17, this commercial already has over 1M views - that says it all, folks!

Hot Tip:

Don’t get stuck  - you’ve seen how Super Bowl commercials have developed over time. So, it’s probably best to not get married to the first video marketing idea that pops up into your head:)

Make sure your branded videos get as much recognition as Super Bowl commercials:

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Katya Fainbark

Katya loves writing about technology and psychology. She finds it a very intersting mix, considering each person is wired a certain way and technology is always changing. If she had all the time in the world, you'd probably find her travelling because it lets her to break free from the everyday and dive into new cultures, exploring new ways to connect with people. That's why her favorite Showbox Graphic Theme is the Great Outdoors.

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