With hundreds of channels, Hulu, Netflix, Xbox, tablets and smartphones, people have more access to more great content than ever before. What makes it even more amazing is that once a year 110 million of us sit down and watch the same thing — together.
That’s the Super Bowl, and that’s a big reason that the big game remains big business for advertisers. This year 30 seconds of Super Bowl time will cost advertisers $4 million. And that’s just the time. They’ll spend millions more to create their spots, promote them on the web and build marketing strategies around them that last long after the game is over.
Here at Advertising Age, we talk about ads all year long. But this is the one time of year everyone talks about them. Indeed, the ads are part of the Super Bowl experience, and since this big audience comes just once a year, advertisers know they have just one chance to get it right. One chance to entertain YOU.
Over the years, some have gotten it very, very right. Here are five of the top Super Bowl ads of all time, as picked by Advertising Age editors:
Coca-Cola: ‘Mean Joe Greene’
Budweiser: ‘True’ (Wassup)
Volkswagen: ‘The Force’
McDonald’s: ‘The Showdown’
Last year brought a bumper-crop of great ads. Here five great ones from 2013:
Samsung: ‘Next Big Thing’
Coca Cola: ‘Security Cameras’
Ram Trucks: ‘Farmer’
Tide: ‘Miracle Stain’
To keep track of who’s buying what in the Super Bowl this year, check out our handy tracker and follow along for all our coverage of the business behind the Big Game.
Last night’s game was a nail biter, for both football fans and for the advertisers.
At the beginning of the second half, things were looking grim. At 28-6, the game was looking like a blowout (never great for second-half advertisers) when a bizarre blackout threw the Mercedes-Benz Superdome into darkness. If you’re an advertiser waging as much as $4 million for 30 seconds of air time in the second half, the last thing you want is a lopsided game, much less a delay that might cause people to give up, change the channel or go to bed.
So you could almost hear an audible sigh of relief among advertisers when the power came back on and it ignited an improbable 49ers comeback that tied fans to their seats until almost until the very last play. More people watching the game means more people watching the ads, and while the extended break wasn’t ideal, it did mean some Super Bowl advertisers like Audi, Oreos, Tide and Volkswagen could cleverly use the gap to their advantage. And in fact, early Nielsen estimates indicate this year’s game was the most-watched Super Bowl ever.
Advertising Age has been reviewing Super Bowl ads for decades, long before the ads themselves were considered as much a part of the entertainment experience as the game itself. This year, Ad in-house critic Ken Wheaton found a lot to like. Among our faves? Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” brought the Clydesdales and some emotion, back to the Super Bowl. Samsung’s “The Big Pitch,” with Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and a cameo from LeBron James solidified the company as the top marketer in tech. Ram Trucks’ homage to the farmer was epic in length for a Super Bowl ad and a worthy follow up to its “Imported From Detroit” ad last year.
Catch up on the ads you missed here at Hulu, or if you really want to nerd out on the advertising, and the strategy behind it, visit us at AdAge.com or follow us on Twitter at @adage.
Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl ad signaled a new era in personal computers, a revolt against a world portrayed as an Orwellian state dominated by IBM. It also ushered in a new era of Super Bowl advertising where viewers came to expect the ads to be almost as entertaining as the game itself.
The ad, directed by filmmaker Ridley Scott, who had just finished “Blade Runner,” cost nearly $1 million to make, a huge sum for the fledgling computer company. The concept was brainchild of legendary ad man and TBWA/MediaArts chairman Lee Clow, who remembers Apple co-founder Steve Jobs didn’t get involved in the story or the casting. Rather, he just said, “go make it great.”
In addition, we’ve interviewed Bryan Buckley, one of the most prolific and clever Super Bowl commercial directors of all time with 42 spots to his name since 1999. Mr. Buckley is responsible for dozens of modern classics that make you laugh with brands like FedEx, Bud Light, Pepsi and many others.
Both interviews are part of a series created for Hulu, “The Art of the Super Bowl Ad,” with the stories behind some of the best Super Bowl ads in history. We hope you enjoy them as you get ready to watch the big game—and the ads in between.
More than a game, the Super Bowl is a cultural event, a truly American spectacle, and the ads are very much a part of the experience. Mix a big stage with big ambitions and budgets, and what you get are some memorable ads, as well some memorable misfires — not unlike the game itself. The best will make you laugh, think, or even feel something, whether it’s the warmth of Volkswagen’s “The Force” spot from 2011 or the emotion rendered in text by Google’s “Parisian Love” in 2010.
As you read this, directors of this year’s ads are putting the finishing touches on their work, some tinkering until the very last minute. Some ads will be veiled in secrecy until the second they appear on air; others will be released on the web early to generate buzz before the game. All will represent the brand’s best effort to connect with the public and to tell a story in 15, 30 or 60 seconds.
For advertisers, the stakes are high; this is their “Super Bowl,” too. With more than 110 million viewers in the U.S. alone, its the biggest TV audience of the year and they pay dearly for the privilege to reach them: $3.5 million for 30 precious seconds of air time.
While the hilarious gag is a mainstay of Super Bowl creative, last year we saw the pendulum start to swing back to ads that tell a story. This isn’t exactly a new trend: the two best Super Bowl ads of all time, Apple’s “1984” and Coke’s 1980 “Mean Joe Green” conveyed a narrative, which made them memorable. Last year, Chrysler took it further, airing a 2-minute mini-movie “Imported from Detroit,” which reintroduced the brand, and Detroit, to an audience that hadn’t thought much about either in a while. This year, expect more of the same. “You’re going to see the art form of storytelling take on a greater role in the Super Bowl,” NBC Sports advertising sales chief Seth Winter told Ad Age.
Here at Ad Age, we appreciate the art and science of advertising, whether it’s Clydesdale’s playing football or a bunch of guys who just had to say, “wassup.” To get you ready for the Big Game, we dug through the archives of Super Bowls past and partnered with Hulu to bring you the best ads of all time. We’ll be adding “Behind The Work” videos in the coming days that tell the story behind some of the greatest of the past 50 years.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in comments. And if you’d like to read more about the business behind the Super Bowl, you can visit us at AdAge.com.