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AdAge: Why We Love Super Bowl Ads

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