The next Super Bowl is coming. And as we get closer to the big game, Americans aren’t just looking forward to the football – they’re excited to see what the country’s big-budget brands will come up with for this year’s ads.
While a lot of the unknown remains to be known about the 2021 Super Bowl commercials, some leaked ads suggest that much of the content on the relatable and comedic side will inherit while viewers always keep the Super Bowl ads we know and love still inspire with a high budget.
Here’s just one example of an ad we can expect to see on Super Bowl Sunday for Bud Light’s new Seltzer lemonade. The ad uses the metaphor “When life gives you lemons” to symbolize how 2020 went:
But leaked ads aren’t the only thing we can see to prepare for the marketing wonders we might see on Sunday.
To get you started for this year’s Ad Bowl, I’ve rounded up some of the best ads from the past decade and earlier.
Check back every year as we will keep adding to this list as new teasers are released.
Easily enjoy these attention grabbing, emotion-inducing, and sometimes award-winning ads.
The best Super Bowl ads from the past decade
1. “Loretta” – Google (2020)
Google’s Super Bowl ad tells the story of a man who doesn’t want to forget the memories of his wife. To the sound of FUN’s “Say Something”, the man types “how not to forget” into Google and sees search results about how to improve memory. He then uses voice search to say, “Hey Google. Show me photos of me and a Loretta.”
As he clicks through the photos, he explains some of the fond memories he had of his wife. For example, at some point he laughs and tells the Google Assistant, “Remember. Loretta hated my mustache.” Then the wizard’s text says “Ok. I’ll remember it.”
As the things Google has to do with his life and his marriage, viewers get a glimpse into the precious moments that made up his life.
At the end of the ad, Google promises users “a little help with the little things” after the viewers feel a variety of emotions.
While many Super Bowl ads focus on engaging viewers in the action, highlighting celebrities or comedy, Google has taken a more emotional approach to reminding viewers how its products can help people at different points in their lives. While Search helped the man learn tips for remembering things, Drive and Assistant were able to help him relive memories of his marriage.
2. “Joust” – HBO and Budweiser (2019)
Ahead of the 2019 Super Bowl, Budweiser launched a fun series of ads following a medieval kingdom where the king and townspeople said “Dilly Dilly!” when the beer is offered. The series also featured a hero named Bud Knight. In some advertisements, he rode his horse and fought in battles dressed with Budweiser logos.
As Budweiser’s Super Bowl 2019 ad begins, you’ll see a handful of cheerful medieval characters excitedly waiting for the Bud Knight to come to a tournament game
While the Bud Knight heroically rides his horse on the screen, the audience cheers: “Dilly Dilly!” how the competition begins.
But. Things get dark quickly. Shockingly, the Bud Knight loses and is thrown from his horse by the opponent. As the tall, masked opponent walks towards the knight, most Game of Thrones fans will recognize him. Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. “The Mountain” – one of the most monstrous villains of the series.
When Clegane towers over the Bud Knight, it becomes clear – especially for GoT fans – that the commercial mimics a dramatic death scene from the HBO series in which The Mountain crushed another hero figure with his bare hands.
Clegane reaches for the knight with both hands in a dramatic but funny way. While townspeople are overly dramatic to what’s going on, it’s obvious that Clegane killed another knight by squeezing him off the screen.
All of a sudden, Game of Thrones-themed music starts playing when a dragon flies over Clegane and knocks him down with a blow of fire. When the dragon escapes in clouds and smoke, the music gets louder as the logo and the broadcast date of the show appear instead of a Budweiser logo. In a way, Game of Thrones and HBO hijacked and destroyed the Budweiser ad series.
This ad is hilarious as it comedically mimics an incredibly intense and remarkable scene from Game of Thrones. What is more interesting is that it surprises the audience who only expect it to be a standard Budweiser ad. This is a great example of how an ad combines cross-promotion with a memorable plot.
The ad, produced by Droga5 and Wieden + Kennedy, was so humorous and clever that it even won the Super Clio 2019, a Clio Award for Super Bowl advertisers.
3. “We All Win” – Microsoft (2019)
After Microsoft became aware that people with missing limbs or reduced mobility were having trouble holding and pressing buttons on video game controllers, the tech company developed an adaptive controller that used touchpads instead of buttons.
After the controller launched, Microsoft highlighted the story of how they were resolved for the customer in a Super Bowl ad titled “We All Win” (2019).
In the Gold Clio-winning campaign, Microsoft interviewed children with mobility issues and missing limbs about why they loved video games, but how they still had difficulty with game controllers due to their disability.
Many of the children and parents featured in the ad say that playing helps them connect with friends in ways they may not otherwise be able to. However, because of the current line of controllers, they have difficulty playing or competing in many games.
“I never thought it was unfair. I was just like, ‘Hey, this is it and it’s not going to change,” says one boy.
After demonstrating the problem with game controllers, the ad shows the kids using Microsoft’s new adaptive video game controller how to make gaming easier and more accessible for them.
For example, a girl excitedly says, “I can press the buttons as quickly as possible,” while a boy exclaims, “Now anyone can play!”
“We All Win met all of the criteria for emotions, starting a dialogue and having fun. It wasn’t an ad about disabilities, but about children who wanted to play video games,” says Dmitry Shamis, Senior Director of Creative. “I loved it in February and I still love it now.”
Not only does We All Win draw your heart, but it also drives customer solution and accessibility by explaining how Microsoft took the time to create a product that fixes a big problem with the one unique customer group is faced. This ad makes you believe that Microsoft really cares about its customers and is going to extra effort to ensure that everyone has a great experience with their products.
You can read more about this particular campaign and get inspiration from a few more ads This blog post about integrative marketing.
4. “It’s a tide indicator” – Tide (2018)
Another Super Clio winner was “It’s a Tide Ad,” which was created by Tide detergent company and agency Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
In 2017 and 2018, Tide released a number of commercials with storylines unrelated to Tide other than the noticeably clean clothes of the actors. When the audience was at the edge of their seats, someone on the ad said, “It’s just another tide ad.” Then they’d see the Tide logo and text that said, “If it’s clean, it’s tide.”
That campaign started with a long Super Bowl ad that also received an Emmy nomination. In the advertising, Strange things David Harbor shows up in several common commercials, including being in the bathroom with a buff deodorant model, driving a sports car, and laughing on the couch with a fake family.
As he appears on every commercial, he explains that they all have one thing in common: clean clothes that have been washed with Tide detergent. In the end, he says, “Does that make any Super Bowl commercial a tide ad? I think it does.”
Since Tide’s only job is to keep clothes clean, they show the brand’s strength in several eclectic and silly scenarios. Humor like this can also be a great way to make a simple product more memorable. If you go to the store for laundry detergent soon after watching this commercial, Tide may be the first thing that comes to mind because of the ridiculous ads.
5. “Band of Brands” – Newcastle (2015)
What do you do when you can’t afford a Super Bowl ad? Cross-promote with other brands that pay for it. Newcastle, a popular beer company, did just that back in 2015.
Ahead of the 2015 Super Bowl, Newcastle launched a call-to-action video in which park and recreational actress Aubrey Plaza encouraged brands to pool their money on a big ad. With Super Bowl ads well over $ 4.7 million this year – with no production – a number of brands, big and small, reached out to Newcastle to get them on the ad, even for a few seconds
The one-minute ad is filled with product placements and tells the story of a couple who drink Newcastle beers together to celebrate moving to a new home. As they walk through their new house, you can see brand logos like paintings, family photos, or decorations hanging on the walls.
While they are unpacking the boxes, they don’t talk so subtly about all the devices they have while holding them to the camera. In addition to the obvious visual product placements, they also bring brands into their conversations. For example, the husband once told his girlfriend that he couldn’t believe they would move in together after “meeting on Match.com”.
Although the ad starts with smarter, more obvious product placements, it gets funnier when the couple advertises every single product they have in their house as soon as possible.
This ad is an incredibly clever example of a brand that has taken product placement and co-marketing to extremes while benefiting from a virtually free Super Bowl commercial.
6. “Let your hands off my Doritos” – Doritos (2010)
“Let your hands off my Doritos” tells the funny story of a cocky man who meets his son for the first time with love interests. In the ad, the man with flowers enters his date house and sits down with her child while the mother gets ready. When she leaves the living room, you can see the man checking her noticeably.
He sits down with booty as he starts talking to her young son. Without thinking about asking the child if they can have one of their Doritos, he grabs a chip. The boy hits him immediately and loudly, staring at him in the most intimidating way a child can and angrily exclaims, “Keep your hands off my mother. Keep your hands off my Doritos!”
The cocky friend ends the commercial in fear as the screen fades. When the logo appears, you can hear the boy’s mother asking, “Are you playing nice?”
That ad was so funny that it’s still burned into many of our heads. Even though it started nearly a decade ago, I still tell friends to “keep their hands off my Doritos” if they grab one of mine without asking.
Although it’s only 30 seconds, the ad is hilarious, relatable, a bit shocking, and heartwarming, which is what makes it so memorable.
The best Super Bowl ads before 2010
7. “Wassup” – Budweiser (1999)
If you grew up in the late 90s or early 2000s, you may have a memory of children in your school who used the word “WASSUP?” to each other. I know i do.
If not, you’ve probably seen the Budweiser ad that gave the now outdated greeting:
In the ad, a man answers the phone while watching a big game. His friend on the other line asks: “Wassup?” The man on the couch says, “Nothing. Just watch the game and drink a bud.” The conversation escalates when the man’s roommate walks in unexpectedly and says “WASSSSUPPPPP ?!”
In true ’90s fashion, the roommate rushes to pick up the other house phone to join the conversation. The three men then just start screaming: “Wassup!” in louder and more bizarre ways, until suddenly they become silent. One of the friends then asks: “So, wassup?” The other two on the phone say again, “Nothing. Just watch the game and have a drink.” Then everyone says: “Right.”
This video seems like a millions of dollars waste on a Super Bowl slot, but it definitely wasn’t. As a viewer and consumer, all you have to do is know that the three friends are watching the game and drinking Budweiser while watching. The “Wassup?” Marathon was essentially a tool to make advertising fun and memorable. Due to the fact that “Wassup” was still referenced in the second half of the 2010s, it’s easy to see that this ad was a success.
8. “Your Deceitful Heart” – Pepsi (1996)
This old Pepsi commercial shows the ramifications of what can happen if you “betray” your company’s brand.
The short and sweet ad shows simply fake security footage of a Coca-Cola delivery agent putting Coca-Cola cans in a refrigerator in the store for the song “Your Cheatin ‘Heart” by Hank Williams Sr. It gets interesting when the delivery man makes sure that nobody is watching and then opens the refrigerator with Pepsi.
Suddenly the shelves in the refrigerator collapse as all of the Pepsi cans noticeably fall from the refrigerator to the floor. The ad makes a short and simple point: Even Coca-Cola employees love Pepsi:
9. “1984” – Apple (1984)
At the beginning of 1984 Apple used the George Orwell classic “1984” in an award-winning Super Bowl campaign.
The 1948 George Orwell novel followed a 1984 dystopian society in which everyone was dressed alike and conformed to the same leader, views, and ideologies.
As an innovative company, Apple has always tried to “differentiate itself” from its competitors. The tech giant’s approach to Super Bowl advertising back in 1983 had the same mission.
The Super Bowl ad brings the conformist community to life in 1984 when you see men march in straight lines to a room where their leader is on a giant screen and tell them, “We are one people a whim, a determination and a cause. “
At the climax of the commercial, a woman with a hammer and brightly colored clothing runs towards the screen. She throws her hammer into the screen when it explodes.
A narrator concludes: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you will see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
The ad, directed by Ridley Scott, didn’t just highlight one well-known book. But it was a bold symbol of early tension and monopoly in Silicon Valley. At the time, Apple was considered a young, disruptive company, while IBM was the only tech giant in the PC industry. Tech journalists and innovators in Silicon Valley often thought of IBM as a soulless company.
In this ad, Apple explains why innovation, disruption, and tech-independent outsiders would destroy the monopolies of the future. It also affirmed and strengthened the brand’s positioning as a company that wanted to make products that would allow people to use their unique qualities and skills. This is a strategy they still use in their campaigns to this day.
10. “I want to buy the world a Cola” – Coca-Cola (1971)
On the hills of Italy in 1970, Coca-Cola pulled a group of young adults from different countries together and filmed them with a jingle called “I want to buy the world a Coke”.
This led to one of Coca-Cola’s most notable ads, let alone a popular one from the 1971 Super Bowl:
This commercial is a great form of early inclusive marketing because it shows that everyone has something in common, even though we are all from different or different backgrounds.
In particular, this ad shows that millions of people from around the world can agree to enjoy Coca-Cola. It not only embraces the beauty of diversity and world peace, but also highlights the international popularity of the soda drink.
Super Bowl Ad Takeaways
Even if you are a small business owner. You can learn from these ads for your own video or content marketing strategies. Here are some things that many of these ads have in common.
- Emotion: Regardless of whether you are feeling happy, sad, or optimistic, most of these ads caught your attention with a topic and plot that evokes emotion.
- Pop Culture: As you’ve seen on Budweiser, HBO, Newcastle, and Apple, some of the most memorable ads have recognized some notable pop culture or literature and woven a memorable story around them.
- Relativity: Emotional ads don’t often work without relativity. Many of these ads do a great job of putting you in the shoes of their protagonist. Whether you’re seeing kids accessing games in a Microsoft ad or laughing at the kid protecting their mother in the Doritos ad, you identify with the characters or people presented on a deeper level will.
For more examples of great brand ads to learn from, check out Emmy Nominees ‘rosters, Clio Award winners, and our marketers’ favorite campaigns for 2019.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in January 2015. It was updated to be complete and fresh in 2021.