Pepsi, Cindy Crawford
Bill Simmons: This is my favorite Super Bowl commercial ever. Back in 1992, I desperately hoped it would start a trend of big brands using smoking-hot women to strut in slow motion while purchasing their products, a trend that should have started back in the mid-1980s when Tawny Kitaen was rolling around on top of David Coverdale’s Jaguar in the “Here I Go Again” video (even if that wasn’t an ad). Every television ad has one goal: to make us stop whatever we’re doing and keep watching the ad until its completion, while also noticing whatever product is being pimped (and maybe even subconsciously wanting to use that product). I’d argue that this Pepsi ad accomplishes that. Seeing Cindy in slow motion in her prime almost made me like Pepsi, a product that I’ve hated over the course of my life more than any product other than Heineken. Cindy didn’t spark a glut of commercials with smoking-hot women strutting in slow motion for no real reason whatsoever, but maybe there’s still time. I just hope Heineken doesn’t try this idea with Kate Upton.
Crystal Pepsi, Super Bowl XXVII, 1993
Rafe Bartholomew: Nineteen years of hindsight may make it hard to believe that this commercial ever needed to be parodied. It includes a blatant visual reference to oral sex, a shirtless, musclebound man in jorts, and, among other images, a rhinoceros. But on top of being wholly ridiculous on its own, the Crystal Pepsi ad inspired one of the greatest Saturday Night Live parodies ever, "Crystal Gravy."
Dan Silver: With the coveted first commercial slot in Super Bowl XXVII, Pepsi launched one of the most pretentious advertising campaigns for easily one of the most mocked and failed products ever to hit consumers' shelves. Van Halen’s sophomoric "Right Now" attempts to thematically guide the spot forward under ridiculous and inane image and text juxtapositions — a naked baby on a beach reaching for the heavens with the words "Right now nature is inventing better stuff than science" written over it ("stuff," what Ivy League grad approved that word use?), a wristwatch spinning at high speeds next to "Right now the future is one step ahead of you," and my personal favorite, War Games-esque text rolling out over a black screen reading "Right now computers still can’t laugh." I still can’t understand why Pepsi thought this was a good idea. Even in 1993, a 12-year-old me thought the whole concept was unnatural: Why would I want to drink something that looked like Sprite, but tasted like Pepsi? I suppose that’s why they went with such a pandering hard sell.
Michael Weinreb: A compendium of Spuds MacKenzie facts:
• Spuds was actually a female. Her real name was apparently Honey Tree Evil Eye, which is also the title of an upcoming Nic Cage film, in which he plays a sinister naturopathic magician.
• Spuds wore a tuxedo, which seemed unusual back then, until the Internet allowed us to research just how fucking insane people are: http://www.doggieclothesline.com/wedding/dog-tuxedo
• "There were reports (Spuds MacKenzie) had died in a plane crash, been electrocuted in a hot tub, or drowned while strapped to a surfboard during filming, all orchestrated by (Anheuser-Busch)." —From The Super Bowl of Advertising, by Bernice Kanner. (I assume Kanner is referring to the rumors being orchestrated, and not the attempts at canine electrocution.) In truth, the real Spuds died from kidney failure in 1993, which is what happens when you repeatedly force a bull terrier to drink enough low-grade light beer that she willingly rides a skateboard.
Google's "Parisian Love"
Andy Greenwald:Most Super Bowl commercials are like the game itself: loud, violent, and massively overhyped. Let us pause, then, to celebrate one that managed to be artful, a delicate rose blooming in the trash heap of beer bottles, bikini babes, and Abe Vigoda’s misplaced dignity. Google’s “Parisian Love” debuted midway through Super Bowl XLIV and its gentle sweetness still surprises: Displaying nothing but the familiar white search screen, the ad narrates a transatlantic love story between a cinematically ignorant American rube and a flirty French femme. (It’s basically the movie Like Crazy but with a more fertile ending.) There may be no crying in football, but if you’re not sniffling a little when our smitten protagonist deletes his search for long-distance relationship advice and instead starts surfing for jobs in Paris, then I don’t know what to tell you. (This guy knows what I’m talking about.)
Still, what’s most impressive about the ad isn’t how it charms without fireworks. It’s that Google found a way to package, market, and sell something as mundane and enormous as “the Internet” as if it were a white gold “Couple’s Necklace” from Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry. It may look simple, but it’s not.
McDonald's, "The Showdown" - 1993
Jonah Keri: Yeah, yeah, two iconic basketball players, great premise, hilariously impossible trick shots, one of the greatest commercials of my youth. But let's get to the important question: Who let MJ out of the house wearing basketball shorts, Jordans and the 14th-best entry from Bill Cosby's sweater collection? Was Jordan wearing the sweater in lieu of warm-ups, and there's a jersey underneath? Was he going to shoot around for a couple hours with the sweater on? Was he on his way to a date with Sondra? We need this commercial released on Blu-ray, with extended commentary, tout de suite.
Rembert Browne: First seeing this commercial at an age where I didn't understand the science behind the "cut-away," I assumed the two best basketball players on earth were simply that good at trick shots. This caused me to spend months perfecting my over-the-backboard shot, as well as sketching up ways to sneak atop my roof to bank the ball off my mom's Toyota Corolla and into the hoop while zip-lining across my driveway into a freshly raked pile of leaves. Looking back on this commercial, 19 years later, it's super-cheesy and super-perfect. Do you see what MJ is wearing? It's like a two-piece Lite-Brite Crayola Lightning Storm festival. How did this man turn into a HOF curmudgeon that cheese-grates his jeans and then splatters them with mayonnaise before hitting the town? Sadly, no one knows. Oh yeah, big ups to the Super Bowl and McDonald's.
[Ed.note: Jordan's wardobe is an ongoing problem.]
Mark Lisanti: You know what? The Super Bowl commercial break wasn't always an unrelenting string of $10 million mini-blockbusters. It was GTE, and sailing adventures on the high seas with Atlantic Financial, and Seiko watches, and The New Mike Hammer, and Hard Copy (no, a different Hard Copy, with newspapers and yelling), and something called Outlaws, and the Green Light Resale Center, and something about DWIs in NY, and oh hey, hi LT!, and now-long-departed octogenarians supplementing their Social Security with McDonald's paychecks, and holy shit it's the Outlaws again, and a Foot Locker-branded, futuristic jai alai match that was just now green-lighted for reimagining as a 3-D directing vehicle for Peter Berg, and Mike Scott throwing history's worst-concealed spitball on behalf of Slice, and a whole bunch of other things that would alternately terrify and enthrall Rembert Browne. Things were less complicated then, but also more complicated, in a way. What the hell am I talking about? I don't know, 1987 just gave me so much coke I'm going to be awake until Rembert's making his cyborg kids explain GoDaddy commercials to supertoddlers jacked into the PlayStation 14 socioneural network. I really want a Slice. Go get me a Slice.
Monster.com, "When I Grow Up"
Katie Baker: For spendy start-ups, the Super Bowl has long been the perfect platform for waving hello to the world, however obnoxiously. The 2000 contest between the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams featured brash ads for so many companies bouncing around on the Internet bubble (with Pets.com the most infamous of them) that the game is sometimes recalled as the "dot-com Super Bowl." But it was a year earlier, in 1999, that Monster.com ran its first-ever Super Bowl ad — an ad that I still think about to this day. Understated and elegant, the online job search company's "When I Grow Up" spot somehow managed in 30 seconds to be poignant, funny, and (in the biggest shocker) directly relevant to its brand. It was also terrifyingly timeless, which may speak to why, in contrast to so many other dot-com disasters that once saw screen time on Super Bowl Sunday, Monster.com is still around 13 years later. No being forced into early retirement for that kid.
Bill Barnwell: I feel dumb picking a commercial that aired last year, but I feel like the Groupon ad with Timothy Hutton doesn't get enough credit for being just jaw-droppingly bad. Who possibly could have thought this was a good idea? Was America really waiting for someone to rip on the plight of the Tibetan people? Isn't this commercial the exact moment where things started to go wrong for Groupon?
Snickers, "Not Going Anywhere"
Megan Creydt: The awful Twix “Need a Moment?” commercials running today are clear rip-offs of this great Snickers campaign. Going to start reintroducing “great googly-moogly” into my vocabulary pronto.