‘Tis the season for the most-watched sporting event of the year, as the Los Angeles Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals on Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on Sunday, February 13. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of football to watch because…let’s face it…the commercials – the championship of advertising – also really captivate your interest. And they have been for contracts.
After all, we all remember 81-year-old Clara Peller angrily asking “Where’s the beef? after being served a huge bun containing a miniscule hamburger patty in that classic spot for Wendy’s during the Super Bowl in 1984. And we can, no doubt, envision NFL legend “Mean” Joe Greene in 1980 limping towards the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room as that young boy offers him his bottle of Coca-Cola. “Wow!…thanks ‘Mean’ Joe,” after he tosses the kid his jersey.
More recently, the already beloved Betty White attracted a new generation of fans after being tackled in that Snickers commercials in 2010. “Oh, come on man, you’ve been riding me all day,” complained Betty after being thrown in the mud ( and before she found comfort in that tasty Snickers bar!).
“In the commercialized world of American culture there is no finer day than Super Bowl Sunday, the tradition that defines our culture,” noted Mike Tankel, partner/optimist at marketing and development firm To Be Continued. “And with that are the commercials themselves, those meme-like takeaways that showcase the products, the celebrities, and the activities we love (and hate).”
According to a survey in 2019 from Qualtrics, 20 percent of the respondents said they only watch the game for the commercials. Another survey in 2020 found that 38 percent of the people would share that year’s ads across social media. And, each year, these “must see” advertisements and buzz generators are showcased on CBS special, Super Bowl Greatest Commercialswhich celebrates the “All Time Classics” on Tuesday, February 8 (at 8 pm ET), and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
“These commercials create the conversations that brands love – millions of people watching, nothing too sacred, and the incredible engagement for the days, if not weeks and months, that follow,” added Tankel. “They represent how we consume media, how we communicate, and how we are influenced — 30 (or 60) second doses of micro information that inform, persuade, and set the stage for our culture in the months ahead.”
A tradition on CBS now for 21 years, Super Bowl Greatest Commercials: All-Time Classics, hosted by Boomer Esiason and Daniela Ruah and produced by Bob Horowitz of Juma Entertainment, in conjunction with Michael Antinoro and Tony Lanni producing for Film45, countdowns the best Super Bowl commercials of all time as voted for by the viewers. Robert Dalrymple, Eric Smith and Dino Shorté are the producers, and Leon Knoles will direct.
Other Memorable Entries
With an endless number of former Super Bowl commercials to choose from, counting down to the most admired or recognized is certainly a challenge. For example…
Ray Charles croons “Uh-huh” worldwide for Diet Pepsi in 1991. Frogs “Bud,” “Weis” and Er” rhythmically croak the name of Budweiser in a spot in 1995. The kid in 2011 goes about his house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader while attempting to use the Dark Side on everything from the family dog to the new Volkwagen Passat. Anheuser Busch in 2000 comically slurs “What’s up?” care of the catchier “Wassup?” (which like “Money Out the Wazoo” for E-Trade becomes a national catchphrase). And, in 2020, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston recreates an iconic moment from the Stanley Kubrick horror movie The Shining in a spot for Mountain Dew’s new Zero Sugar soda.
Let’s not forget Apple: 1984, which is credited by many with paving the way for the monumental advertising showcase that the Super Bowl has become.
“Educating and entertaining is our goal behind Super Bowl Greatest Commercials Each year,” said Robert Horowitz, President of Juma Entertainment, who cites BMW, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Doritos and Pringles among the upcoming ads featured during Super Bowl LVI showcased by Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier in the special. “We are a show that the NFL embraces and the viewers enjoy revisiting, and we also offer a sneak peak at what spots you will be seeing on Sunday.”
“People want to relive these great ads, are we let them see what they want to see,” he added. “For example, we will have the spots in the top 10 we feel are the most classic of the classics. But we will also include other spots for those same products that might have missed the countdown. The great commercials are the ones that really tell a story.”
Specializing in the non-scripted genres of lifestyle, competition and docuseries, Juma Entertainment was created in 2005 by Horowitz, who at the time was head of the US television arm of the sports and entertainment firm IMG. With a roster, to-date, of dozens of entries the notable productions from Juma Entertainment include series Greatest #AtHome Videoshosted by Cedric the Entertainer, Secret Celebrity Renovation, The Singing Beeand The Superstars; and specials Greatest Holiday Commercials Showdown, Dogs of the Year, Battle of the Network Starsand the aforementioned Super Bowl Greatest Commercials.
“We had two Super Bowl icons pass away in recent months and will be featuring a tribute to Betty White and John Madden on this year’s special noted,” Horowitz. “And we will also go behind the scenes of the BMW spot with Salma Hayek and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 40th anniversary of Bud Light in an ad with Guy Fieri.”
“The Super Bowl is the only piece of media in the world where if you took the commercials out the rating goes down,” he said. “It is the only time of the year when the audience seeks them out. And the event itself is still the best way to reach as many people as possible.”
The matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals is expected to be watched by in the vicinity 100 million people.
Naturally, Super Bowl advertisers are now busy building buzz for their Big Game commercials through short teaser videos, which include Hellmann’s, Nissan, Kia, Rakuten, Lays, Irish Spring, Frito-Lay, Squarespace, TurboTax, WeatherTech and Michelob Ultra. Planet Fitness, meanwhile, will feature Lindsay Lohan in a spot narrated by William Shatner with cameos from Dennis Rodman, Buzzy Cohen and Danny Trejo.
“In theory, Super Bowl spots are the pinnacle of the American dream — big ideas, big stars and big budgets on America’s biggest day, Super Bowl Sunday,” noted Mike Tankel. “They are a reflection of not just who we are but who we are to become over the months ahead as they permeate our pop culture. For an advertiser, it’s a big commitment. But the end result, particularly in this world of teasers, post-game follow-up and social media, is immediate and, ideally, positive ongoing brand recognition.”