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The legends, the one-hit wonders & the comeback kings

February 2, 2012

Beyond the actual game, the most heated debates in the aftermath of this Sunday’s Super Bowl will center on two expressions of creativity - the commercials and the halftime show.

Super Bowl ads are our industry’s most widely viewed and closely scrutinized expressions of creativity. And with good reason. With investments averaging $3.5 million for a half-minute of America’s time, along with thousands, if not millions, more to create and produce each ad, some of America’s most famous brands will make heavy wagers on Sunday’s game.

Last year’s Super Bowl was the most watched television program in history with 111 million viewers. This year’s edition is expected to surpass that mark. Are there really that many football fans? No. The Super Bowl is a cultural experience that far transcends sport, spans all demographics, and attracts people who won’t look at another football game all year. The ads have become one of the big reasons why.

I tend to think of Super Bowl advertisers like popular music acts. There are the legends who endure, the one-hit wonders and the comeback kings.

Some brands that will advertise on Sunday are like The Beatles (think Budweiser) – they release new songs every year; almost all are good, some are great – including the 1989 Bud Bowl spot that pitted Bud and Bud Light against each other in an epic battle of the bottles, a spot that was created by the “P” in CTP, Grant Pace.

Other ads on Sunday will be remembered as one-hit wonders. Musically, you can take your pick here (nothing like a little Who Let The Dogs Out before the game Sunday). Ad-wise, two of the best were Dirt Devil’s 1997 ad featuring Fred Astaire 10 years after his death and a digitally added vacuum cleaner and Nuveen Investments’ 2000 ad featuring the late Christopher Reeve.

Will there be a Santana or Bob Dylan in the mix this year, a comeback brand that’s trying to remake a faded image with a big splash? Chrysler did it last year with an ode to Detroit.

Some of the best spots are long, like last year’s two-minute Chrysler ad. Others are short, like Miller High Life’s 2009 spot that was all of 1 second long.

My all-time favorite is from The Beatles, I mean Budweiser. The 2002 Tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.

Enjoy the game. Enjoy the ads. Try to enjoy Madonna. Go Pats.

Photo: Jordan Polizzi