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Sunday, January 27, 2002
Best Super Bowl commercials

Page 2 staff

This week's Page 2 top 10 list takes time for some commercial announcements.

Ever since the Super Bowl became the biggest sporting event in the country, the expensive spots have been just as anticipated as -- and sometimes better than -- the games.

So we've compiled our list of the best Super Bowl commercials of all-time. We also asked for your opinion, and we've compiled your choices for the best commercial introduced during a Super Bowl along with a poll to crown the top Super Bowl commercial of all-time.

Here's our list:

1. Apple: "1984" (1984)
1984 Mac ad
Macintosh's sledgehammer hurls toward Big Brother.
The first Macintosh was introduced in this 60-second Orwellian spot done by "Blade Runner" director Ridley Scott. An auditorium full of spiritless drones watches as "Big Brother" (IBM) prattles on about the anniversary of the "Information Purification Directives" on a gigantic television screen. Suddenly, from the back of the hall, a blonde woman in shorts and a headband comes running toward the screen, hurls a slow-motion sledgehammer (the new Mac) and shatters it. "On Jan. 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh," the voice over says. "And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."

Even now, it's amazing to look at, and has the added bonus of -- get this -- actually having something important to say about the product being plugged.

2. Budweiser: "Frogs" (1995)
A sleepy little backwater swamp on a warm summer night, crickets chirping, fireflies flaring and frogs croaking. Slowly, unless your mind is playing tricks on you, the frog croaks are starting to sound familiar. "Bud." "Weissssss." "Errrrrr." "Buuuuud." "Weeeeiiiiissss." "Er." It's advertising in the round and just like that, a cold, clear Bud is the easiest, most natural thing in the world.

It's easy to make a cute, cuddly animal commercial that folks will love, but a frog commercial?! In the peace and quiet of the swampy summer night, the slimy little critters come off witty and charming.

3. Pepsi: "Apartment 10G" (1987)
A beautiful woman moves in across the hall from Michael J. Fox. When they first meet, she innocently asks for a Diet Pepsi. Eager to oblige, Fox checks the refrigerator, but he's out of luck. He then jumps out his window into a driving rain, dodges traffic to cross the street and reach a vending machine on the other side. Sure enough, there's a Diet Pepsi in it, so he buys it and returns to offer his new friend the drink. "I hope it wasn't too much trouble," she says. Pepsi brought the ad back in 2000 for Fox's final episode of the sitcom "Spin City."

The scenario was a push-button yes -- what guy hasn't had a lovely girl ask him for a trifle, and gone way way out of his way to get it?

4. Xerox: "Monks" (1977)
Brother Dominic finishes duplicating an old manuscript, only to learn that the head monk needs 500 more sets. Dominic heads through a secret doorway to a modern-day copy shop where the Xerox 9200 (which can copy at an amazing rate of two pages per second!) does the job for him. He returns to the monastery and delivers the sets in no time. "It's a miracle," the father says. Brother Dominic smirks skyward.

Once an ad has fun with monks, the flood gates of irreverence are open. This spot is the prelude to every boundary-pushing pitch you see now.

5. McDonald's: "Showdown" (1993)
MJ and Larry Legend go head-to-head in a game of "Horse." The winner gets a Big Mac. Each shot is more spectacular and improbable than the one before. "Off the floor, off the scoreboard, off the backboard, no rim," Bird says, and then does. "Over the second rafter, off the floor, nothing but net," Jordan counters -- it's good. The ad ends with the two of them sitting on top of the Hancock Building and Jordan sinking one "off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothin' but net."

The off-the-scoreboard, off-the-expressway shots are amusing, but the ad works because, given that we're talking about Michael and Larry, they're almost believable.

6. Pepsi: "Diner" (1995)
Two cola truck drivers, one hauling a load of Coke and one a load of Pepsi, meet in a roadside diner. They share a love for the Youngbloods' tune "Get Together," which is playing on the jukebox, share photos of their kids, and then share sips of each other's drinks. The Pepsi guy looks sheepishly around to make sure nobody's looking, sips his new buddy's Coke and passes it back. The Coke driver samples the other guy's Pepsi, but won't give it back. Things get ugly from there.

The perfect antidote to feel-good holiday schlock. Greed is funny.

7. Monster.com: "When I Grow Up" (1999)
Fresh-faced kids look directly into the camera and share their dreams for the future. You're expecting "fireman" and "doctor" and "astronaut," but instead they say, "When I grow up, I want to be a brown nose," and "When I grow up, I want to be in middle management." The ad's a perfect fit for both late-century American ennui and rampant optimism about the Internet. Ah, those were the days.

Horrifying and hilarious at the same time. The kids look smart and ironic while the rest of us come off like dopes.

8. Budweiser: "Cedric" (2001)
Cedric the Entertainer is romancing a very hot date. When it's time to cool off just a little, he eases into the kitchen to grab two bottles of Bud Light from the fridge. Cedric's, um, shall we say, "excited" at the prospect of where the evening might be headed, so he does a little happy dance in the kitchen, accidentally shaking up the bottles in the process. The end of the evening comes too soon when he opens the bottles and the shaken beer explodes all over his date.

This one is actually a public service announcement: Never, ever dance with a bottle in your hand.

9. Electronic Data Systems: "Herding Cats" (2000)
Rough and tumble cowboys tell stories of riding herd on the plains. They don't herd cattle, though, they herd cats, hundreds and hundreds of them. They drive the furballs across streams, rescue them from trees, and rein them in when they stampede. One catpoke rolls a ball of yarn, another shows off his scratches, a third takes a lint brush to his coat. A voiceover at the end says that managing data in the everchanging world of information technology is like trying to herd cats. EDS claims they're experienced wranglers.

Great use of computer imaging, fun spoof of Marlboro Man-style macho. The ad everybody talked about the next day.

10. Master Lock: "Marksman" (1974)
A goggle-eyed sharpshooter takes aim at a padlock hanging in the center of a target and blasts a bullet right through it. The lock absorbs the blow and holds fast. Better, more simple brand building you'll never see. The ad runs, with only slight variation, during the next 21 Super Bowls -- the lock never breaks.

The ad was so convincing it made you want to put locks on everything in the house.

Note: The 1979 Mean Joe Green Coke commercial, which everyone agrees is a classic, did not actually debut during the Super Bowl. If it had, it would be pushing the Macintosh ad for the top spot on our list. Since it didn't, we'll have to settle for this excuse to remember the ad and get choked up all over again.

Also receiving votes
  • Budweiser: "Dalmatians" (1999) -- Two Dalmatians haven't seen each other since they were born in the same litter two years ago. They are reunited.
  • Nike: "Hare Jordan" (1992) -- The animated icon and celebrity icon unite on the court.
  • Budweiser: "Clydesdales Play Ball" (1996) -- A snowy game of pick-up football between two teams of horses.
  • Pepsi: "Dancing Bears" (1997) -- Grizzly bears dance to a version of the Village People's "YMCA." The commercial was inspired by the Yankees' groundscrew, which did a routine to the song during home games.
  • Pepsi: "Sucked In" (1995) -- A small boy pulls too hard on his straw and gets sucked into his bottle of Pepsi.
  • Budweiser: "Rex's Bad Day" (2000) -- Rex the dog is on a movie set where he produces the required yowl only by recalling his worst moment -- when he ran into the side of a van while chasing a Budweiser truck.
  • Pepsi: "Security Camera" (1996) - A security camera detects a Coke deliveryman trying to steal a can of Pepsi. He spills cans all over the floor.
  • Mountain Dew: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (2000) -- The Dew's extreme adventurers cover Queen's hit song.