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Creative Creative Works Super Bowl

Are these the 10 best Super Bowl ads ever? Creative directors share all-time favorites

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By Audrey Kemp | LA reporter

February 7, 2024 | 11 min read

From empowering messages to quirky creatures, these are the most unforgettable Super Bowl commercials ever, according to some of advertising’s most creative minds.

Betty White with a Snickers

Snickers, ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’

As brands begin unveiling their Super Bowl LVIII commercials, The Drum decided to take a trip down memory lane and ask creatives at top ad agencies to share their all-time favorite Super Bowl ads.

These commercials didn’t just interrupt the game; they became part of the cultural conversation, leaving audiences laughing and crying for years to come.

So, as we gear up for this year’s commercial showdown, let’s revisit some of the gems that rewrote the marketing playbook.

Always: ‘Like a Girl’

Tres Colacion & Giancarlo Rodas, executive creative directors, Droga5 New York: “‘What’s our “Like a Girl?” campaign?’ The question that launched a thousand rolls of the eyes. But seriously, vexed creatives aside, this became the reference for so much that followed. The question and its flip, the early jab at toxic masculinity on its biggest stage, the line neatly pre-packaged into a clever #hashtag and all accomplished with what appeared to be the most minimal of budgets. And real people liked it. Our moms liked it. They sent it to us and asked, ‘Why couldn’t you do something like this?’ That’s the real winner.”

EDS: ‘Cat Herders’

Alyssa Georg, creative director, 72andSunny: “I am not a cat person, but my favorite Super Bowl spot is ‘Cat Herders’ from EDS, an HP Company. Taking a complex client and turning what it does into a simple visual metaphor with cowboys is my dream. All kidding aside, this was a spot that didn’t rely on celebrities but rather a strong insight and well-told visual story in order to stand out. This was also made 15 years ago without the advances in technology we have today – very impressive. The beauty of this spot is I could still see this running today and hold its relevance. (PS, please don’t unfriend me just because I’m not a cat person.)”

Google: ‘Parisian Love’

Tim Roan, chief creative officer, McGarrah Jessee: “This is genius on so many levels. It was cheap as hell to make and yet it felt crafted. We didn’t need a voice-over to tell us what to think or feel. It hit the sweet spot of product-as-brand: it focused completely on search and how we use it. It probably made everyone in that division at Google love their jobs and their company. It made me cry. Chef’s kiss.”

Tide: ‘It’s a Tide Ad’

Shayne Millington, chief creative officer, McCann New York: “I love Super Bowl season, not because of football but because it’s a cultural phenomenon, created and amplified by the advertising community. Every year, we raise the bar higher than the last. The stand-out for me had the most dramatic positive impact in Super Bowl history and was made for Tide in 2018. It created new rules for how we play with the media buy. It didn’t rely on massive CGI, celebrity or the adorable puppy. It had an amazing idea and executed it flawlessly. What began as a seemingly ordinary commercial soon morphed into a meta-commentary on Super Bowl commercials themselves. Since the airing of that spot, you have seen many more brands be playful with how we interact with media and the audience.”

Atit Shah, chief creative officer, Digitas: “Maximalist and mischievous, ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ is the greatest big game heist of all time. First, it’s a declaration of ownership of all that is clean, a hilarious odyssey through the tropes of auto, beer and smart speakers, Pied Piper’ed by the jaunty David Harbour. Then, to one-up itself, behold the psyop-level ring of ‘gotcha’ vignettes seeded throughout the night, brilliantly crashing the P&G mothership’s other properties, including Mr Clean and Old Spice; your brain has been fundamentally rewired. Just try to unsee Tide. Can you picture the creative and media ballet required? The sweat beads of eclipsed advertisers that eve? Mind blown.”

Snickers: ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’

Jason Karley, executive creative director, TBWA\Chiat\Day: “As much as I love the genre-busting ‘It’s A Tide Ad,’ I’m going with ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.’ This ad had it all. Perfect casting and use of celebrity. Physical comedy. Funny dialogue. A smart product insight (yes, Super Bowl spots can have those). And bonus points for being a campaignable idea that ran for years after. It’s easy to forget how drawn in you were the first time you saw Betty White get slammed into the mud before the Snickers reveal more than halfway through.”

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FedEx: ‘Color Bars’

Teddy Stoecklein, executive creative director, VIA: “FedEx’s ‘Color Bars’ from BBDO is the best of all time. It was so simple. If you want people to watch your ad, make them think they lost their signal to the game. Then, apologize with a crawl that made fun of every other Super Bowl ad while making a very clear point. The apology was for not having an ad to show because ‘some boob at our ad agency’ didn’t use FedEx to ship the tape to NBC. ‘Had they used FedEx, they’d still be their ad agency.’ Absolutely brilliant. Plus, it cost almost nothing.”

Steve O’Connell, co-chief creative officer, Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners: “Going big and featuring a celebrity feels like a requirement these days. And it’s the safe way to go. But here came this humble, courageous FedEx spot that went completely against the grain on the strength of a smart, funny idea. Proving, once again, you don’t need a big budget to stand out. Hats off to the brave clients that approved this one.”

Mountain Dew: ‘Puppy Monkey Baby’

Erin Bradley, creative lead, Billion Dollar Boy: “Mountain Dew’s 2016 ‘Puppy Monkey Baby’ Super Bowl commercial is the one that stuck with me and I believe it resonated with many others as well. Its memorability lies in its oddity and, let’s admit it, we’re all a bit weird. This spot brilliantly taps into that frenzied, pleasure-driven aspect of our collective psyche with a catchy little tune and an AI-generated aberration that feels right at home atop the TikTok family tree. TikTok actually launched in the same year as this ad and continues to be the gold standard for this kind of lovable oddball content.”

Honda: ‘Matthew’s Day Off’

Joe Baratelli, chief creative officer, RPA: “An unbranded 10-second video with Matthew Broderick, ‘How can I handle work on a day like today?’ ending with a simple date, sent the internet and broadcast news into a tizzy. (Making it the number one shared video on YouTube.) A new sequel? In the spot that aired, Broderick playing hooky driving around Los Angeles in his new CR-V, which paralleled the classic film, was the answer. Adding Easter eggs from the original pushed past mere entertainment to an engaging post-game treasure hunt. The famous day off perfectly captured the go-out-and-enjoy-life ethos for a new SUV from Honda.”

Old Milwaukee: ‘Will Ferrell’

Matt Heath, co-founder and chief creative officer, Party Land: “My favorite is the Old Milwaukee spot with Will Ferrell. Everything about it was a big ‘fuck you’ to the masturbatory Super Bowl commercial industry. The faux-drama. The wardrobe was probably what he wore to set. The cut-off delivery at the end. Less is always more. Perfection.”

Squarespace: ‘Make It Happen’

Jack Jensen, co-founder, The Rec League: “On a day filled with widespread prayer and meditation in the name of football, how lucky were we to experience a much more impactful mantra from our one true shared spiritual leader, Keanu Reeves. ‘Make it Happen.’ I loved everything about this spot. It’s fun, memorable, oddly inspirational and completely authentic to Keanu (especially the flying). Squarespace and its creative team smoked this one and it’s a testament to not always needing to overthink a wonderfully weird, simple idea. Sometimes, all I want in between my snacks and touchdowns is Keanu Reeves surfing a chopper through the desert – and they made it happen.”

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