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Super Bowl

The 6 Most Disturbing Super Bowl Ads

By Published on .

We're poring through Super Bowls past for striking trends, odd ads and overlooked gems. From the Super Bowl Ad Archive, your resource for more than 1,000 big-game spots plus credits and context.

Super Bowl Sunday is a "secular holiday" for escapism and laughs, but advertisers aren't above mining our anxieties to get the job done.

First Union - Launch

Welcome to a monetary dystopia where a slip-and-fall can shatter your face and spill your cash. It ran in 1999's Super Bowl XXXIII, just as the dot-com bubble on Wall Street was about to take off, but there's no risk of irrational exuberance here.

Good call, really. The next year's "Dot-Com Bowl" was followed by dot-com collapse. By 2001, First Union was no more, having merged with Wachovia, which was then acquired by Wells Fargo in 2008.

Apple - Lemmings

The 1985 follow-up to Apple's stirring "1984," "Lemmings" again assaults corporate hegemony and groupthink, just not as rousingly as its predecessor. A lot of suits go over a cliff before one even gets his blindfold off.

Network Associates - Missile

What if an ex-Soviet missile site received an ICBM launch code sent by a computer hacker? Also, are you ready for some football? "Dark, but funny," Ad Age ad critic Bob Garfield wrote of this 1998 Super Bowl ad. "And effective, for selling system-protection software."

Doritos - Ultrasound

Things go comically wrong in the delivery room ... Yeah, that's a disturbing sentence to try to write. See if you think watching the spot is any easier. People loved this ad, one the final spots to emerge from Doritos' long-running Crash the Super Bowl contest: It ranked No. 3 on USA Today's annual Ad Meter popularity contest.

GM - Robot

Good news: This 2007 suicide scenario turns out to just be a dream. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention didn't think that was enough. GM relented after a few days of criticism, removing the bridge-jumping from future airings.

Nationwide - Boy

"Boy" raised awareness around household safety in 2015. Thousands of people answered its call to visit MakeSafeHappen.com, a website to help educate parents and caregivers on how to make their homes safer. Hundreds downloaded an accompanying app. It's still an extremely morbid ad for most contexts, and especially for the Super Bowl.

Previously: Sing along with the Super Bowl's 5 Best Ad Anthems.

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