When an advertiser pays several million dollars for one 30-second ad in advertising's greatest showcase you might imagine a lot of those seconds would be spent focusing on its brand. But Super Bowl spots sometimes showcase an advertiser's bitter rival -- albeit in a disparaging way.
The feistiest spots come from Pepsi-Cola, which has delighted in tweaking Coca-Cola over the years in taste tests and comparison ads. It's used the big game at least three times to poke run at its rival, often with hilarious results. But it's not alone, as this compilation of the most comparative ads shows.
The original Pepsi comparative ad to run in the Super Bowl was 1995's "Diner" from BBDO. The commerical showed a Coke and Pepsi driver working the holidays bonding in a diner. But when the Pepsi driver offers the Coke driver a sip, the Coke driver won't give it back.
Pepsi upped the ante with a remake of that spot (which did not run on the Super Bowl) done by TBWA/Chiat/Day for Pepsi Max. The new version ends with the Pepsi driver uploading a video of the Coke driver drinking Pepsi Max to YouTube and a fistfight ensues. "I was never happy with the old ending," Joe Pytka, who directed both commericals, told The New York Times. "I had shot a version with the guys coming out the window [in the earlier ad], and we had a long discussion, and Pepsi was concerned with the violence. The ending is completely satisfying now."
In a 1996 Super Bowl spot from BBDO called "Security Camera," a hapless Coke deliveryman tries to sneak a Pepsi out of the cold case without being seen. With predictable results.
The song playing in the background of "Security Camera," "Your Cheatin' Heart," is reprised in a 2012 Super Bowl spot from TBWA/Chiat/Day for Pepsi Max, as a Coca-Cola delivery man tries to surreptitiously buy a Pepsi Max. But he ends up very conspicious as he goes to check out. Look for an appearance by Regis Philbin.
The tables were turned on Pepsi in 2013 when Sodastream proposed an ad featuring Coke and Pepsi bottles exploding to demonstrate that its refillable bottles could save 500 million bottles on game day alone. But the plan was thwarted by that year's Super Bowl network CBS, which told Sodastream to tone down its ads, created by Alex Bogusky and the creative team at Pale Dot Voyage. The result is the blank labeled soft drinks exploading as shown below.
Sodastream tried it again the following year with a Super Bowl spot featuring Scarlett Johansson from Humanaut Chattanooga, Tenn. that had her saying "Sorry, Coke and Pepsi." That verbal mention of rivals was exorcised after a rejection by Fox (see below.)
But hard-core rivalry isn't limited to soft drinks when it comes to the Super Bowl. Sprint got into the game last year with a scathing comparative ad against its rivals. Hold your ears.
But perhaps our favorite is this 2012 spot in which only Chevy Silverado drivers survive the Mayan apocalypse -- the man who drove a Ford didn't. Ad Age sibling Automotive News reported that Ford's attorneys requested Chevy cease and desist running the spot. The response, from then General Motors Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick: "We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize. In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away."