Super Bowl

The Super Bowl Top 50 Ad Countdown: 10-1

Ad Age Picks the Best of the Big Game Spots Over Its Half-Century History

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Click here for every advertiser in Super Bowl 50.
Click here for every advertiser in Super Bowl 50.
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This is the final installment of the top 10 ads.

In commemoration of the Super Bowl's 50th anniversary, Ad Age is counting down the top 50 big game ads of all time. This is purely a subjective list cultivated by the editors that will undoubtedly be debated. But these are the spots that have endured in the creative consciousness long after the final flag went down.

10. Budweiser, "Whassup!?" This tour de force from DDB Worldwide in 2000 might have frustrated grammarians, but it delighted audiences and became part of the venacular before going on to win a Cannes Grand Prix. Then Ad Age critic Bob Garfield said the spot "Hit upon not merely the latest beer-ad buzzword, not merely an inside-black-culture joke, not merely a universal expression of eloquent inarticulateness, but the ultimate depiction of male bonding." Yeah, well, we just liked it.

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9. Ram Trucks, "Farmer." Paul Harvey's eloquent "So God made a farmer" set against an evocative backdrop of hardworking American farmers. A soaring two minutes from Richards Group, Dallas, that ran in the 2013 Super Bowl.

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8. Volkswagen, "The Force." This charming spot featuring a mini Darth Vader caputured the hearts of viewers as he found undiscovered "powers." Wrote Creativity's Ann-Christine Diaz of the 2011 Deutsch ad: "The ad was remarkable -- not just for being a perfect piece of storytelling but for the risky marketing move behind it. Going against Big Game tradition, Volkswagen had released a 60-second version of the spot online before the Super Bowl debut of a 30-second ad. Of course, the one audiences remember is the much better, longer one."

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7. Nike, "Hare Jordan." This feat of animation mixed with live footage from Wieden & Kennedy gave us basketball great Michael Jordan teaming with Bugs Bunny to trounce bullies on the court. According to a Los Angeles Times story from 1992, the year the spot ran in the Super Bowl: "The Nike spot cost nearly $1 million to make -- excluding Jordan's salary -- estimated Scott Bedbury, Nike's director of advertising. That's about four times the cost of a typical TV spot. Why pay so much for a single ad? Replied Bedbury, 'It creates a warm glow.'"

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6. Coca-Cola, "Mean Joe Greene." No top 10 list is complete without this classic 1980 Coca-Cola commercial which resonates to this day. The interplay between the young boy and Pittsburgh Steeler, and its end line, "Hey kid, catch" is a part of advertising history. "While we didn't set out to make a great social or cultural statement, we certainly had one," Penny Hawkey, the former McCann-Erickson copywriter who created the script, told Coke's corporate blog. "Joe was perhaps the first black male to appear in a national brand commercial, and it had a profound effect at the time. The letters we got were full of gratitude and excitement." Coca-Cola tried to remake the spot in 2015, but in our opinion nothing beats the real thing.

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5. EDS, "Cat Herding." Dry humor and a dead-on product message cleverly converge in this 2000 spot from Fallon that turns grizzled cowhands into herders of cats who ford streams, climb trees and risk bodily harm from claws. So well done, it's worth watching these men "live the dream" over and over.

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4. Coca-Cola, "Hilltop." What can we say that hasn't been said already? This 1971 McCann Erickson spot embodies epic cinematography, infectious music and lyrics and an unmistakably Coke-esque flavor. (For a history of the spot, see Coke's blog.) No wonder Don Draper laid claim to it.

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3. Budweiser, "Respect." Simple but spectacular: The Budweiser Clydesales pay eloquent tribute to a country shattered by Sept. 11. The marketer and the creator of the spot, Hill, Holliday, Connors Cosmopulos, took some heat for "commercializing" tragedy. But consumers loved the spot -- and so do we.

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2. Monster.com, "When I Grow Up." "I want to claw my way up to middle management." The litany of sour aspriations from childen in this 1999 spot from Mullen hit home for adults in dead-end jobs and resulted in the perfect message for a job site. And it worked: "Before the Super Bowl, Monster.com's traffic was running at about 1.5 million unique visitors per month," said Ad Age in 2000. "For the remainder of 1999, it averaged 2.5 million visitors per month. And the number of resume searches, on the day after the Super Bowl, increased by a factor of 300." To think it almost didn't happen: read the history of the commercial here.

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1. Apple, "1984." Was there ever any doubt?

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