Super Bowl

The Super Bowl Top 50 Ad Countdown: 40-31

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

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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.

This weekly feature picks up with 40-31. Look for the next 10 on Jan. 21. And see picks 50-41 here.

40. Noxema with Farrah Fawcett and Joe Namath. It's possible GoDaddy learned about double entendres and sexy Super Bowl spots from Noxema, which was using it as a ploy way back in 1973. This commercial is noteworthy because it paired America's favorite quarterback at the time with its favorite pinup. What the vintage spot lacks in taste (a lot) it makes up in star power.

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39. Spuds MacKenzie for Bud Light. Budweiser takes "party animal" literally with a bull terrier who was always referred to as a man and not a dog -- he "booked" his own hotel rooms and traveled with an entourage called the Spudettes. This campaign from DDB Needham was said by the New York Times to increase sales of Bud Light by 20% during 1987 to 1988. But like most stars, Spuds, who bore a distinctive marking on his left eye, was hiding a secret: he was reportedly female.

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38. Masterlock, "One Second Commercial." Talk about firing on all cylinders. This 1998 product demonstration does it all with 29 seconds to spare. Powerful, memorable and more than 10 years before Miller High Life tried the same thing.

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37. Audi, "Godfather" takeoff. The automaker and Venables Bell & Partners were not horsing around with this 2008 commercial for the R8 with the suprise ending payoff. Ad Age critic Bob Garfield: "Very funny, but did it scare small children?"

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36. Cheerios, "Gracie." Save your emails and letters: This 2014 Saatchi & Saatchi spot would have ranked higher in our listing if it had broken in the Super Bowl, but it is actually the sequel to the original. That said, this charming commerical with its delightful family deserves bonus points because after General Mills got complaints about its initial portrayal of a mixed-race family, the marketer thumbed its nose at detractors by featuring the cast on advertising's greatest showcase.

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35. Ray Charles, "You Got the Right One, Baby" for Diet Pepsi. We dare you not to come away singing the jingle that wormed its way into popular culture after this BBDO ad ran in the 1991 Super Bowl. Mr. Charles and his Uh-Huh Girls backup singers ended up appearing in 11 commercials over three years, according to a PR newswire release in 2011 announcing a series of vintage T-shirts throwing back to the campaign.

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34. Michael Jordan, Gatorade. This 2003 spot gained an impressive 4 stars from a hard-to-impress Bob Garfield. And we quote: "Gatorade, Element 79 Partners Chicago. Michael Jordan, #39, the aging Wizard, plays Michael Jordan, #23, the young Bull, one-on-one. They sweat. We gasp -- and wonder how in the world this was done. (Answer: Michael's face digitally composited on a body double.) Perfection."

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33. Radio Shack, "The Phone Call." A hilarious admission by a company that it's outdated and needs an overhaul. The quick-cut features icons from the era including "Cheers" and "CHiPs" stars, Hulk Hogan, Mary Lou Retton, Devo, Dee Snider, Chucky, the California Raisins... it goes on and on in a clever and unforgettable 2014 commercial from GSD&M. Ad Age reviewer Ken Wheaton gave it top marks that year.

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32. P&G's "Like A Girl." Yes, this Leo Burnett campaign won a ton of creative awards and many will argue it should be in the Super Bowl's top 10 -- which it would be had it not broken first as a viral video before airing in the 2015 big game.

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31. Pepsi "Truck Drivers." In this 1995 classic spot from BBDO, normally competitive Coke and Pepsi deliverymen find common ground after driving long hours during the holidays. But the detente ends when the Coke driver, after sipping a Pepsi, refuses to reqlinquish it.

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