American Express - Dana and Jon Do Miami

January 22, 1989 | 1:00

Ogilvy & Mather delivered this lighthearted gem to the Super Bowl for American Express in 1989, using a full minute in a year when NBC was averaging $675,000 for 30 seconds of ad time (in 1989 dollars). It stars "Saturday Night Live" cast members Dana Carvey, known for playing George H.W. Bush and the Church Lady, and Jon Lovitz, whose characters included Pathological Liar Tommy Flanagan and Master Thespian, enthusiastically making their way to Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.

Skip Allocco, who produced the ad at Ogilvy, suggested to AOL Finance years later that the comedians' chemistry and familiarity helped set it apart from other celebrity spots:

Dana and Jon are two stars in their own right, but together, you have "critical mass" -- they worked together so much that they could finish each others sentences ... and punchlines. They were never without ideas, and never afraid to put them out there, fearless really.

The ad wound up winning USA Today's very first Ad Meter, outscoring the other commercials in entertainment value among a small group of panelists. The Ad Meter didn't bear on ads' effectiveness achieving goals like selling product, but its near-instant feedback became the opiod of Super Bowl marketers. "I can't tell you how many times an advertiser has told me, 'You've gotta hit the top 10, you've gotta hit the top 10, you've gotta hit the top 10,'" said Bryan Buckley, who has directed dozens dozens of  Super Bowl commercials, in 2012. Doritos would give its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest winners extra money for topping the Ad Meter, while CareerBuilder.com put its account in review after Cramer-Krasselt's solid 2007 Super Bowl work didn't crack the top 10 ("Darts," etc.). 

Ogilvy & Mather reluctantly agreed to a lucrative takeover bid by WPP Group a few months after the 1989 Super Bowl. AmEx and Ogilvy returned for 1990 with another celebrity comedy, "The Race." Lovitz came back in 1999 with a funny turn for The Yellow Pages and The Martin Agency, "Green Room."

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  • BrandAmerican Express
  • Year1989
  • AgencyOgilvy & Mather
  • Superbowl #XXIII
  • Quarter aired