Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman team up for American Express in this spot, the last ad to run during Super Bowl XXXII in 1998. Seinfeld was just over halfway through the ninth and final season of his wildly popular NBC sitcom, which would end on May 14 that year. Cartoon Superman was also in a good place, starring in a WB series that began in 1996, with roughly a decade on either side separating him from any live-action overshadowing. (“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace,” Christopher Reeve’s last turn in the role, came out in 1987, and “Superman Returns,” the flat reboot starring Brandon Routh, wouldn’t arrive until 2006.) Seinfeld, what’s more, was a known Superman fan, and viewers of his show (the finale would draw an unbelievable 76 million) heard plenty of Superman references over the years. (Jerry: “I think Superman probably has a very good sense of humor.” George: “I never heard him say anything really funny.”)
The ad via Ogilvy & Mather is a walk-and-talk with a touch of Seinfeldian observational humor, and ranked 11th on that year’s USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. Its risky position in the closing ad pod of the game, by which point a seemingly decided contest could have sent viewers away, paid off after the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos kept things close the whole way. (The Broncos ultimately won, 31 to 24.)
Ogilvy had handled the American Express account since the early 1960's, introducing campaign themes such as “Do You Know Me?” and, for its travelers checks, “Don’t leave home without them.” It created the brand's 1990 Super Bowl spot "The Race." Seinfeld, who would also appear in a Super Bowl spot for Acura in 2012 (“Transactions”), came back for American Express and Ogilvy in the following year’s Super Bowl, freed by the end of his show to go on a cross-country drive ("Real Life").
AmEx, Ogilvy, Seinfeld and cartoon Superman also reprised the premise of this Super Bowl spot in 2004 with a pair of five-minute web-isodes directed by Barry Levinson that soon got a little TV time as well.
BRAND: American Express
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather
QUARTER AIRED: Q4