The 10 Best Super Bowl Ads of the YouTube Era

By Amanda Walgrove January 27th, 2015

While Tom Brady shakes off stress dreams about showing up on game day and being pelted with thousands of deflated footballs, marketers are getting giddy for advertising’s biggest and most expensive night of the year. Publishers, meanwhile, are preparing their always-popular “Best Of” lists. (We personally can’t wait to see the top 10 #Deflategate puns on Twitter. This is your job, Digiday.)

Naturally, we’re adding our own top 10 best Super Bowl marketing campaigns to the mix, with a special YouTube-only spin—the best place to watch your favorite Super Bowl ads over and over again.

1. Volkswagen, “The Force,” 2011

With the new Star Wars film hitting theaters this year, Volkswagen’s 2011 Super Bowl ad is more relevant than ever. With a heartwarming touch that appeals to the Jedi in all of us, “The Force” is close to surpassing 70 million views on YouTube, and sits atop many lists for the most viral Super Bowl ad of all time. Visible Measures named it the most-watched Super Bowl ad ever, and for 41 months it was the most-shared ad ever—until it was unseated by Activia and Shakira during the World Cup.

2. Snickers, “Betty White,” 2010

According to Snickers, you’re not you when you’re hungry. You’re Betty White. If you ask me, it’s not the strongest argument to buy a candy bar, because Betty White is awesome. Why would you want to go back to being you? Still, America can’t get enough of watching an 88-year-old Golden Girl get pummeled by amateur football players.

3. Old Spice, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” 2010

Super Bowl aside, this is simply one of the best campaigns of all time. It launched Old Spice hunk Isaiah Mustafa into commercial stardom, with the ad spinning off into a ridiculous scent vacation, a series of personal response videos to tweets, and a duel between Mustafa and Fabio. Because, ladies, if your man can’t look like Isaiah Mustafa, he might as well smell like him, right?

4. Doritos, “Pug Attack,” 2011

Frito-Lay brought crowdsourcing to the Super Bowl in 2006, inviting fans to enter their own hilarious ads in the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, with the promise that at least one would air on game day. During the first year, a little over 1,000 fan-made commercials were submitted. Five finalists received $10,000 each for their pieces, and viewers voted on the winner. Now, for this year’s Super Bowl, Doritos has upped the stakes. Out of almost 5,000 submissions, the judges picked 10 finalists, with the winner promised $1 million and a “dream job” with Universal Studios.

By the numbers, Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” ads are some of the most successful in the history of the YouTube era, with three taking up spots in Visible Measures’ list of the “Top 10 Most Viral Super Bowl Campaigns Ever.” I chose this one because puppies.

5. E-Trade, “Talking Baby,” 2008

Personally, I find E-Trade’s talking babies rather creepy, but lots of people apparently still love them: the digital discount brokerage company used them in ads for six straight years. So here we are. Lucky for me, E-Trade’s relatively new CEO Paul Idzik doesn’t like the talking babies either, having dumped the agency that created the campaign. According to the talking baby’s farewell ad, which aired during March Madness last year, it looks like E-Trade might be going in the cat-meme direction, which a direction I can support wholeheartedly.

6. Honda, “Matthew’s Day Off,” 2012

Three years ago, Honda played the nostalgia card for the Super Bowl, revamping the cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for a 2012 audience. In “Matthew’s Day Off,” star Matthew Broderick skips a day on set of his newest movie. Instead of fake-coughing into a landline, he’s bailing out from his Bluetooth. And instead of taking Cam’s dad’s 1961 Ferrari for a joy ride, he’s cruising around in his Honda CR-V. (What an upgrade!)

Before the Super Bowl, Honda released an extended version of the ad on YouTube, inviting viewers to tweet about it with #DayOff.

7. Budweiser, “Puppy Love,” 2014

Last year, Clydesdales loyalists were shocked by rumors that Budweiser would be retiring the iconic horses from its commercials in exchange for something more targeted at that elusive millennial demographic. Budweiser VP Brian Perkins quickly confirmed, however, that the beloved horses were here to stay for holiday campaigns, which, of course, includes the Super Bowl. And wisely so: “Puppy Love” was the most-shared Super Bowl ad of 2014, and currently has over 55 million views on YouTube.

Take a peek at what the beer company has up its sleeve for this year’s game, featuring the tear-jerking return of America’s favorite buds. (There are lots of great Clydesdales ads, but again, I chose this one because puppies. Seeing a trend here?)

8. Chrysler, “Imported from Detroit,” 2011

Chrysler’s 2011 ad was a landmark event in many ways. It was the first two-minute commercial ever to air during the Super Bowl, it marked the launch of Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” tagline, and it used America’s most-watched television event to shine a much-needed light on the importance of Detroit’s revitalization. Not to mention the fact that it marked the debut of that awesome gospel rendition of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Uploaded to Chrysler’s official YouTube channel the day before the Super Bowl, the ad has received over 17 million views to date.

9. Ram Trucks, “Farmer,” 2013

Ram Trucks dug into the archives for its two-minute, documentary-style ad “Farmer,” which samples an audio recording of radio personality Paul Harvey’s profound speech from the 1978 National Future Farmers of America Convention.

With a slow pace and steady stream of poignant images that helped it stand out from the night’s wackier ads, the commercial gave Ram an opportunity to tell its consumers, “We see you. We know how hard you work. We want to help.” The ad also inspired a slew of parodies—perhaps the greatest sign of success for a piece of content in the YouTube era.

10. Miller High Life, “1 Second Ad,” 2009

Even my description for this ad—beautiful, just beautiful—is longer than the content of the ad itself, which is telling of how ridiculous it is that 30 seconds of airtime during the Super Bowl can cost advertisers $3 million. In 2009, Miller High Life decided to cut costs as much as possible by opting for a one-second spot—yes, it’s one second long—that didn’t even run in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Luckily, the cheeky move proved effective, boosting the beer brand’s sales by 8.6 percent.

Still, it’s not even the shortest Super Bowl ad ever. That title belongs to the Seattle-based Ivar Seafood Restaurants, which ran a half-second ad the same year. Who wants to try for a quarter second?

Image by Old Spice
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