TV & Streaming

The marketing industry’s favorite Super Bowl ads from years past

Everybody loves animals—specifically Budweiser’s Clydesdales and frogs.
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Anheuser-Busch InBev

· 4 min read

Ask a marketer who’s advertised in the Super Bowl their favorite Big Game ad, and it’s likely they’ll say one of their own—or a Budweiser ad, probably featuring Clydesdale horses.

“You have the pull at the heartstrings, you have animals—which always do really well because they evoke emotion—a bit of a tear-jerker, some nostalgia, and very distinctively Budweiser, which is really important as you make an ad for the Super Bowl,” VP of Oreo US Michelle Deignan said. “It’s all good and well making a great ad, but if consumers don't make the leap to what brand it’s for, it’s been a miss.”

Rachael Zaluze, SVP of customer experience and brand marketing at Volkswagen, added that the Clydesdales aren’t always there to make viewers tear up—sometimes they’re “cute and fun,” as they were this year when they teamed up with a dog.

Marketing Brew spoke to brand marketers who advertised in this year’s game, agency execs, and others with Super Bowl ad experience and asked them to tell us their favorite Super Bowl campaigns from 2023 or earlier. For the brand-side folks, we asked that it wasn’t from their own company.

Other than the Clydesdales, here are some of the Super Bowl ads that the marketing industry deemed worthy of a rewatch, in chronological order.

“1984,” Apple, 1984

“It’s a really crazy, bizarre spot from a very seminal Hollywood director [Ridley Scott],” Jonathan Santana, ECD at creative agency Johannes Leonardo, who worked on Volkswagen’s Super Bowl ad this year, said. “It was the catalyst to Apple and Macintosh becoming a household name.”

“Frogs,” Budweiser, 1995

“Back in the ’90s, when I first started watching the Super Bowl with my dad and with my family, I was obsessed with the Budweiser frogs commercials,” Chris Symmes, senior marketing director for Unilever North America’s dressings portfolio, said. “Just so different, unique, really a cultural phenomenon at the time.”

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Rick Suter, a senior content strategist at Gannett and editor of USA Today’s Ad Meter, also said he’s a fan of the frogs.

“Whassup?” Budweiser, 2000

“That’s an all-time classic,” Todd Allen, SVP of marketing for Bud Light, said. “I had the good fortune to work on Budweiser globally for a number of years, and I’ve actually seen that make a comeback in a couple of different iterations.”

Todd Kaplan, CMO of Pepsi, concurred. The ad is “simple, lo-fi,” and doesn’t feature a celebrity, but “the cultural insight is so strong,” he said.

“The Joy of Pepsi,” Pepsi, 2001

We told Brian Vaughan, partner and ECD of creative agency Shadow, who worked on E.l.f. Cosmetics’s 2024 Super Bowl ad, that he could take his time thinking about the answer. “I can tell you right now,” he said.

“Born of Fire,” Chrysler, 2011

“It’s still one of my all-time favorites,” Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing for Michelob Ultra, said. He also named Michelob Ultra sister brand Budweiser’s 9/11 tribute ad from the same year, which featured the Clydesdales.

“Loretta,” Google, 2020

“I remember watching it like, ‘I’m glad I’m alone,’” Suter said. “It was so powerful, and just a simplistic idea. I was like, ‘That’s a great commercial.’ Obviously, sad versus comedy, it’s hard to pull those off.”

“Thrill Driver,” Nissan, 2022

“Everything they did in that ad was perfect,” Kerry Benson, creative solutions lead at Kantar, said. “It was entertaining, they went over the top with the production, it was action-packed, it had all kinds of interesting celebrities in there. Who would ever think that Eugene Levy would play an action hero?”

She also mentioned the Clydesdales, specifically Budweiser’s 9/11 tribute ad.

“Forever,” The Farmer’s Dog, 2023

“I thought it was a great story,” Symmes said.

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