It’s like we always say, the secret to making a good Super Bowl ad is to shoot the commercial as if you’re making a mini movie. In other words, the spots have to entertain and they have to tell a story. And much like their two-hour Hollywood counterparts, some Super Bowl ads are praised a little more than they probably should be.
We analyzed 47 years of ad footage and countless “Best Super Bowl Ads” compilations to come up with the following list of the five most overrated Super Bowl spots of all time. Mind you, these aren’t the worst ads that ever aired in the big game. In fact, some of them are pretty good. But just like the Winter Olympics, Maya Angelou, and sex in the shower, these ads get way more hype than they deserve.
5. BUDWEISER – “Whassup” (2000)
It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years since Anheuser-Busch unleashed this ad on America’s pop culture psyche. In theory, it’s a great spot, with many of the ingredients of an effective commercial: It had laughs, it was memorable, and its titular catchphrase soon became the greeting of choice for white guys everywhere. But it’s overrated, because what started as one of the funniest ads of the new millennium soon became one of the most annoying ads of the new millennium.
4. E*TRADE – Any talking baby ad (2008-2011)
When the E*TRADE talking baby made his diapered debut in 2008, viewers instantly fell in love with him. It wasn’t because we’d never seen a talking, wisecracking baby before (remember “Baby Bob?”), but because we’d never seen one that didn’t look creepy and weird. The only problem is, the E*TRADE baby is creepy and weird. And like any trick kids do, it stops being cute after the 47th time you see it. In other words, the E*TRADE baby is an ad gimmick that’s stayed up way past its bedtime.
3. MCDONALD’S – “Jordan vs. Bird” (aka “The Showdown”) (1993)
It’s not easy to call this ad overrated because it was actually pretty good. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird facing off in a can’t-miss trick shot contest? Heck, yeah! A Big Mac as the prize? Sign me up! Catchphrases that are still repeated today? Nothin’ but net, baby! But it’s still overrated, and not because the shots were too unbelievable (MJ really could score one from the top of the Sears Tower). It’s overrated because of something even more unbelievable: In a real shootout, Larry Bird would have beaten Jordan long before the Big Mac got cold.
2. APPLE – “1984” (1984)
This commercial is the “Citizen Kane” of Super Bowl ads – created by a big-shot Hollywood director, endlessly analyzed by students of his technique, and rated number one on a lot of lists, but only because so-called experts can’t help gushing over it. True, like Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, Apple’s epic completely redefined the craft and ushered in a new era for its medium, but have you watched “Citizen Kane” lately? Don’t. Just watch Apple’s “1984” and you’ll feel the same way afterward – happy that you can check it off your “must see” list, but mostly confused, somewhat underwhelmed and a little bored.
1. ANHEUSER-BUSCH – Any spot with the Clydesdale horses (1986–present)
It’s become an American tradition. Every year, Budweiser trots out its iconic Clydesdale horses for at least one 60-second ad during the Super Bowl. Everyone gets goose bumps. Sometimes people clap. There may even be an “Awwww” moment. Since 1986, when the Clydesdales made their big-game debut, we’ve seen them pulling carts in all sorts of scenarios. But it was a post-9/11 spot in which the Clydesdales took a knee while overlooking lower Manhattan that solidified the horses’ position as an annual fixture on our patriotic radar.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that their shtick is wearing thin, and – the kiss of death for any commercial series – their formula has become predictable, which is what lands this overrated ad series at the top of our list. It’s okay, though. Anyone who remembers the eight-year embarrassment known as Bud Bowl realizes that Budweiser has trotted down this road before.