By Larry Carroll
You've got your brewskis, a big tub of corn and a space reserved on the couch. You are officially good to go for Sunday's big event: Three hours of the world's most anticipated commercials, promoting products with celebrities, gimmicks and billion-dollar ad budgets. Oh yeah, there's also some kind of sporting game being played in between the spots for soda and Web sites.
When you watch Sunday's Super Bowl, be sure to keep an eye out for this year's watercooler-worthy ads that everyone will be talking about on Monday. But first, take a look at our list of these all-time champions.
Apple, "1984" (1984)
This commercial was first broadcast during Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984, and has never been broadcast again since. At the time, few would have guessed that the brief-but-epic spot branding Apple computers as modern and groundbreaking would launch a company that is now synonymous with innovative computing. Ever since, Apple has adopted the credo of that creepy dude on the screen by saying "We shall prevail!" 26 years later, high-concept, high-awareness ads continue in the "1984" tradition — even if Ridley Scott isn't available to direct them all.
Coca-Cola, "Mean Joe Greene" (1979)
Although this commercial didn't initially debut during the Super Bowl (as most fans remember), it's still considered an all-time favorite because it was so prominently featured during that year's game. The setup is classic: Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle "Mean Joe" Greene limps off the football field after a tough game, encountering a young fan who gives him a bottle of Coke. Greene gulps it down, appears to be refreshed and then — just when you think the grumpy gridiron player doesn't know how to say "thank you" — tosses the boy his game-worn jersey in appreciation. Ultimately, the ad was as memorable as it was ineffective: Coca-Cola later admitted that the spot barely made any impact on soda sales.
Reebok, "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker" (2003)
Burly actor Lester Speight broke through as Terry Tate in this classic Reebok commercial about office linebacker #56. Whether he was taking down an employee because they put their soft drink bottle in the wrong trash can or yelling at another office drone for leaving the coffee pot empty, Tate did an awesome job at enforcing office rules through intimidation and bone-breaking hits. The spot was effective because every cubicle-dweller has fantasized of correcting the rudeness of others in the workplace, and Tate made all our brutal fantasies come true. As Terry would scream: "Break was over 15 minutes ago, b----!"
McDonald's, "Nothing But Net" (1993)
Larry Bird challenges Michael Jordan to play for a Big Mac, and an outrageous game of one-upsmanship erupts in this classic TV spot. McDonald's paid huge bucks for the ad to be made and receive a prime-real-estate spot during Super Bowl XXVII. Not sure what's cheesier: That gooey Big Mac, or Jordan's early-'90s, MC Hammer-has-nothing-on-me workout attire.
Monster, "When I Grow Up" (1999)
It's eleven years later, and fans are still ranking this ad in the all-time top 10 of Super Bowl commercial favorites. Depicting a world where children aspire to work in middle management jobs, get paid less for the same work and "be replaced on a whim," the ad was powerful and funny at a time when an economic depression seemed like an utter impossibility. Apparently, not only can Monster.com find you a new gig, but they were psychic too.
Tabasco, "Mosquito" (1998)
Forget the bug spray; Tabasco sauce will do the trick! In this Super Bowl favorite, a man is eating pizza and dousing it with Tabasco sauce when a mosquito lands on his leg. After ingesting his hot sauce-enhanced blood, the mosquito flies off and explodes in mid-air. Reminding us once again of an inarguable Super Bowl ad fact: It's always cool when stuff blows up.
E-Trade, "Money out the Wazoo" (2000)
Here's the situation: An anguished man is rushed into the emergency room, his hind quarters clearly in excruciating pain. What could be his problem? Oh yeah — the dude's got money coming out of his wazoo! If only we all had such problems, it sure would make doctor visits easier to endure (and to pay for).
Xerox, "Monks" (1977)
Brother Dominic has just finished duplicating an ancient manuscript, only to learn that his boss (the head monk) needs 500 more copies. What's a monk to do? Xerox that, homeslice! Brother Dominic heads through a secret passageway into a "modern" office circa 1976, where he finds a Xerox machine. In no time, our crafty monk has made all of the copies and hands them to the head monk, who describes his work ethic as "a miracle."
Budweiser, "Frogs" (1995)
Who would forget the Budweiser Frogs? One frog says "Bud," the second says "weiss" and the third frog finishes it all off with "errrr." Talk about brilliant advertising. It left everyone repeating the brand name for weeks until the joke got so old and stale that you just wanted to run over those damn frogs with your car (which, ultimately, seems to be the measure of success for so many Super Bowl ads). Anheuser-Busch introduced its computer-generated frogs during the 1995 Super Bowl and it struck an immediate chord with the public, leaving rival beer-makers green with envy.
Pepsi, "Apartment 10G" (1987)
Michael J. Fox goes to great lengths to get his hot neighbor — who just moved in and seems interested in a long night of moving furniture and flirting — a Diet Pepsi. Realizing he doesn't have any in the fridge, he jumps out the apartment window, down the fire escape and leaps over cars in the rain just to get to a vending machine that happens to have the drink. Pepsi later brought the ad back during Fox's final episode of the comedy "Spin City" as a tribute to the television icon.