In an age where multiple small screens and big screens fight for our attention, the Super Bowl stands out as a sure thing for drawing a huge audience. That’s why companies are willing to spend upwards of $3 million for 30 seconds of airtime in hopes of getting your attention. Here’s a look back at some memorable ads featuring celebrities. Did they score big or fumble?
The play: Is that Betty White playing a pick-up football game? Oh, it’s a guy who plays like her because he’s hungry. A Snickers candy bar comes to his rescue.
The result: Score. Two years later, we’re still talking about this ad. And it certainly paid off in spades for Betty White, who enjoyed a big boost to her career. Sorry, Abe Vigoda.
The play: Kevin Federline raps about the life of a “Rollin’ VIP,” complete with furs, jewelry and beautiful women. Only at the end, we realize he’s daydreaming while working a shift at a fast food joint. “Life comes at you fast,” the ad says, implying that if you went with Nationwide, you would have a more secure future.
The result: Fumble. When this aired in 2007, Federline was finalizing his divorce with pop princess Britney Spears. The spot also sparked controversy a week before it even aired during the Super Bowl. The National Restaurant Association issued a formal complaint, saying that the ad was offensive and demeaning.
The result: Score. When this aired in 1993, Michael Jordan was the biggest sports star. Pairing him with another basketball legend made for an entertaining spot for a product that we’re all familiar with.
The play: MC Hammer and Ed McMahon, both stars who had famously fallen on hard times, run through an inventory of their precious metal possessions (McMahon: “My gold hip replacement.” Hammer: “My gold sledgehammer, baby.”) that can be converted into cash.
The result: Score. When this Cash4Gold ad aired in 2009, the economy was headed into a deep descent, which may explain why what looks like an infomercial without the 800 number turned up alongside blue-chip brands. Critics may have turned up their noses at its intentionally schlocky production values, but the hilarious ad hit a nerve with an audience worried about their finances.
The play: A kid works his way through a stadium crowd, betting “you can’t just eat one” potato chip in exchange for a better seat. Eventually he makes his way on to the field, but not before running into Dan “Potatoe” Quayle.
The result: Fumble. But we concede a point for casting a then-unknown Elijah Wood. We get the joke, but file this under uncomfortable. Why link your product with someone who can’t even spell it?
The play: Streaming video site Hulu is introduced by “Alec Baldwin, TV Star” as “an evil plot to destroy the world.”
The result: Score. Hulu had just launched in 2008, and back then we still weren’t sure what it was. Cue this creative, funny introduction. Somehow Alec Baldwin as an alien involved in a nefarious scheme makes sense, especially the part about TV rotting your brain.
What are your favorite Super Bowl ads? Let us know in the comments.