Everyone remembers or has at least seen many of the greatest commercials in Super Bowl history: the Apple computer “1984” ad, all the great Budweiser, Pepsi, FedEx, Doritos ads, etc. As the years pass, some of those commercials remain even more memorable than the game itself. This is a tale of some forgotten or overlooked Super Bowl commercials. Some are classics that aired decades ago. Others ran virtually unnoticed at the time, but in hindsight they provide an interesting glimpse of American culture from that era.
10. Joe Namath and Farrah Fawcett Team in Risque Ad (1973)
This commercial seems almost risqué by today’s standards. Jets quarterback Joe Namath was on the downside of his career; 25-year-old Farrah Fawcett was still three years away from the Charlie’s Angels role that launched her to stardom.
9. Bill Bixby Touts $3K Radio Shack Computer (1984)
Cool special effects with the lasers, but the stunning thing here is the price — these Tandy 2000 systems started at $3,000. That’s the equivalent of more than $7,000 in 2017.
8. Monster.com Dreams of ‘When I Grow Up’ (1999)
Given the sluggish U.S. economy in recent years, this ad probably hits too close to home for many people. The Super Bowls of the late ’90s featured plenty of dot.com ads from companies that soon went bust, but Monster.com survived the meltdown.
7. O.J. Simpson Plays Mike Ditka in Computer Football (1993)
OK, so this wasn’t a commercial, but rather part of the pregame show before Super Bowl XXVII. We’re amused by the primitive nature of this Genesis computer football game … and it’s impossible not to think about what would happen with Simpson just a year later.
6. ‘Sexy Robot’ Ad Shows Future of Computer Animation (1985)
The so-called “sexy robot” commercial that ran during the Super Bowl begins at around the 2:20 mark in the video. The first two minutes of this clip are a fascinating look at the production of the ad, which used a primitive version of the CGI special effects common in movies today. This commercial is truly years ahead of its time.
5. Kevin Bacon Uses Six Degrees to Cash Check (2002)
Remember that bizarre but addictive “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, where people tried to connect one actor to another in six or fewer steps involving Bacon? The actor pokes fun at that game in this spot.
4. E-Trade Wastes $2 Million on Stupid Commercial (2000)
Kudos to the financial services company for making a stupid ad lampooning the frivolous way some companies spend money on Super Bowl commercials.
3. Muhammad Ali Shakes up the World Then and Now (2004)
The aging Ali made a surprise appearance in this commercial for the Linux computer operating system.
2. Famous Coca-Cola Hilltop Singers Reunite 20 Years Later (1990)
That 1971 Coke commercial featuring singers on a mountaintop is one of the most iconic ads in TV history. Coke reunited those singers — and their children — almost 20 years later for an encore performance.
1. Budweiser Clydesdales Visit New York City After 9/11 (2002)
Americans were still dazed by the tragic events of 9/11 when this Budweiser commercial aired during the Super Bowl a few months later. This is certainly one of the most famous ads in Super Bowl history, shared here because it ran only a couple of times — appearing again on the 10th anniversary of the attacks — and because many people have never seen it.
Some of the research for this story came from the website adland.tv, which maintains an extensive archive of Super Bowl commercials dating to the 1960s.