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15 Underrated Super Bowl Commercials

by: Esteban On  Friday, February 1, 2013

underrated super bowl commercials

With the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, the internet has once again gone bonkers talking about the best and worst and funniest and sexiest Super Bowl commercials of all-time. But there’s an important segment of Super Bowl commercials that often gets lost amongst the chatter: the underrated commercials. You know, the ones that got lost amongst the more controversial commercials, or the ones we used to think were awful but today actually seem pretty good.

Well, today we’re giving these commercials the spotlight. Some of them you’ll remember. Others you certainly will not. And of course, chances are you may strongly disagree with at least one or two of the picks. But in my opinion, all of these commercials were underrated or misunderstood either at the time or right now.

Check them out.


15. Lifeminders (2000)

People hated this commercial. They thought it was lazy and boring. But that was precisely the point. So many Super Bowl commercials are so big and complicated that you don’t even realize what they are trying to sell. With this one there was no mistake, and it really stood out from the pack. Did it work as well as they’d hoped? No. But it wasn’t a bad try.


14. Hyundai (2009)

This commercial was criticized for it’s self-deprecating punch line, “suddenly everyone gets your name right.” The thinking was that you shouldn’t remind people that your cars used to suck, and that everybody made fun of them. But I thought it was great.

It’s kind of like the recent Dominoes ad campaign that said, “hey, we get it, our pizza used to suck. So we made it good. Try it again.” There’s no point in trying to pretend that people didn’t have a certain opinion of the product. Everyone knows the deal. So own up to it—so long as you can walk the walk. The boldness will make people take a second look.

Also, who doesn’t love German guys yelling?


13. Lemmings (1985)

Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial was legendary—a hit with both critics, advertising critics, and the general public. However, this ad from 1985 was considered a major miss. Why? They said it was too dark, too harsh, and too judgmental.

While I concede that this ad is dark and harsh, I still don’t think it’s that bad. To me is makes a pretty startling point: are you just going to blindly use one computer system without even seeing what else is out there?

If there’s any problem here, it’s that the ad is really aimed at business people who might be making big IT decisions for their companies and not the general public. So maybe it wasn’t a perfect fit for the Super Bowl.

Then again, it got people talking about Apple…and look out that turned out.


12. Upside Down Clown (2003)

At the time people found this commercial too crude. But I think some of the other sensational stuff we’ve seen over the last 10 years has made this seem not so bad in retrospect. Sure, it’s a low-brow gag, but there’s nothing wrong with a little low-brow humor every now and again. Even the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates liked to crack a good sex joke every once in a while, so lighten up.


11. Outpost.com (1999)

People just thought this ad was awful. And of course, it was. That was the freaking point, and that’s why it was hilarious. If you’re not the kind of person who thinks awful things can be funny, that’s cool. Unfortunately I am not capable of explaining why awful things are funny sometimes. I wish I could, but I can’t. They just are. You either get it or you don’t.

That being said, even if you still hate this, anyone who was internet savvy back in 1999 surely remembered “outpost.com” and at least stopped by to see what the hell they sold. (Computer equipment.) So that had to be a small win, right?


10. Spuds MacKenzie (1987)

The Spuds MacKenzie ad campaign was controversial because people believed (probably correctly) that Anheuser-Busch was trying to appeal to children. But come on—it’s a dog in a suit. How can you not like a dog in a suit? Plus, there the song, and the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” guy.

I’m fairly certain that the people who created this ad knew they were being ridiculous and were actually trying to capture the absurdity of the late 80s party culture. I mean they had to know, right? You couldn’t make this commercial seriously.


9. Tide to Go (2008)

This ad got a bit lost among all the big-budget, big-name commercials in 2008. But it proves that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make a great commercial.


8. It's Mine (2008)

While so many other commercials are trying to be controversial, hilarious, or blow people away, this one was going for cute and clever. So at the time it was somewhat forgotten, I think it’s held up better than the more sensational stuff—like a bunch of Gecko’s performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or Richard Simmons getting run over by a car.


7. Hulu (2009)

How can you not like a commercial in which the punchline is that Alec Baldwin is a brain-eating alien?


6. Google Parisian Love (2010)

Here’s another simple commercial that got lost in the fray. Google’s 2010 Super Bowl wasn’t an epic blockbuster with huge production values, but it was clever, and the precursor to the Google Chrome ad campaign.


5. American Family (2011)

I remember thinking this ad was hokey at the time, but now I kind of like it and see it’s value—showing how deeply the Super Bowl is engrained in American culture.

Also, ALF is awesome.


4. FedEx Caveman (2006)

I think by 2006 everyone was tired of cavemen commercials thanks to Geico. So this commercial definitely felt like they were beating a dead horse. However, looking back on it now, not having seen any commercials with cavemen in several years, I find it hilarious.


3. Original GoDaddy.com (2005)

In recent years, the GoDaddy.com commercials have just been so incredibly awful that we’ve sort of grouped this original commercial in with the terrible ones. But you have to remember the context of this ad.

At the 2004 Super Bowl, Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Janet Jackson’s costume during the halftime show, revealing her breast. Then people went BONKERS. Was it intentional? Was it an accident? Whose idea was it? What a travesty! These kinds of things are unacceptable! Congress must take action! Quick, somebody hand me a pitchfork!

Actually, it was in poor taste, and so people were right to be a little mad. But all the uproar went way to far. So the next year, GoDaddy.com ran this satirical commercial.


2. Surprise Dinner (2005)

This commercial was well-received at the time, but I think it has become forgotten because of what the commercial was actually advertising: terrible sub-prime lending practices that led to the burst housing bubble in 2007 and the world-wide economic collapse of 2008. Oops.

Still, this commercial is really funny.


1. E-Trade Monkey (2000)

This commercial is on so many “worst Super Bowl commercials” lists. But why? Who the hell doesn’t like a dancing chimpanzee? And even if you don’t like dancing chimpanzees (which makes you a soulless jerk), how can you not admit that this commercial makes a memorable point?

So, yeah, I don’t get why people didn’t and/or don’t like this one. I love it.