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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Top Five Ads for Super Bowls

5. “When I Grow Up …” (1999): A group of kids stare at the camera and declare their desire to “have a brown nose,” “be a yes man” and “claw my way up to middle management.”

What worked: Kids are cute, and even cuter when reciting lines such as, “When I grow up … I want to be forced into early retirement.” It was great brand recognition for the new company.

The results: Monster survived the dot-com implosion and despite a stock controversy in 2006 has become a prosperous company that employs close to 5,000 people worldwide.

4. Reebok “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” (2003): To boost productivity, a CEO recruits a linebacker from Reebok to slam into a series of “Office Space”-style cubicle drones.

What worked: A series of brutal hits, punctuated by lines such as, “Break was over 15 minutes ago, Mitch!” made this the best Super Bowl ad of the last five years.

The results: Terry Tate got people talking about Reebok for something other than sweatshop controversies. The company provides shoes for all the major sports and hosts clothing lines for rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent.

3. E*Trade “Monkey” (2000): Two dim-witted guys and a monkey clap to some cha-cha music in a garage, followed by the punch line: “Well we just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?”

What worked: Easily the cheapest ad of the year to produce, it was an instant classic —remaining self-deprecating about dot-com excess while lampooning the well-publicized cost of Super Bowl ad time.

The results: The marketing Gods have a way of punishing tech companies that blow too much money on flashy ads. (See: Or don’t. They haven’t been around since 2000.) E*Trade lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2001 and 2002, and the company's shares — once trading at more than $60 — dropped below $3 in 2002. The company has since bounced back to profitability.

2. Coke “Mean Joe Greene” (1979): A kid offers his Coca-Cola to a battle-weary “Mean Joe” Greene — who softens up enough to toss his jersey as a reward.

What worked: A cute kid with a soft drink was the perfect foil for the surly Greene. Grown men still burst into tears when thinking about “Mean Joe” throwing that jersey.

The results: The ad became an instant pop culture classic, boosting Greene’s career. Among the offshoots was the inspiring “The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid” — perhaps the first hourlong TV movie in history to be based on a one-minute commercial.

1. Apple “1984” (1984): A jogger representing Apple throws a sledgehammer into a giant Big Brother image representing IBM — promising a populist shift in the future of personal computers.

What worked: With “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott in charge, the ad generated more hype — and post-game water cooler talk — than any television commercial in history. Do you even remember who played in the Super Bowl in 1984? (L.A. Raiders and Washington.) You almost certainly remember the biggest Super Bowl ad of the year.

The results: The most storied Super Bowl ad of all time might have boosted sales of George Orwell books, hot red running shorts and sledgehammers. But it didn’t do much for the Macintosh — Apple continues to be the Reform Party of computer manufacturers. Maybe there was a storage locker filled with iPods behind that huge video screen?

Honorable mentions: Pepsi “Apartment 10G” (1987); Pepsi “Diner” (1995); Pepsi “Sucked in” (1995); Mountain Dew “Bad Cheetah” (2000); Budweiser “Magic Fridge” (2006).

Peter Hartlaub covers pop culture for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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