The Top 5 B2B Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Two Spheres of Competition

Last night’s Super Bowl, like every NFL Championship extravaganza, had two spheres of competition.  The battle on the playing field and the battle on the TV screen.

The Victorious Colts

On the field, the 7 point favorite Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17 to win their first NFL title in franchise history.  Flamboyant quarterback Peyton Manning, finally got his Super Bowl ring and earned MVP honors in the process.

$2.6 Million for 30 Seconds

On the screen, advertisers eager to reach the largest TV audience of the year, shelled out a record $2.6 million for every 30 seconds of airtime.

Betting on Amateurs

Among the most notable advertising developments of Super Bowl XLI:  Doritos, Chevrolet and the NFL aired ads that were the brainchildren of amateur filmmakers.  Sprint presented its mobile broadband service as the cure to a serious condition called Connectile Dysfunction.  Coke, looking to bolster sagging soda sales, made a comeback appearance after a decade on the Super Bowl sidelines.

Super Sized Audience

Given the super sized audience, most of the commercials pitched consumer products.  But several business-to-business enterprises also hit the airwaves to take advantage of the one time each year they could count on a high number of corporate executives watching TV on a Sunday night.  My guess is the Super Bowl broadcast attracts a 100 times more executive viewers than Desperate Housewives.

FedEx Ground Doesn’t Mean Slow

The best of the B2B ads this year was a FedEx spot that argued that Ground doesn’t necessarily mean slow.  It provided some fun humor, but lacked the panache required to become all time favorite.  My Top 5 List remains intact for another year.  Here’s what makes these commercials stand above the rest.

1. Herding Cats

My favorite Super Bowl ad of all time debuted in 2000.  It gave a 60 second spot the feel of a great western movie, only with a feline twist.  It combined adventure, nostalgia and great cinematography, with a key for any Super Bowl ad, humor.

The advertiser was EDS (Electronic Data Systems) a company founded by Ross Perot, who became better known in the 1990’s as a two time candidate for U.S. President.

2. Caveman Courier

From Super Bowl XL (2006), Caveman Courier did a brilliant job of connecting with the emotions of FedEx’s real customer – the shipping clerks and administrative assistants who risk the wrath of a Neanderthal boss if an urgent package doesn’t make it to its destination on time.

FedEx went from the fantasy past to the fantasy future in its 2007 Moon Office ad.  FedEx did better in the past.  Moon Office didn’t come close to cracking the Top 5 List.

3. 1984

No review of Super Bowl commercials would be complete without mention of Apple’s groundbreaking spot to launch the Macintosh.  Playing on the Big Brother imagery of George Orwell’s novel 1984, the spot positioned Apple as the agile, original and powerful alternative to group think.  The commercial concluded that because of the Macintosh, 1984 would be nothing like 1984.  Apple gave the ad an added mystique by airing it only once.

4. Brother Dominique

By today’s standards, a 1984 Macintosh is ancient technology.  But to provide some perspective of what a breakthrough it was at the time, go back just 7 years earlier to 1977 when the technological wonder being pitched was Xerox’s high volume photocopier that could print two pages every second.

The Brother Dominique ad looks dated 30 years after its debut in Super Bowl XI, but endures as an influential classic for introducing the product in the context of a story line and its subtle use of humor.

5. Running With The Squirrels

It is not often that a commercial is so successful that it inspires a sequel.  And it is far less often that the sequel is strong enough to stand on its own.  EDS did both.  It followed up Herding Cats with Running of the Squirrels a year later with excellent results.