The changing face of Super Bowl advertising

Stephen Whiteside

Has Super Bowl advertising lost its edge when it comes to creating classics?

"None of the stuff that you've seen over the past two years that has caused such a big stir in the advertising community is in there," David Sable, the global chief executive of Young & Rubicam, told a marketing gathering in New York three days before the kick-off of the 2014 Super Bowl. Why? "Because they are incredibly, memorably, forgettable … We know that the cat pissing on your shoes is kind of funny, and people will send it out millions and millions of times. But no one is really paying attention to it."

A recent online poll by conducted by The Today Show, NBC's morning offering, identified the best Super Bowl spot of all time and, in doing so, seemingly confirmed Sable's theory. The finalists were Budweiser's "Clydesdale Respect", a 2002 tribute to the victims of 9/11, and "The Showdown", a McDonald's ad from 1993 starring basketball legends Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. And the long list of commercials featured few pieces from the new social-media age.