For a select group of people, the Super Bowl is one of the most important days of the year: advertisers. The game is one of the most watched events of the year, pulling in monster audience numbers.
Many commercials are created specifically for the Super Bowl—even if most of them get released online ahead of the game these days—and companies spend a LOT of money to advertise. A 30-second ad for the last three big games cost an average of $5 million from 2016 to 2018 (on Fox, CBS, and NBC), after years of growth. This year, CBS has the broadcast and is reportedly charging $5.1 to $5.3 million for half-a-minute. The most expensive ad ever was Chrysler's $12.4 million spot in 2011, featuring two minutes of Eminem driving around Detroit.
Some people tune in only to watch commercials rather than the game (especially when the teams playing are nowhere close to home, or they hate the Patriots). And every year, the big guns of the advertising world flex their creative muscle to make the most talked-about commercials, whether it's hawking cars, beer, or chips.
Tech companies have contributed their fair share of ads for the Super Bowl, especially during the dot-com era. Although that first boom went bust, the tech ads haven't stopped. Will they make memorable commercials this year? We'll know on Feb. 3. Until then, take a look back at some of the most memorable technology-related ads from past Super Bowls.
You knew this was going to be on the list, so let's get it out of the way. Apple's 1984 commercial directed by Ridley Scott showed Apple's disdain for the conformity of IBM'ers. It claimed the Macintosh, which officially debuted several days later, would free the world from the status quo. The irony, of course, is that Apple devices are now subject to 1984-like criticisms, since everyone seems to have one.
Monster.com ran an excellent ad in 1999, featuring children explaining what they would be when they grew up, including "I want to climb my way up to middle management." The end of the ad displays the message "What did you want to be?" The "When I Grow Up" ad was a simple yet effective approach to explaining Monster.com's purpose—getting you a new job.
In the year 2000, E-Trade ran an advertisement featuring an older gentleman, a chimp, and a younger man sitting in a garage. The chimp danced as the men clapped for 30 seconds. The punchline? "Well, we just wasted 2 million dollars. What are you doing with your money?" Wow.
EDS: Herding Cats
Herding cats, according to a year 2000 ad by Electronic Data Systems (EDS), is one of the toughest jobs challenging the manliest cowboy. EDS explained that "In a sense, this is what we do. We bring together information, ideas, and technologies." Never heard of EDS? It was an information technology company later purchased by HP.
The Pets.com Super Bowl commercial that aired in 2000 is the quintessential dot-com ad. In the commercial, the site's sock puppet mascot performs a cover of the song "If You Leave Me Now" as people leave their pets behind, so they can go buy things for them. Pets.com was out of business by November of the same year, but the sock puppet found other work with Bar None, a company that helps people with bad credit.
GoDaddy: Broadcast Hearing
When you think of GoDaddy, you think of web hosting and its series of salacious Super Bowl advertisements—an approach it pulled back from starting in 2014. Its first ad introducing the "GoDaddy Girl" mocked the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction incident. The ad was scheduled to run twice during the Super Bowl, but the second showing was canceled—GoDaddy courts the "pulled ad" controversies whenever it can. It definitely got Fox's attention.
Hulu: Evil Plot to Destroy the World
Alec Baldwin introduced Hulu to the general public in an ad claiming that the video site was actually an evil alien plot to destroy the world. Who knows if the ad actually got people to subscribe to Hulu, but the commercial definitely made an impression.
Motorola: Megan Fox
The ad: Megan Fox takes a duck face picture of herself in the bath and wonders what would happen if she sent the picture around the internet. Cue: Mayhem. Was this advertising a camera? Soap? Nope, it was for MotoBlur, Motorola's at-a-glance widgetized display of your Facebook, Twitter, and other messages.
Intel: Jeffrey the Robot
In an Intel lunch room, a super-excited person is explaining the newest Intel Core processors. He exclaims that they are the "greatest thing that we have ever made" as a white robot comes up to the table with his lunch. The robot listens intently and hears that "absolutely, nothing surpasses" the processors. Dejected, the robot drops his lunch tray and rolls away as a co-worker rushes to console Jeffrey the robot. Aww.
Best Buy's Ozzy vs. Bieber
Back before Bieber was pulling burrito pranks, he went up against one of the original bad boy of rock, Ozzy "Prince of Darkness" Osbourne. Together, in 2011 they found out just how many Gs there are.
Volkswagen: The Force
Is this 2011 spot the greatest commercial in the history of the Super Bowl? With tens of millions of views, this day in the life of a young Sith Lord testing The Force is definitely way up on the viral scale. It's not specifically about tech (unless you count remote car starters), but it's a perfect look at childhood. It's nostalgia personified.
Monster isn't the only name in online job postings. CareerBuilder.com's ad relied on the old advertising expertise that nothing is funnier than chimps dressed as humans, especially in an office setting. In the ad, a sole human looks exasperated to be working with his fellow primates.
Samsung's Next Big Thing
In 2013, Samsung threw together Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen (and the amazing Bob "Better Call Saul" Odenkirk) into a bit that put the two into a vitriol-filled competition to become Samsung's next big thing, even though for Samsung it was all about the Galaxy brand.
In 2014, Cars.com claimed it had taken all the drama out of buying a used car. But for one couple who missed all that haggling with sales, there was a new option: hold a wolf puppy while its over-protective mother watched from the showroom floor.
Squarespace: A Better Web Awaits
The website builder service decided to trumpet its foray into Super Bowl advertising in 2014 by mocking the memes of yesteryear to try to get you to build a better site for tomorrow. It probably didn't exactly work that way, but hopefully it got Squarespace some new customers.
WIX.com: It's That Easy
Another website builder, Wix, got into the advertising game in 2015 with an excellent spot highlighting the ease of their service—so easy even celebrities can do it.
T-Mobile: Data Stash
T-Mobile already has a very outspoken CEO. But for its 2015 Super Bowl ad, it turned to someone who knows a lot more about data usage. And outfits.
Mophie, maker of cases for smartphones that double as an emergency battery, created a special-effects filled minute in 2015, imagining what happens when the Almighty's smartphone goes into low-power mode.
Alec Baldwin's a winner at making Big Game ads, even before he was a professional presidential impersonator. In 2016, Amazon got him and several other stars to pimp the Amazon Echo as it was already becoming a phenomenon.
TurboTax: Never a Sellout
When you're as big a star as Sir Anthony Hopkins, you don't ever need to sell anything. Especially if it's free. This subtle bit for TurboTax went over big in 2016.
Wix: Director's Cut
2016's outing with Kung Fu Panda was okay, but Wix stepped it up a notch in 2017 with a double shot set of commercials for its web-building platform. They star Jason Statham and Gal "Wonder Woman" Gadot as inspirations for a chef who needs a site. The director's cut from Louis Leterrier (who directed Statham's Transporter films) combines the two ads into one action-filled short.
T-Mobile: Snoop and Martha
Old pals Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart got together again to star in one of T-Mobile's multiple 2017 Super Bowl commercials; this 30-second spot alone set the Uncarrier back $5 million.
Amazon: Alexa Loses Her Voice
The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos himself, took to the screen in 2018 to show what the plan is if the voice behind Amazon Echo devices is lost. It features the return of Anthony Hopkins to Super Bowl ads, plus Rebel Wilson in a bathtub.
Squarespace: Make It Happen
There's a whole series of Keanu Reeves ads from the year 2018 for Squarespace, one of the big surprises of the game that year. Even more interesting because it's all true. Keanu's motorcycle company really does use the service, that's how Squarespace found him and pitched the spot.
Intuit TurboTax: Thing Under Bed
There are few things scarier than 1) things under the bed and 2) taxes. Combine them and you've got the perfect ad idea to sell some online tax prep software to the masses. This commercial is from 2018.
Samsung: Super Big TV (2019 Preview)
It's not enough to have a big, dramatic TV. Now Samsung's going to have one that blends into your wall.
Expensify (2019 Preview)
2 Chainz is making an expensive rap video so Adam Scott stops by to make sure he has receipts. But he doesn't need paper receipts—he's got the Expensify app. Naturally. (If you use the app, snap a shot of 2 Chainz's receipt in the ad during the game and you're entered in a sweepstakes worth $200,000.)
Microsoft: We All Win (2019 Preview)
The Xbox Adaptive Controller gets an emotional push as kids with disabilities who know they can game as well as anyone else finally get the chance to prove it.
Amazon/Alexa: Not Everything Makes the Cut (2019 Preview)
Another star-studded 90 seconds shows off all the versions of Alexa we are NOT getting, like Echo toothbrush, Echo dog collar, and Echo hot tub. Forest Whitaker, the stars of Broad City, real-life space station astronauts, and Harrison Ford himself are all on hand. There are more clips here.
How to Stream the Super Bowl From Anywhere
Getting ready for the big game? There are plenty of options, even if you're abroad. Here's how to watch the Super Bowl online.