If you are anything like me, you jump onto the Super Bowl bandwagon SOLELY for the much-anticipated array of commercials. As marketers, we are drawn to these commercials in different ways than the average viewer. To me, Super Bowl advertising is all about creating fresh connections between brands and consumers through “experiential marketing”. Not only does experiential marketing connect brand to consumer, it does it on multiple levels – appealing not only to emotions and ethos, but to logic and senses as well.

When I watch Super Bowl commercials, I determine a successful ad by using the following criteria:

Relevance: When the experience makes sense for both the brand (its personality, its attributes, etc.) and the viewer experiencing it (their mindset, their needs and interests). In other words, if I watch a Super Bowl commercial, and get up and do something else after only engaging for the first 5 seconds, it’s because it had no meaning to me, I haven’t experienced “experiential marketing.”

Meaning: When execution of the ad should have a lasting impact and “memorability” to the viewer/consumer. Perhaps we find something we’ve been looking for, have an experience we’ve always wanted to have, or are allowed to share something special with someone else (ie: friends, siblings, significant others, etc). Engagement comes into play here in terms of holding, not simply getting, someone’s attention.

Interaction: When the consumer has some degree of control or interaction (they participate, they can ask questions or comment, they can make choices, etc.) with the commercial. For me, being experiential has a lot to do with showing consumers enough respect to allow them to be part of the process For example, social media will play a huge role in this year’s Super Bowl.

After tedious research and with these conditions now in place, here is my opinion on the top 10 Super Bowl ads of all time and why they’re “experiential” (Note: I’ve purposely left out Britney and Jessica):

Apple, “1984” (1984)

This commercial was first broadcast during Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984, and has never been broadcast again. Due to the time period and the radical statement, this has meaning and connection written all over it! Apple has even since adopted the philosophy of the man on the screen by saying “We shall prevail!”

Reebok, “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” (2003)

Office Linebacker Tate enforced the office rules through continuous intimidation and bone-breaking hits. This commercial was effective because of the comedic way it truly connected with every office worker who ever dreamed of tackling his cubicle mate.

Coca-Cola, “Mean Joe Greene” (1979)

I know, this isn’t technically a Super Bowl commercial, but how could I not include it? Intimidating Joe Greene meets little boy, drinks a Coca-Cola, and smiles. In the end, the ad was memorable and emotionally touching. Although, according to Coca-Cola, the spot barely made any impact on soda sales at all.

McDonald’s, “Nothing But Net” (1993)

Larry Bird challenges Michael Jordan to play for a Big Mac. This commercial highlights three great things in history; McDonald’s representing American dining, Larry Bird and the Celtics being unstoppable, and Michael Jordan trying to become a major league baseball player. McDonald’s paid huge bucks for the ad to be made and receive a prime real-estate spot during Super Bowl XXVII.

Budweiser, “Frogs” (1995)

Who would forget the Budweiser Frogs? One frog says “Bud,” the second says “weiss” and the third frog finishes it all off with “errrr.” Talk about brilliant advertising. It left everyone repeating the brand name for weeks.

Xerox, “Monks” (1977)

A monk has just finished duplicating an ancient manuscript, only to learn that his “boss” needs 500 more copies.  Through a secret passageway into a “modern” office circa 1976, we discover a Xerox machine. In no time, our crafty monk has made all of the copies and hands them to the head monk, who describes his work ethic as “a miracle.” Innovation at its finest.

Budweiser “Wassup!?” (1999)

Obviously it wouldn’t be a top 10 super bowl list without the “Wassup” campaign. These commercials were ridiculous in so many ways, but yet set the mood for “good times” throughout the entire crusade. This campaign provided hope to advertisers everywhere. Although the original was never in a Super Bowl, many subsequent “Wassup” ads went down in super bowl – and advertising – history.

Monster.com, “When I Grow Up” (1999)

This ad features a group of children taking a look into their dreams for the future. Giving unpredictable answers like; “When I grow up, I want to be a brown nose,” and “When I grow up, I want to be in middle management.” Easily one of the most memorable ads in Super Bowl history.

EDS, “Cat Herding” (2000)

There had to be at least one really good commercial for a company that nobody’s ever heard of. The legendary cat herding ad comes to us from Electronic Data Solutions (EDS). The point is this commercial isn’t aimed at the consumer. You and I would never buy this product. The people targeted are decision-makers who buy corporate technology, and are familiar with the expression “herding cats”.  Regardless, this was funny.

Doritos, “Boy Smacks Man” (2010)

As the one and only ad from last year’s Super Bowl to make my list, you know that it has to be good. And it’s one of the only ones that made me “LOL”. A little boy categorizing Doritos up on the same platform as his “mama”… priceless.

Honorable Mentions: Pepsi’s “Apartment 10G”, E*Trade Babies and Wazoo, CareerBuilder Monkeys, Snickers “Betty White”, Tabasco “Mosquito”, Budweiser Clydesdales (only because 2 Budweiser ads already made my top 10).

See more ads at, http://superbowl-ads.com/