Some years the Super Bowl itself is a bust, but at least the ads give everyone something to talk about. Some are great, some are forgettable and others are just plain bad. Bad enough to be memorable.
It’s easy to find lists of the greatest Super Bowl ads around the Internet. They almost all include iconic commercials like Mean Joe Greene tossing his jersey to an awestruck young fan in a pitch for Coke or Apple introducing its computers to the nation in 1984.
Financial firms also take advantage of the huge audience (more than 100 million each year in the U.S.) to try to lure customers. E*Trade’s ubiquitous baby (alone, with “girlfriend,” or looming parent, but always opining about life) might be wearing thin for some viewers, but is hard to forget. Banks, brokerages and insurance companies have all bought airtime during the big game.
AdvisorOne looked at 46 years of commercials to find 10 Favorite Super Bowl TV Ads by Financial Firms. Some of these ads are great and some aren’t great but intriguing in an old-fashioned kind of way.
(Check out Top 7 TV Advertising Slogans by Financial Firms at AdvisorOne.)
1) 2004, AIG: In the Clutch
Watching ads from Super Bowls past can be like entering a time machine. AIG, forever, or at least for now, known as the company bailed out by the government because it was too big to fail (and whose board contemplated suing over that same bailout) was once a stable company trying to attract business. One example is its 2004 ad in which it positioned itself as the company that will come through in the clutch to help you plan your financial future. Nowadays, that idea seems downright quaint.
2) 2004, MasterCard: Homer Simpson
MasterCard struck gold with its “For Everything Else There’s MasterCard” campaign. In 2004, it rolled out the big guns by utilizing America’s everyman, Homer Simpson, to add a twist to the series of ads.
3) 2003, Charles Schwab: Home Run King
How times change. You don’t need to look for any more evidence than this 2003 Charles Schwab ad featuring Barry Bonds taking batting practice while a voice urges him to retire. The voice is revealed to be that of Henry Aaron, whose home run record Bonds was still chasing at the time. Since then, Bonds has been under a cloud for possibly having used performance-enhancing drugs and was found guilty in 2011 of obstructing justice during his lengthy steroid trial. He is appealing the conviction. Aaron, for his part, has distanced himself from the new career home-run leader.
4) 2001, E*Trade: Ghost Town Chimp
Before E*Trade found its inner baby, it trotted out a clever ad that poked fun at the dot-com bubble. It featured a chimp dressed in Western garb entering a ghost town littered with the detritus of dot-coms that went bust. We are surprised this clever, bold pitch slipped from our memory.
5) 2000, Charles Schwab: Anna Kournikova
Tennis star Anna Kournikova was known for two things: her beauty and her inability to win a grand slam tournament. Perhaps the expectations were too big. She did play at a high a level for several years. In any case, she had a winner playing herself to hawk Charles Schwab’s services. Playing against stereotype, Kournikova’s knowledge of P/E ratios and other investment jargon made her unpopular with players like Mary Joe Fernandez.
6) 1993, American Express: Seinfeld/Superman
American Express has had a big presence for years during the big game. Often, the firm’s ads lean on celebrities. Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey had their moment in the sun, but for our money, Jerry Seinfeld stole the show with his one-minute turn with Superman. Only Seinfeld’s AmEx card could save Lois Lane, leaving Superman an also-ran for once.
7) 1987, New York Life: Couple in Bathroom
This is one ad that leaves us mystified. Financial firms sometimes use their ads to play against the staid image of the business. Other times, the commercials reinforce the bedrock steadfastness of the advertiser (think of Prudential and its iconic rock). Maybe New York Life wanted it both ways. This ad found a couple in a bathroom, she just out of the shower, he shaving. If such a thing is possible, the whole thing smacks of dull flirtatiousness. In the end, the couple ends up in company headquarters and full-bore steadfastness takes over the ad.
8) 1983, Merrill Lynch: Chess
Merrill Lynch has run its share of ads on Super Sunday and their iconic bull has been a steady presence. That bull has wandered beaches and cities, but in 1983 he was featured on an oversized chess board. He made it through without knocking over nary a pawn.
9) 1980, E.F. Hutton: Joggers
Once upon a time, everyone who watched TV (so, almost everyone, we’d venture to say) knew about E.F. Hutton. Their ad slogan, “When E.F. Hutton Talks, People Listen” became a part of everyday discourse. For the 1980 Super Bowl, the firm used two joggers who got the attention of everyone around them just by speaking the name of the iconic firm. Amazingly, 12 years later Paine Webber used joggers to flog its services to Super Bowl viewers.
10) 1973, Mutual Funds
It might be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when mutual funds were unknown to many. The need to make investors comfortable with the financial instrument was great enough that the Investment Company Institute was moved to produce a straightforward 30-second spot that explained why mutual funds were a good place to put money.
Check out more Top 10 lists at AdvisorOne, including: