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Oreos ''You Can Still Dunk in the Dark'' (2013)
Though not a traditional, on-air ad (it certainly cost a lot less!), this spur-of-the-moment tweet during Super Bowl XLVII's blackout was not only clever, it showed the changing face of advertising in a world increasingly powered by social media. With more and more ads being rolled out early, Oreos found a way to bring back the interactivity and the event feeling of the big game.
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Detroit Auto Industry ''It's halftime, America'' (2012)
With the economic recovery still very much on Americans' minds, humbled auto titans Chrysler, Dodge, and Ford turned to old reliable himself — Clint Eastwood. Like the country's grizzled old grandpa who's seen rough days and gotten through them, Eastwood dished out this rousing poetry: ''This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We'll get back up again and when we do the world's gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah. It's halftime, America. And our second half's about to begin.'' Instantly buzzy, the spot was called Obama propaganda (an accusation swiftly challenged by those involved), then spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Memes and mudslinging aside, its evocative imagery and elegant delivery stand for themselves.
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Honda ''Matthew's Day Off'' (2012)
Matthew Broderick returned to old form as his classic '80s movie character Ferris Bueller. Packed with Easter eggs and loving nods to Broderick's break-out role, the spot was as loaded with nostalgia as Abe Froman with sausages.
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Volkswagen ''The Force'' (2011)
Also know as ''Darth Vader kid,'' this Star Wars homage showed a youngster clattering around his home trying to use his mind to move objects, power them up, and bend them to his will. Only when his dad came home in a shiny new Passat did ''The Force'' kick in as the tyke kickstarted the car. In fact, it was his dad's keyless starter — but we don't have to tell baby Vader that.
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Snickers ''Playing Like Betty White'' (2010)
Months before Saturday Night Live, before Hot in Cleveland, before pretty much every other piece of media, Betty White's comeback was cemented with this super-popular Super Bowl commercial for Snickers in which she plays a rough-and-tumble game of football. Now where's Abe Vigoda's big return?
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Apple ''1984'' (1984)
Ridley Scott was knee-deep in dystopia coming off Blade Runner when he directed this Hall of Fame commercial. A track star runs through a room of automatons and hurls a hammer at their big-screen overlord. Which raises the question: What would be on George Orwell's iPod?
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Pepsi ''Cindy Crawford'' (1992)
Before Beyoncé, Britney, and Xtina, there was Cindy. The supermodel pitched Pepsi products a decade earlier than her songstress successors, and did it better, too. Check out her 1992 Super Bowl ad: Without a word — with ''just one look'' — she chugs that soft drink in the sexiest way possible. ''It's beeeeyootiful,'' the little boy in the commercial sighs. We droolingly agree.
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McDonald's ''Showdown'' (1993)
Two of basketball's greatest go mano a mano, as Larry Bird and Michael Jordan play an increasingly elaborate game of H-O-R-S-E for a Big Mac, because somehow, between the two of them, the multimillionaires can afford only one. Mickey D's ad hit nothin' but net...profit.
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EDS ''Cat Herders'' (2000)
Ah, 2000. When companies were willing to throw millions of dollars away just for a simple visual pun. Those were the days. And while the next day we may not have remembered what company it was plugging, the image of hundreds of cats stampeding across the prairie is indelible.
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Doritos ''Laundromat'' (1998)
Most folks know that Ali Landry began her acting career in this Doritos 3-D commercial, from 1998's Super Bowl. But did you recognize Sean Hayes, just before the debut of Will & Grace, playing one of the dweeby dudes staring at her? He even manages to channel a little Jack when he growls, ''Ay, chihuahua.''
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Reebok ''Terry Tate: Office Linebacker'' (2003)
You'd better make sure you have a cover on that TPS report, if you don't want to feel the pain. Terry Tate keeps watch over the smallest office infractions, and exacts gridiron justice on those who dare walk away from a K22 paper jam. Looking at some of the tackles, we sure hope those employees have full benefits.
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Xerox ''Monks'' (1977)
A cherub-faced monastic is ordered to produce 500 handwritten tracts, so naturally he takes them to Xerox. This was one of the first Super Bowl ads with watercooler staying power, and most of the similar humorous, high-concept spots that followed have been, well, copies.
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Heineken ''Beer Run'' (2005)
Brad Pitt risks a walk to the corner shop to pick up a six-pack as he's pursued by a madding crowd of paparazzi. This David Fincher-directed spot aired right around the transition from Braniston to Brangelina, making the ad's final, anonymous phone call all the more intriguing.
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Budweiser ''Respect'' (2002)
Anheuser-Busch, with its numerous campaigns for Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob, provides a glut of Super Bowl commercials each year. In early 2002, when the country was still mending from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the brewery produced a Budweiser tribute spot to those lost. The ad features the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales, who travel all the way to the World Trade Center site and, teary-eyed, kneel in a moment of silence. It'd be hard not to get teary-eyed yourself.
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E*Trade ''Monkey'' (2000)
Years before its talking baby, the online stock-trading company filled 30 seconds of grade-A prime airtime with footage of a monkey and two yokels dancing to ''La Cucaracha'' in a garage, capped off by the honesty-is-the-best-policy punch line: ''Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks.''
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FedEx ''Desert Island'' (2003)
Haven't seen the 2000 film Cast Away? Can't bear to give up two hours of your life to watch Tom Hanks grunt and grow furry? Fear not. FedEx made a commercial spoofing the film, and amazingly, you'll get the whole movie, plus what might have been a ''deleted scene'': the heartbreaking, ironic return of a survival kit package.