The Big Game is this Sunday. You’ve got your menu prepared, your seating arrangement pre-planned and your game day outfit prepped, but before we get onto this year’s Super Bowl why not take some time to reflect on years past? The Super Bowl Greatest Commercials airs its 19th special later tonight on CBS detailing all of the very best ads to earn the title of “Super Bowl Commercial.”
CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer spoke to Bob Horowitz, Executive Producer of tonight’s special, to hear firsthand what makes a great commercial, some of his favorites throughout the years and a final prediction when the Chiefs and 49ers lock horns on Sunday.
RM: We’re heading into the show this evening, I’m just wondering from your perspective, what do you think makes a great Super bowl commercial?
BH: I would say it’s either a terrific heartfelt spot or a terrific hilarious spot. What happens is, as much as advertisers today, when they’re spending $5.5 million for a 30-second spot they feel they have to, and I understand it; they have to do these teasers and the promo campaigns. The fact still remains it’s all about the 30 seconds and what the creative is.
What you need to do is you got to tug on the heart strings and really evoke emotions from the viewer, the person sitting at home or it’s the laugh out loud hilarious, where it’s oh my gosh that’s so creative. How do you measure that? Well I think you measure that by the water cooler Monday morning. What are the spots they’re talking about? That’s what you’re trying to accomplish and if you’re fortunate enough then you’re like a Budweiser or you’re like an Apple, or you’re like a Coca-Cola, where year in year out, people are still talking about the 1984 Macintosh commercial. The meeting Joe Coca-Cola kid commercial or the Budweiser and the clydesdales. That’s in terms of long term, short term it’s Monday morning.
RM: Right and in that same vein were there any in the course of last year’s Super Bowl that really stuck out in your mind, from a heartfelt standpoint or from a hilarity and getting you laughing standpoint?
BH: Last year was a good year. My favorite was the Hyundai commercial, the elevator with Jason Bateman where he played the elevator operator. That was a great commercial because it’s story. They were telling a story and you just sat back and chuckled. The perfect person cast for that spot, Jason Bateman, did a terrific job, that would be the one from last year. Hyundai’s back in the game this coming Sunday and we have a behind-the-scenes, the making of that spot. They even enlisted a bunch of Boston natives to play off the Boston accent. They have John Krasinski, Chris Evans, Rachel Dratch, and Big Papi, in that spot, and that’s funny. That’s a great commercial, so I think that will have some good buzz.
RM: You mentioned having some of the behind the scenes on how these things come together and I’m curious from your perspective as you’re producing this show going through all of the different things and all of the different aspects that are a part of it. What do you find the most interesting and what do you find to be the most difficult part in putting together a show like this that tries to encapsulate everything both heartwarming and the hilarious and also the behind the scenes aspects of these commercials?
BH: Lump behind-the-scenes also into sneak peeks, this is year number 19 for this show and that’s pretty amazing, 19 years we’ve been doing it and we owe it to the viewers, not only to entertain and relive those spots from yesteryear, we’re also kind of the authority of what are you looking for on Sunday. The challenge for us is going into tonight’s show is, do we have the latest news? The latest creative that viewers are going to see because there’s a pride in producing them, we don’t want to be upstaged, we’re coming up to our 11th hour coming up with our sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes and some teasers. So people are entertained that way.
RM: Now from your standpoint, I know you mentioned the Jason Bateman Hyundai commercial was one of the favorites that stuck out to you. As you look all time and you kind of mentioned some of the ones that stuck with you over the years,1984 Apple commercial, meet Joe Greene Coca-Cola Commercial. Is there a personal near and dear favorite to your heart that you really think back on all these years later as one of the better Super Bowl commercials you’ve seen?
BH: I’m in awe of the meeting Joe commercial with Coke kid and the jersey, because it’s lived on all these decades. We have a salute reunion piece Joe and Kid in the show. The awe of that is, do I think it’s the most creative or… no it was simple, a bottle of Coke, a jersey, and a kid, and a professional football player. It was simple but right to the point and it lives on. That one I’m in awe of.
The other one is the Apple 1984 commercial, because that was really the first Ridley Scott commercial. It was the first big production. A lot of money spent for that 30-40 seconds. That takes me to the other side which is my favorite commercials, which are those that are about the creative, not necessarily about the budget. So on the one hand I love the 1984 spot and the big budget commercials. I think the FedEx commercial from many decades ago, that was a simple spot. You saw the bars and tones up there on the screen and a graphic crawl at the bottom and its simple spot on message was our ad agency convinced us to buy a Super Bowl commercial for a 1.5 million, that’s what it was then in the Super Bowl, and this was just a crawl across the bottom with bars and tone. They didn’t send the spot the proper way to the network using FedEx, we’re out 1.5 million and they’re out of a client. That spot probably cost $2.50 or you know what ever it might cost. But it resonated, why does it resonate, it’s spot on their messaging, it absolutely positively has to get there Fed Ex. That was funny, it was creative, and it was right on message.
Our show tonight we have another spot that is hilarious, but missed the boat. That would be the old cat herder spot, where you have the cowboys herding cats. It’s an old spot and the company was EDF, this was Ross Perot’s company, information systems company. We watched this spot over and over and over again, Boomer has some fun with it tonight, because you go over and over it and you’re saying herding cats that’s funny, but what are they trying to sell? That’s where you miss. You can’t try to be too funny where you miss trying to execute what your messaging is.
RM: Now the final question I have for you; you go through so many months of producing this show getting ready for the show tonight and may be the game itself for you in particular takes a little bit of a back seat because you have everything poured into tonight’s show. But I’m curious from your perspective, we got to get a pick, who are you taking in this game coming up on Sunday?
BH: Who’s playing Sunday? [Laughs]
RM: So Chiefs/49ers, who you got?
BH: Uhh… San Francisco.
RM: Alright, I’ll take it.
BH: The challenge each year and this was a last minute addition because your correct months and months leading up to this show and curating of all the spots. After the Super Bowl teams were decided all of sudden we found, oh yeah in 1996 there was that Snickers commercial, you can Google it, it’s on the show tonight. It’s an old Snickers commercial where there’s an old man painting the end zone for the Kansas City Chiefs and he stands up. A play walks over and says, who are the Chefs. [Laughs]
That’s one we almost missed it. Every year is a challenge. Next year will be year 20 and the minute the game is over and we see the new crop of rookies for Super Bowl commercials this Sunday, we’ll put into motion our plan for Super Bowl 20. Our Super Bowl 20 next year. Otherwise Super Bowl 55.
RM: Thanks for the time today Bob and enjoy this year’s spots!
The Greatest Super Bowl Commercials airs Wednesday, January 29th at 8:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.