Super Bowl Sunday is prom night for ad agencies, where it doesn't really matter whose arm you show up on as long as your night is memorable. Take Volkswagen's "The Force" ad, currently taking the Internet by storm and already being touted (justifiably) as the best Super Bowl ad of 2011: The car is on the screen for less than 10 seconds, but everybody's talking about it.
Creativity counts and backlash comes fast, and America's social media network is the highly partisan arbitrator. Which ads from Super Bowl XLV will join this pantheon of all-time greatest Super Bowl spots? Their historical competition, in ascending order of greatness:
10. E*Trade: Wasted (2000)
Ha ha, remember the dot-com boom, you guys? And the dot-com bust? And that time E*Trade put a monkey on a trash can? This one makes the cut because it doesn't contain that abhorrent talking baby they brought on board soon after.
9. Google: Parisian Love (2010)
Holy smokes, a potent, poignant Super Bowl commercial that doesn't involve beer, boobs, or things blowing up. Will wonders never cease?
8. Budweiser: Replay (2003)
Another ad that's great for what it's missing, which in this case is talking frogs and lizards. A 30-second spot that sells beer, is about football, and doesn't end in t-shirts being sold in gas stations, this ad is elegant in its simplicity and deadpan humor.
7. FedEx: Carrier Pigeons (2008)
Let's get a surreal one in here just for kicks. Animal ads are generally winners, but FedEx pushed the envelope (sorry) three years ago by adding a layer of pure terror at the thought of pigeons the size of 737s.
6. McDonalds: The Showdown (1993)
The legendary Jordan-Bird series is remarkable in its ability to transport sports fans of a certain age back to one specific point in their lifetimes, and had enough staying power to spawn multiple parodies/homages/sequels.
5. EDS: Herding Cats (2000)
Again: Animals are always an excellent go-to, but whatever or whoever EDS was, they upped the ante by adding trailhands winding yarn balls and brushing off their leather jackets with lint rollers.
4. Reebok: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker (2003)
Really, any of the Office Linebacker spots would have a comfortable slot on this list, but enjoy this extended cut with Terry doing what he did best: Terrorizing. "That's a long-distance call, DOUG!!"
3. Apple: 1984 (1984)
This is about where our researchers devolved into arguing and couldn't decide on a first-place commercial, so take these last three as a tie or argue it out in the comments as you see fit. Along with Coke in '79 (see below), Apple was largely responsible (with an assist that year from Ridley Scott) for ushering in the era of the Super Bowl ad as a Super Bowl storyline in itself. And don't miss this ad's terrifying sequel!
2. Mean Joe Greene (1979)
Inarguably the commercial that started it all. Nobody does American iconography quite like Coke.
1. NFL Network: Tomorrow (2005)
Gets the nod for the top slot because it's the ad we miss the most, and it's also the most replicable. Ben Roethlisberger (well, his stunt double) doing handsprings down a beach while belting showtunes. Why was this ever discontinued? Can they not run this every year? Can you imagine Tom Coughlin singing? Can you imagine Bill Belichick's shot? (SPOILER: It's just him standing shirtless in his backyard, beating the shredded remains of his sideline hoodie with a tire iron.)
So, gentle readers: Where does that new Volkswagen ad rank among these contenders? Which ads' inexcusable exclusion from this list mortally offended you the most? Who would you like to see doing tumbling passes down a stretch of desert isle with Joe Montana? Let us have it in the comments.