Jan. 30, 2013 at 7:58 PM ET
Bombshells, bawdy jokes and bans: The most risqué Super Bowl ads of all time feature all that and more.
Salacious commercials are as much a part of the Super Bowl experience as instant replays, controversial calls and boring halftime shows. And you only have yourself to blame. Or, more accurately, your own conditioned reflex to stimuli.
"Sex sells in advertising for the same reason that Pavlov's dogs learned to salivate to the sound of a bell," said Steve Posavac, professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University. "Firms that use sexual appeals are trying to pair sex and their brands in consumers' memory. After several pairings of sex and a brand, an association is developed, and in the future just seeing the brand will cause the consumer to experience this good feeling."
Once that's happened, "the advertiser has conditioned the consumer,” Posavac said.
But it’s not all about behavioral science; there is a huge economic factor, too. This Sunday, advertisers will spend an estimated $3.7 million for a 30-second Super Bowl XLVII commercial -- or $123,000 per second. The heat is on the advertiser to quickly snatch the viewer's attention.
“The ad needs to grab emotion and knock it out of the park," said Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of “The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing."
Often that means shooting a missile at the prurient core of the human brain. In that spirit, here's the "best" of the seamier side of Super Bowl commercials.
In 1973, a young and relatively unknown Farrah Fawcett gave a titillating performance for Noxema, playfully rubbing shaving cream all over New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath's face. "I'm so excited. I'm gonna get creamed!" says Namath with a goofy grin. He then compliments her on her slathering skills. "You've got a great pair of hands," he says. "Woo!" is Fawcett's reply, flashing a big white smile.
The Super Bowl was only VII years old then. So young. So innocent. The ads would soon get a bit less subtle.
Several experts cited Diet Pepsi's 1992 Super Bowl ad featuring Cindy Crawford as a classic of the sex-sells approach.
Supermodel Crawford pulls over at a rural gas station, slides out from a sports car and sashays her way over to buy a Diet Pepsi from a vending machine. Sultry music plays as she runs her hands through her hair as young farm boys dangle on the fence and gawk. "Is that a great looking Pepsi can or what," says one boy, a verbal play on how "can" also refers to derriere.
Holiday Inn took an alternative strategy in 1997 to tell a story about how they were spending $1 billion to make over their hotels.
The hotel chain likened it to a bombshell transgendered "Bob Johnson" who goes to her high school reunion and fools everyone with the exquisite plastic surgery she's undergone to complete her transformation, leaving her classmates, and viewers, dumbstruck.
Some ads push the limits too far and are rejected by the networks airing the game for their sexual content.
Relatively tame, Bud Light's 2007 ad shows a couple going for a skinny dip in an apparently deserted hotel pool. What the skinny-dipping couple doesn’t realize is that a bunch of exuberant bar patrons are enjoying the action from an underground pub.
The brewing company never got an audience for the ad during the game, but it wasn’t a total buzz kill. One version of the ad online has more than 18 million hits.
Getting banned can create a news hook and can lead to even more audience interest in the ad, especially online. For some advertisers, that's precisely the point.
"Super Bowl wannabes make ads that are deliberately sleazy or otherwise objectionable, and then concoct stories about them that usually aren't true," said Tim Nudd, editor of AdFreak.com.
PETA's 2011 commercial -- a parody of a pornographic movie casting couch featuring women passionately eating vegetables -- had zero chance of getting any Super Bowl air time.
The ad is "unlikely to convince anyone to consider vegetarianism," said Scott Smith, account director at Social@Ogilvy. "It was more of a playing-to-the-base ad."
That's OK; it made for good press release material and racked up hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.
Yet another ad that got a network rejection letter was ManCrunch.com’s 2010 spot. The gay dating site’s commercial featured two rival fans reaching for the chip bowl at the same time. They accidentally touch hands, share a look, and all of a sudden engage in a frenzied lip lock.
In a rejection letter, CBS said "the creative is not within the Network's Broadcast Standards." And, even more importantly, "our Sales Department has had difficulty verifying your organization's credit status."
Registering a domain name online is a pretty straightforward process and registrars are mostly interchangeable. In 2005, GoDaddy.com decided to stand out with its self-produced Super Bowl ad featuring a buxom woman appearing before a censor board hearing.
A "wardrobe malfunction" and a few cleavage shots later and GoDaddy's traffic surged 400 percent that day, according to comScore.
In 2008, CBS rejected a Bud Light spot that went on to win an Emmy for outstanding commercial.
The premise of the ad is that every curse in the office gets fined and the fines go in the swear jar, which will be used to buy the office a case of Bud Light. The result? A company-wide swearathon as everyone pitches in to help buy the beer.
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