Skip the navigation

Top 10 Super Bowl tech ads

Remember these classics from Intel, Iomega, EDS, Apple, Xerox and more? (videos below)

By Valerie Potter
February 5, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - This Sunday the Super Bowl is once again upon us, and that means one thing: great advertising. (Apparently some sort of game will be going on too, but many of us tune in not for the touchdowns but for the commercials.) And it's not all beer and car ads; technology companies have a long and illustrious history as Super Bowl advertisers.

(Related story: After a 12-year hiatus, Intel is returning as a Super Bowl advertiser this year.)

Text about this image

So we decided to run our own game: What were the best Super Bowl ads from tech companies in years past? Wading through four decades' worth of Super Bowl ads was entertaining, educational (who knew that Exxon once had an office products division?) and sometimes tedious, but we finally found the 10 tech ads that we think are the most compelling.

Ground rules: To be considered for our list, the ad had to be from a company whose primary business is technology, not just a Web retailer or online service. That meant that standout ads from the likes of Monster.com and E-Trade didn't qualify. Also, the ad must have aired during the Super Bowl — which ruled out countless clever and entertaining tech ads, including Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" campaign.

With those rules in mind, have a look at our picks (presented in chronological order) and vote for your favorite in our reader poll, or let us know what we missed in the article comments.

Xerox: "Monks" (1976)

Brother Dominic has a problem: The head of his order has requested 500 copies of a handwritten manuscript. So he does what any smart monk would do — turns to the new Xerox 9200 duplicating system, which feeds and cycles the originals, and duplicates, reduces, collates and more, all at "an incredible 2 pages per second." It's a miracle!

Xerox "Monks" Super Bowl ad (1976). Click arrow button to play video. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers may require two clicks to start the video.)

Apple: "1984" (1984)

No "top 10" list of Super Bowl commercials would be complete without Apple's iconic "1984," which introduced the vibrant new Macintosh computer to a sterile, gray, corporate dystopia inspired by George Orwell's 1984. And yet it breaks all the rules of Super Bowl advertising: It's not funny. It's not cute. It's not fast-moving. It's not heartwarming.

But, wow. Just ... wow.

Apple "1984" Super Bowl ad (1984). Click arrow button to play video. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers may require two clicks to start the video.)

Interestingly, both IBM and Atari ran pretty decent personal computer ads during the Super Bowl that year (and Tandy ran a very mediocre one); they were just completely overshadowed by Apple's entry.

(For more Apple advertising highs and lows through the years, see "Mac advertising masterpieces and missteps.")

Intel: "Play That Funky Music" (1997)

Intel's 1997 ad for its multimedia-friendly Pentium MMX processor is sheer fun. Who can resist grooving along with the dancers ("Intel engineers") in spangly clean-room "bunny suits" as they gyrate to Wild Cherry's funk-rock anthem "Play That Funky Music"?


Intel "Play That Funky Music" Super Bowl ad (1997). Click arrow button to play video. (Adobe Flash is required. Some browsers may require two clicks to start the video.)


Our Commenting Policies
Consumerization of IT: Be in the know
consumer tech

Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!