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Are you ready for Super Bowl XLIV? You may have the big screen TV, snacks and beer on hand, but you aren’t truly ready for Sunday’s football game until you’re prepared for the commercials. While any credit card industry ads aren’t likely to generate as much controversy as those starring a Mr. Tim Tebow, for example, if commercials from past Super Bowls are any guide, the latest crop of credit card commercials could still get viewers talking.
Here, in reverse chronological order, are the credit card industry’s best, worst and most mediocre Super Bowl ads from years gone by:
Capital One – Snowglobe – (2007), Super Bowl XLI
The opening shots of this ad reveal a suburban family forced to live in a home with some seriously shoddy insulation. But when the camera pulls back, we see that home heating is the least of their concerns, with the bubble encasing their home giving the whole ad the disturbing quality of a Twilight Zone episode — or a John Travolta movie.
MasterCard — MacGyver (2006), Super Bowl XXXL
The everything-’80s-is-new-again trend got a kick start way back in ’06 with this MasterCard ad resurrecting resourceful action hero MacGyver, whose popular TV show ran from the mid-’80s to early-’90s. Back in those days, people solved problems with just their smarts and a semi-mullet, from what I understand. Ah, simpler times.
MasterCard — Homer (2004), Super Bowl XXXVIII
The greatest animated father of all time (apologies to Peter Griffin) runs errands with his MasterCard, getting things done as only Homer Simpson can. “Simpsons” regulars Apu, Moe, Lenny, Carl and Hans Moleman all make appearances.
Visa — Yao Ming — Yo (2003), Super Bowl XXXVII
Houston Rockets center Yao encounters language barriers as he tries to pick up souvenirs at a Big Apple store run by some stereotypical New York characters. Too bad they couldn’t get Harvey Keitel in there somewhere.
MasterCard — Dead Presidents (2003), Super Bowl XXXVII
George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Andrew Jackson wait impatiently at home while a guy enjoys his date and his Visa debit card. Incidentally, I’m pretty sure the guy who leaves his cash at home was a favorite among advertisers at one point, as I recall him appearing at least one other frequently run ad (McDonald’s McGriddle, anyone? Didn’t think so.) around this same time.
Visa — Tiki & Ronde Barber — Twins — Part II (2003), Super Bowl XXXVII
Finally, a football-related Super Bowl ad. Tiki and Ronde Barber confuse a store clerk while trying to pay by check. This is probably the sort of traumatic thing that identical twins go through all the time — “You’re watching the Super Bowl, and you’re, like, playing in the Super Bowl.” The Barbers would later need years of therapy.
Visa — 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon (2002), Super Bowl XXXVI
You have to assume that if anyone was good at playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” it would be the man himself. Here, Mr. Bacon uses his mastery of the game to avoid having to show ID when paying with a check. Seems like a lot of work to avoid just reaching into your wallet, but who am I to judge?
American Express Blue — We’re Flexible (2001), Super Bowl XXXV
Robots are good at two things. One is stretching credit cards. The other is traveling into the past to kill John Connor before he can lead a human revolt against the intelligent machines.
American Express — Dana Carvey / Jon Lovitz (1989), Super Bowl XXIII
We had to really dig in the vaults for this one. Saturday Night Live castmembers Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz star in this ad featuring horrible music (did advertisers actually find this type of music effective?), fast motion and abrasive voices. If having a Super Bowl in Miami during the late ’80s wasn’t a good excuse to get Carvey and Lovitz in white suits, then I don’t know what is.