You don’t have to be a bank executive — or even a personal finance reporter — to know the last few years have been rough for credit card issuers. Amid the economic downturn and some negative publicity over their treatment of customers, banks decided to bypass the cost and visibility of creating Super Bowl commercials for the most recent NFL championships.
And it looks like we won’t see any new credit card promotional spots during the commercial breaks for this year’s Super Bowl XLV. Expect a lot of car ads, along with the requisite celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, a Claymationated Eminem and an oddball pairing of Justin Bieber with Ozzy Osbourne (can a duets album be far behind?).
With that grim reality facing those of us who enjoy the commercials as much (or more) than the game itself, here’s a look back at some noteworthy credit card ads from Super Bowls 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 in at least one other frequently run ad around this time. (McDonald’s McGriddle, anyone? Didn’t think so.)
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” cast members 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.
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