We tend to remember the horrible flops almost as well as we remember the shining triumphs. We remember the “wardrobe malfunctions” every bit as much as we remember the best-dressed.

We love our “Epic Fail” videos with the same passion as we love our so-and-so “For the Win” clips. In short, things can cement their place in the canon of memory just as effectively by way of royally screwing up as they can by getting it just right.

This is true whether “they” are a sweaty Richard Nixon debating a coiffured JFK; it’s true if “they” are a Miss America wannabe rambling on about maps. But could “they” can be a Super Bowl commercial seen by, and reviled by, millions and millions of people? Are bad commercials memorable? We think the answer is going to be a lame “Sometimes.” Let’s find out together!

For every ad like this (hailed by many as the best Super Bowl commercial ever, and if you remember the era and Mean Joe’s reputation, is a fair assessment):

…there are other ads that are not so good. In fact there have been lots and lots of Super Bowl commercials over the years that are—how do we put it lightly… ah, right!

  • Ill-conceived and misguided
  • Poorly made/acted/edited
  • Tasteless (if not outright offensive)
  • Incredibly stupid!

That’s what we were going for. We’ve taken a few trips down memory lane together already, looking at the history of Bud Light Super Bowl commercials, looking at how “sports celebrities” shill for products, and so on. Today we’re going right for the jugular – today, we are going to look at some of the worst Super Bowl commercials ever.

And the chances are good that you will already remember a few of these awful ads, or that, after seeing them here right now, one or two will stick with you. On the other hand, some, like the McDonald’s commercial below, are utterly forgettable. (Thus essentially a waste of time and money – your time, their money.)

Exhibit A in the “Memorable but Awful” column, a few seconds of crap from Super Bowl XXIV:


This may help explain why Bud Light sales passed Miller Lite in the early 90s… was humor really so simple then? Come on, a “boing” noise when the scantily dressed bimbo dances by? It’s just a dumb spot, and what’s sad about is how funny the creators must have thought it was.

Then we turn to this ad, that’s not terrible, not offensive, not anything worth remarking on, really, it’s just the epitome of average:

Not… special. And those burgers look gross, but it may just be the quality of the video deteriorating. This ad was destined to be forgotten because it was pinned to a specific match up, the 49ers vs. the Bills, and also because it was no good.

Now here is a prime example of a spot that just doesn’t work. It’s not charming, it’s not funny, it’s not moving, it’s not memorable, but we bet it wasn’t cheap, either. Overall, this 2008 Super Bowl commercial for SoBe Life Water is a big steaming pile of fail:

Some commercials may have resonated in their own time, but seem outdated, not-funny, and just… no good by today’s standards. This one does not hold up, in our humble opinion. It’s not terrible; it’s just not at all inspired. “Hey, the big guy drinks more Coke than the smaller guy! Wa-ha-ha!”

Your thoughts?

And we’ll end this look back at a past best left behind with on more flop. You know what? We have proved a hypothesis we had wrong! There is bad or at least useless publicity, and being bad is not implicitly memorable; for that tactic to work you gotta be super awful, it seems.

This last Super Bowl commercial is from 1996, and it is utterly forgettable, and it should be forgotten. Do you remember this AT&T commercial? Do you remember the larger campaign it was part of? Hell, do you even remember Paul Reiser?