This classic is sweeter than a cola containing pure cane sugar. Joe Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a football player so wicked they called him Mean Joe and his college alma mater, North Texas, changed its team nickname to the Mean Green. He's injured, limping to the locker room. A little kid comes out of the crowd and tells him he's great and gives him a giant bottle of Coke, which he chugs. Mean Joe gives the kid his jersey as the choir gently sings Coca-Cola's corporate anthem, "Have a Coke and a Smile."
More than three decades later, you can't help but think, why can't life be so simple and pure, and how much could I sell that jersey for on eBay?
Snarky old lady Clara Peller became a celebrity and her angry question "Where's the beef?" echoed on TV, in movies, song, and in a Democratic presidential debate. Vice President Walter Mondale invoked Peller's catchphrase to nuke opponent Gary Hart in March before the New York and Pennsylvania primaries.
Postscript: Some guy from Nashville named Coyote McCloud wrote and recorded a dreadful song that polluted radio playlists for months.
Apple Macintosh, 1984 – 1984
Considered by many to be the greatest Super Bowl commercial ever, it was elaborate, dazzling and most important, sold computers.
Ridley Scott directed the 1984 advertisement introducing Apple's Macintosh, which according to the narrative would render totalitarianism impotent and usher in an era of enlightenment and individual freedom. The subtext is that the gray-clad drones trudging to hear the giant head ordering conformity symbolize Apple's arch rival, IBM.
Apple is represented by an astonishingly fit female in red running shorts and a tank top fleeing storm troopers. She hurls a giant hammer that hits Big Brother in the nose, unleashing blinding light and vaporizing the drones.
The moral of the story: In the future, nifty gadgets like iPhones and iPads will make mind control impossible, unless you count Angry Birds.
Budweiser Frogs – 1995
The Zen simplicity:
A swamp, a bar, a neon sign.
Three frogs, three syllables.
Bud. Wi. Zer.
Reebok, Office Linebacker – 2003
The ad that featured Terry Tate viciously tackling the goofing-off employees of Felcher & Sons was not only hilarious, it was one of the first TV commercials used specifically to drive viewers to the company website to enjoy longer, and more PG-13 rated mayhem.
Millions visited Reebok.com to see the laugh-out-loud, four-minute streaming video showing Tate threatening the cringing fat guy who didn't recycle his soda can and the rude dude who didn't make a fresh pot of coffee after taking the last cup.
The idea was to get them to the website to laugh at Terry, and they might stick around to buy a sweat suit or a pair of running shoes. It was viral marketing genius – before most of us knew what viral marketing was.
Budweiser, Wassaauup! – 2006
Another Budweiser offering, another simple concept. A bunch of buddies watching a ball game and drinking a Bud call each other on the phone and say "Whassup?"
The upshot – for about three years guys at English-speaking workplaces, bars and sporting events greeted each other with the phrase, which is, in case you didn't know, a colloquialism for "What is up?"
The concept started as a short film written and directed by Charles Stone, consisting entirely of Stone and a few childhood friends sitting around for three minutes saying nothing but "Whassup" and "True." The short created good buzz at film festivals, an advertising executive saw it, and a cultural phenomenon was born.
Blockbuster Mouse – 2007
If you're offended by rodent torture, skip this one.
Snicker's, Betty White – 2010
The nonagenarian star appears as a player in a backyard football game getting tackled in a mud puddle. One of the opposing players says, "You are playing like Betty White."
She eats a candy bar and turns into a young man who trounces the opposition.
"You're not the same when you're hungry," is the tagline.
The commercial let everybody know that Betty White was not only still alive but really funny. A few months later she was hosting Saturday Night Live and her career remains in high gear.
Volkswagen, Darth Vader Kid – 2011
This instant classic featured silent, physical comedy by 6-year-old actor Max Page that would have made Charlie Chaplin jealous. The kid is almost unbearably cute with his mask off – and he bears an amazing resemblance to Mark Hamil, the actor who played Luke Skywalker.