My All-Time Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

January 30, 2019

By Bill Duggan

FlyCadet/YouTube

The choice for my all-time favorite Super Bowl commercial is easy — it's the FedEx "Color Bars" commercial from 1998, created by BBDO. The sole visual throughout the commercial is color bars — the vertical lines of various colors, including red, blue, yellow, green, magenta — used in television and production. There is a crawl on the bottom of the screen with copy (no voice over):

"We apologize. You should be watching the new ad from EarthCo Insurance. It starred those lifeguards from Baywatch and a chorus line of singing Kangaroos. We even got Garth Brooks to do the music. It was very humorous. Unfortunately, a tape of the commercial didn't get to NBC on time. Imagine, $1.3 million is going down the tubes all because some boob at our ad agency didn't send the commercial with FedEx. (Had they used FedEx, they would still be our ad agency.)"

The commercial was breakthrough given its simplicity and single-minded selling proposition — FedEx is the most reliable way to send things. In an environment where many Super Bowl commercials are over produced, "Color Bars" was not only simple but the creative idea was uniquely ownable to FedEx; in other words, I couldn't imagine another product there instead. And as an added bonus, this was certainly one of the most inexpensive Super Bowl commercials ever produced.

FlyCadet/YouTube

Interestingly, I never saw a variation of this spot again. It could have been adapted for other high-profile sporting events and even for the Oscars or Grammys. But FedEx and BBDO were obviously disciplined for limiting its use to this one iconic 30-second moment. Congrats.

By the way, the Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl that year.

I can't wait to see this year's Super Bowl ads.


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