And putting out the most memorable ads, the ones that get people talking around the watercooler on Monday, is considered a badge of honor among top advertising executives. A lot is riding on these ads, starting with their price: an average of $2.4 million for each 30-second spot.
Here is one viewer's rundown, by category, of some of the more memorable ads from this year's Super Bowl:
BEST JANET JACKSON IMPERSONATION
So much for no malfunctioning wardrobes. In this salacious ad for GoDaddy.com, a vendor of Web site names, a buxom brunette nearly spills out of her top when one of her spaghetti string straps springs loose. The setting: a hearing on broadcast censorship on a faux-news channel clearly modeled after C-Span. (Their name: G-Spin.) Once the woman catches hold of the errant string, one of the elderly politicians reaches for an oxygen mask and a helpful female voice chimes in: "May I suggest a turtleneck?"
BEST FOR A LOUD BAR
A Bud Light spot showing a nervous parachutist hesitating before making the big plunge out of the plane. Once the pilot abandons ship with the prize of a six-pack of Bud Light, the instructor gives up waiting for the nervous Nelly and makes his own exit with a parting shot: "See ya, dude!" But with such compelling visuals, this is one ad that made perfect sense even if you couldn't hear the dialogue.
BEST USE OF A FLYING MUPPET
Choosing a favorite Muppet character is a matter of ongoing debate among ... well, some of us. But there's no question which Muppet took center stage in this charming spot for Pizza Hut. The inimitable Miss Piggy takes a flying trip through a living room, apparently pulled around by a flying piece of pizza after she didn't dip it correctly in a cup of sauce (uh, right). Keeping logical didn't seem to be a big theme this year anyway.
MOST BIZARRE TOUCHDOWN PLAY
Gladys Knight as .... a rugby player? In this quizzical spot for MBNA, pop singer Gladys Knight runs with the rugby ball and scores a touchdown. (In rugby, it's technically known as a "try," but be that as it may.) Another odd spot in a year of seemingly odd connections. Which brings us to:
BIGGEST HEAD-SCRATCHER A "Momma's Boy" who doesn't sweat because ... "he doesn't risk leaving his Mama." A grown guy and his mom - both played by hand-held action figures a la G.I. Joe and Barbie - appear in this completely bizarre spot for Degree anti-perspirant. Why is this adult man still getting pushed around in a shopping cart by his mom? What does this ad mean? Who knows?
FUNNIEST "FARGO" REFERENCE
In this imaginative spot for California cheese makers, a cow breaks free of the herd in a freezing field to make her way to California. Unfortunately, the headwind and deep snow are far too much for "Sadie," whose plight is lamented by her pals back in the herd, who sound distinctly like characters from "Fargo." Runner-up "Fargo" reference prize goes to a spot for the new Mustang convertible in which an overly enthusiastic driver gets frozen solid at an intersection after forgetting to put the top up during the middle of winter.
By Seth Sutel