• 02.04.11

Super Bowl Ad Stories: “The Remake,” Featuring LeBron James and Dwight Howard

Appealing to our sense of nostalgia, big companies from Coca-Cola to McDonald’s to Pepsi try to recapture the magic of classic Super Bowl ads.

Super Bowl Ad Stories: “The Remake,” Featuring LeBron James and Dwight Howard
LeBron Howard Super Bowl

When it comes to the Super Bowl, advertising agencies can spend months brainstorming the perfect ad. For Euro RSCG Chicago’s chief creative officer Jason Peterson, who’s produced four spots for the big game, that means concepting as many as 60 commercial ideas before finding the right one.


“There are definitely a different set of parameters for the Super Bowl–expectations are completely different,” he says. “If you don’t create a talked about, cultural hit, then it’s a waste of $3 million.”

Peterson says he and his team start with a basic wish list of ideas. “When we sit down to write Super Bowl commercials, we write down three things,” he says. “The first one being monkeys; the second being getting kicked in the nuts; and maybe the third is some outrageous use of the product, a catchphrase line, or one of those clichés, like putting a baby in the commercial.”

The ad man is only half-joking. Year and year, commercials are filled with monkeys, crotch-kicks, and talking babies. Why? Because they work. (Read: eTrade baby.) These themes have a long history of success, so why not recycle them for contemporary ads?

For Peterson’s spot last year he followed a similar model, using an archetype that’s worked magic in Super Bowl after Super Bowl: The Remake.

Taking a classic commercial and refashioning it for a modern audience is a sure way to find success. After creating an all-time hit with Cindy Crawford’s 1992 ad, for example, Pepsi reintroduced the ad years later, playing off nostalgia for the original–with an updated punch-line.


The Remake:

Coca-Cola took the same approach in 2009 with a remake (or parody) of “Mean Joe” Green’s famous ad, this time with Troy Polamalu filling in for the limping defensive tackle.


“[Ours] was a takeoff of the classic Super Bowl spot with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird,” says Peterson, of the ad he produced last year. The McDonald’s spot featured a contemporary cast–LeBron James and Dwight Howard–and after debuting in the Super Bowl, soon racked up millions of hits on YouTube and created buzz around the web.

The Remake


Do you think Super Bowl ad remakes are as successful as their original counterparts? Which ads would you like to see updated for modern day audiences? My vote is on the Bud Ice “Beware of the Penguin” ads–those were classic.

Read more Super Bowl ad stories.

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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.