CareerBuilder.com, February 2005
In an ad for the job-placement service CareerBuilder.com, an office worker is driven to distraction by his chimpanzee co-workers. No work of American art has ever explored, with such nuance, grace and power, the social and economic implication of chimp butt-faxing.
SO LONG, BIG BROTHER
Apple, January 1984
In the Macintosh computer commercial that started America's obsession with Super Bowl ads, a pretty blonde woman races past security guards to throw a sledge hammer through a Big Brotheresque image on a giant video screen. Take that, IBM!
Budweiser, February 2002
In this ad that aired just four months after 9/11, the Budweiser Clydesdales walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, then dip to one knee in front of the gaping hole in the New York skyline. It was a departure from the usual, Currier & Ives-style depictions in the past ... not just visually pretty this time, but solemn. All you could hear were America's hearts breaking again.
FEDEX ON THE MOON
FedEx, February 2007
The manager of the first Federal Express office on the moon gets a congratulatory slap on the back for arranging a pickup -and promptly rockets, aimless and untethered, into outer space, where he's blown up by a passing meteor. I don't know about you, but nothing says "reliable shipping'' to me like bloody horrible death in the silent vacuum of space.
Toyota, February 2008
In a parody of those consumer test commercials that's aimed at showing what a quiet ride the Toyota Corolla provides, a young man is locked inside a car with a pack of sleeping badgers. Warns an unctuous announcer: "If awakened, they'll gnaw his face off." The cannon fire makes no sound inside the car -- but then the man's cellphone rings.
GoDaddy, February 2005
Super Bowl ads turned self-referential for the first time the year after Janet Jackson's nipple rampage. A bosomy spokeswoman for the Internet company GoDaddy demonstrates the company's proposed commercial to a panel of wheezing, geriatric congressmen, but a strap breaks! Happily, medics with oxygen tanks are there to save American democracy.
Master Lock, January 1974
All the computer-generated effects to come-Michael Jordan and Larry Bird making basketball shots from outer space, whatever-didn't top the impact of this simple image: a Master Lock holding fast as it's pierced by a .30 caliber bullet.
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
Wendy's, January 1984
Who could have guessed contentious old ladies querulously complaining about the tiny patties inside their (non-Wendy's) hamburgers would become not just a national catchphrase but an issue in presidential campaign? Walter Mondale's sneering "where's the beef?" reference to Gary Hart's campaign platform helped win him the Democratic nomination, but unfortunately for Mondale, the Wendy's copywriters didn't come up with anything new in time for the fall campaign against Ronald Reagan.
MEET SPUDS MACKENZIE
Budweiser, January 1987
This ad featuring a smarmy celebrity bull terrier draped in gold jewelry, a blonde clutched in one paw and a Bud Light in another, sent everybody from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to conservative wait-until-you're-married groups into total meltdown mode. If only they could have seen the flatulent horse ads to come.
Pepsi-Cola, Inc., February 2002
Now a poster girl for celebrity crackups, Spears was the hottest, yet wholesomest thing around when she made this 90-second medley of Pepsi jingles over the years, tightly clad in everything from 1950s capri pants to naughty-oughties ripped jeans.