8 Times Fast-Food Commercials Won the Super Bowl
There are a few things you can always expect to see during a Super Bowl broadcast: a star-studded halftime show, a disputed call or two, some touchdowns, and some great commercials. Among the latter, those Super Bowl commercials, it's a safe bet you'll see a few beer ads, a few car commercials, some snack-themed media, maybe a candy ad, and, during most Super Bowl broadcasts, there's a fast-food commercial or two.
Given that 2023's Big Game is Super Bowl LVII, or 57, that is a lot of games during which fast-food ads have run. Like the games themselves, most Super Bowl fast-food commercials have not proved all that memorable, but there are a few exceptional ads that have proved to have much more cultural staying power than the play on the field. In that way, these superb fast-food ads can fairly be called the real winners of their respective Super Bowl.
McDonald's – "Famous Orders"
The 2020 McDonald's Super Bowl commercial was a last gasp of happy, normal times before the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut the world down. The brilliantly simple ad, called "Famous Orders," simply showed different trays with McDonald's foods on them and a notable name beneath, some real, some just for laughs.
For example, we see fries, a Big Mac, and iced tea and learn that's Whoopi Goldberg's order, while later we see a Caesar Salad shown as Julius Caesar's fave. We see Dracula's go-to as a platter of ketchup packets. And, among the other names, we see the orders of Kanye and Kim Kardashian West.
Wendy's – "Iceberg"
The biggest points scored during 2018's Super Bowl weren't the 41 points the Eagles scored against the Patriots' 33, they were the points Wendy's scored on McDonald's with a funny ad called "Iceberg." The name refers to a call-out of McDonald's frozen burgers, as text on the screen reads: "The iceberg that sank the Titanic was frozen too… (just sayin')." The ad then goes on to extol Wendy's fresh, never frozen burgers and to show glamor shots of the food. The ad built Wendy's up while taking a competitor down a peg.
Taco Bell – "Live Mas"
The 2013 Taco Bell Super Bowl ad was just pure fun. It featured a group of elderly people sneaking out of their retirement home at night for a wild evening featuring dancing, drinking, tattoos, and other debauchery, all of which ends as any good night out should: at Taco Bell. The ad managed to be both funny and, the age of its protagonists aside, surprisingly relatable.
Jack in the Box – "Jack vs. Martha"
Jack in the Box commercials have a checkered history of going too far. But the chain's 2018 Super Bowl ad was a perfect hit. It featured Martha Stewart and the Jack character squaring off over sandwiches, with Stewart gleefully playing into the role of Jack's rival and even accidentally pulling off Jack's nose.
Subway – "Tough Dodger"
Subway's 2015 Super Bowl ad was genuinely funny and works both as an ad for the chain's sandwiches as well as a simply amusing little vignette. A man tells his significant other he's eating a turkey sandwich from Subway as part of his training routine for a Tough Dodger, a triathlon with dodgeballs, and, as you can guess, we then see him pelted repeatedly with balls in comical fashion.
Denny's – "Screaming Chickens"
In 2010, Denny's ran a decidedly odd but impossible-to-forget ad that featured chickens screaming all across America. They screamed at Mt. Rushmore, they screamed on the Golden Gate Bridge, they screamed at Old Faithful, and on it went. Why? Because the Tuesday after the Super Bowl, the chain was giving away free Grand Slam breakfasts to any who wanted them, and that meant a lot of eggs.
Wendy's – "Where's the Beef?"
Following the launch of Wendy's 1984 ad campaign, "Where's the beef?" would become a catchphrase heard all across America and beyond, with "beef" referring to anything from meat to merit to money. The ad, featuring three elderly women examining a burger with a too-small parry and asking that famed question, is a bit dated now, but the commercial is still well-remembered, whereas Super Bowl VXII is seldom remarked on these days.
McDonald's – "The Showdown"
"The Showdown" might be the best fast-food Super Bowl commercial of all time. It aired during Super Bowl XXVII and saw NBA legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird competing to win a Big Mac and fries, with the loser watching the winner eat. They challenge each other to ever-harder "nothing but net" shots, and as they make basket after basket, the challenges get harder and harder, as in: "Off the floor, off the scoreboard, off the backboard, no rim…off the expressway, over the river" etc. It's a simple and perfect ad.