For many, the Super Bowl means epic poem shootouts, defensive shutdowns and last-minute, game-on-the-line Hail Marys. For others, it ’ second all about another skirmish : The Battle of the Brands. Every year, companies spend millions of dollars for just a few seconds of airtime in hopes of getting consumers attention—and then, possibly, their money. Whether amusing, sad, self-referential or downright wyrd, Super Bowl ads have become a spectacle and custom in their own right.

How did the commercial sideshow become equally absorb as the main consequence ? Between the first Super Bowl in 1967 and through the mid-80s, Super Bowl commercials were broadly repeats. It was Apple ’ s iconic 1984 commercial that turned them into a request phenomenon, after which more brands started to create ads specifically for the adult game.

not that the playbook for a successful Super Bowl ad hasn ’ thyroxine changed. While they were once top-secret, many companies today pre-launch their ads online, or post “ teasers, ” to drum up attention. The average monetary value to air a 30-second Super Bowl spot is now $ 5 million, while it costs basically nothing to upload a television to YouTube. ( Of run, that excludes the cost of creating the ad itself which can range from tens of thousands of dollars to many, many millions. )

Is television in danger of pricing itself out ? Analysts say not any clock soon. “ The Super Bowl is still the biggest marketing event of the class in this country, by far, ” says Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing and creator of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago. “ The Super Bowl is more and more alone, as media is fragmenting, and there are more and more media properties vying for people ’ s attention. ” In other words, there may be more and more places to see ads ( of all kinds ), but fewer and fewer places where a mass audience can see the lapp ads all at once. roughly 112 million people watched the Super Bowl last year, despite the NFL ’ s ratings decline overall. A similar count are expected to tune in to this year ’ mho contest, between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The ads will be there. Ahead of the game, TIME ranked the most influential Super Bowl ads always. The list—which is ordered by influence—was assembled and deliberated on at ( extreme ) length by TIME ’ second entertainment, acculturation and occupation staff. Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman @ time.com, Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey @ time.com, Cady Lang at cady.lang @ timemagazine.com, Lily Rothman at lily.rothman @ time.com and Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner @ time.com.

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