Super Sunday was a super disappointment when it came to memorable characters.
A few made repeat performances — such as the Budweiser Clydesdales and the E-Trade baby — but no new personas were that hard to forget.
Too bad for 51 companies that spent an average of $3 million for each 30 seconds of ad time. If a marketer's Super Bowl character catches on, it's a "dream result," says Pamela Maythenyi, senior vice president at SourceEcreative, a database company that tracks TV ads. "It puts (the company) into the culture of the country."
After seeing Coca-Cola's ad, a twist on its famous "Mean Joe Greene" spot of three decades ago, the Ad Team decided to hunt down some famous folks of Super Bowl ads past to see what they're up to now.
Tommy Okon, the kid who caught Mean Joe Greene's jersey in Coca-Cola's 1980 Super Bowl ad.
The boy who made Mean Joe Greene smile is a 39-year-old father of four in Westchester, N.Y. Okon, who offered the battered Pittsburgh Steeler a postgame Coke and was tossed his jersey in return, says he got to "spend my day bothering Joe" during the ad shoot. The ad also aired in regular-season games but made its mark with a Super Bowl airing.
"My parents were both from Pittsburgh, and our family always rooted for the Steelers," he says. "It was a 9-year-old boy's dream."
Okon acted in more than 50 TV ads, but, "Most of them (didn't) even end up making it to air, let alone being as successful as that one." He now co-owns a company that makes stone countertops, conference tables and other goods.
Years later, people still spread the word that he was in that ad. "It's kind of followed me my whole life," he says. And while no one's sure what happened to the jersey featured in the ad, Greene sent Okon another for Christmas that year. He still has it.
Gretchen Palmer, member of Ray Charles' Uh-Huh Girls trio in Diet Pepsi's 1991 ad.
At first, Gretchen Palmer thought the Diet Pepsi ad shoot with singer Ray Charles would be just another gig. But after it wrapped, she knew they'd done something special.
"After we finished and the music stopped … it was like a euphoric feeling came over the room," she says. "Something special happened in that moment, and the ad person … said, 'Put those girls in the next three commercials.' "
Over the next three years, they appeared together and, though they lip-synced in the ads, they met with music executives about a CD.
The album never happened, but Palmer, 47, went on to act in TV shows such as The Young and the Restless and The Parkers. Now, between acting jobs, she teaches acting and dance and sells real estate in Pasadena, Calif. She remains close to the other Uh-Huh Girls, who are modeling and making music. "We are like sisters."
Mean Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steeler.
The shoot was supposed to last one day but took a bit longer. "A lot of it was because I kept flubbing my lines, burping in the middle of my takes," says Greene, 62.
At the time, he had played pro football for a decade and starred in a handful of other ads. But the Coke spot made his star shine brighter. "In terms of the football-viewing public, I think I was pretty well known," Greene says. "But the commercial opened up a whole new avenue of fans."