Bob Horowitz On What Makes The Perfect Super Bowl Commercial: ‘Tugs On The Heartstrings’


(CBS)- Super Bowl Greatest Commercials returns for it’s landmark 20th anniversary tonight at 8:00PM ET/PT on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access.

CBS’ Matt Weiss spoke with Executive Producer Bob Horowitz to discuss the special, this year’s commercials and his all-time favorite spot.

MW: Hi Bob, nice to talk to you today! Super Bowl Greatest Commercials 20th anniversary airs tonight hosted by Boomer Esiason and Daniela Ruah. First question I want to know is what was it like working with those two?

BH: It’s an interesting question because Boomer, this is Boomer’s 10th year hosting the show. In the 20 years we’ve had Mike O’Malley, we’ve had our buddy Jim Nantz host. Boomer’s been doing the last 10 years and Dani the last five years. When trying to find a host and co-host for any show a lot of casting involved. You don’t know until the first time. Boomer and Dani started this five years ago and it’s only one day a year. We’re not talking about they come in for table reads like you’d see in a sitcom or in a drama, no. We hit the ground running and their chemistry was phenomenal, has been phenomenal.

I bring that up because all of a sudden, it’s 2020-2021 Super Bowl, COVID-19 and we’re figuring out how we are going to make this work. Boomer, we were going to have go to Tampa and host from there. Dani because of her NCIS duties wouldn’t make sense to go because she’d have to quarantine and miss too much work at CBS. At the end of the day, we didn’t send Boomer because CBS didn’t want to jeopardize that for the Super Bowl. We kept him in the NFL Today Set and had Dani in LA.

I bring it up because I was nervous what the chemistry would be. Sure enough, 3,000 miles away they were terrific. Dani loves doing the show. It’s not a payday for her. It is a love of working with Boomer and it’s a fun day. It’s terrific. They’re both great and hopefully next year with things safe Boomer and Dani will be back together on the 50-yard line at SoFi in LA which is where the Super Bowl is next year.

MW: We’ve all gotten pretty used to these zoom calls and doing everything virtually. It’ll be nice when we can all get back together in person and do it the old way, like in old world.

BH: Even have a little fun with it. The real hit at the beginning of the show, you think of all those experiences last year that we’ve seen or experience and obviously in stadiums. We’ve seen empty stadiums. Not foreign to us, the last 19 years we tape in an empty stadium.

That was good, but you know cut outs have been the rage. We had a little fun at the beginning of the show with Dani and Boomer hosting together from LA; only it was really Dani and it was a Boomer cut out. That was our kind of touch on what’s relevant today.

MW: Was the cut out true to size? Boomer is a huge guy.

BH: We made it a giant, He’s 6’5″ and I think we made him 7’5″. You’ll see the beginning of the show, that’s a great question. Yes, he’s a big guy and we also we have a surprise guest, we have Cedric The Entertainer on tonight. That’s great because this is the 20th anniversary of Cedric’s day spot and he also stars in a new Super Bowl commercial airing Sunday.

MW: Awesome, it  worked out 20 and 20. Those two are fantastic but it’s really about the commercials, so in your opinion what makes a perfect Super Bowl commercial?

BH: Simple. In terms of what makes a perfect commercial tugs on the heartstrings, really hits on that with emotional beats. Or it’s the laugh out loud. It’s the hilarious spots that come Monday at the water cooler people are talking about it.

Usually, it’s also a formula where there’s one big line or one big turn at the end that just has you chuckling. You didn’t expect that that line. The big stars of course obviously celebrities, that’s been the case and celebrities are going to come back and make some appearances again in the Super Bowl spots this Sunday and we have that in our show tonight.

It’s who are the stars, babies, monkeys, Clydesdales, puppies and thus we just launched the Mountain Do puppymonkeybaby. That’s where that came from. Those are the stars.

MW: They gave the formula away with that puppymonkeybaby. That’s really all you need.

BH: That’s what it is. [laughs].

MW: What’s your favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time?

BH: I have to say the simple and I say it because you know the simple is what can be clever and be on message. FedEx years ago, did a commercial that was as simple as this annoying bars and tone that you see after a network or television station signs off where they have the color bars and that annoying tone.

There was a crawl across the bottom of the screen that said this is our 32nd spot in the Super Bowl our advertising agency convinced us to spend $1.4 million, that was the rate at that time $1.4 million, to buy a spot in the game. As a result, we produced a spot but in trying to get it to the network they decided not to use FedEx. The spot didn’t get to the network and we’re out our $1.4 million and the advertising agency is out of a client.

Just think about it. It was a slow time release because it was a crawl. It was bars and tone, so it was simple, probably cost $500 to produce. It was totally on message to FedEx which is if you want something to get from A to B and you need it there because you might have $1.4 million riding on it, best to use FedEx. That’s my favorite because it’s everything that makes a great Super Bowl commercial.

MW: Yeah, very simple brilliance there, I know for tonight viewers can vote for their favorite commercials online an then the results will be revealed at the end of this special. Where can folks go to see all the old commercials and to cast their votes?

BH: You can go to You can vote, then what will happen tonight on CBS at 8 EST 7 CST is we will countdown our curated spots as voted on by viewers at home, fans at home. People who had gone to from 20 down to two. When we get to the final two Boomer and Dani are going to throw it out to America to vote live.

Watch this show you’ll see, by using a Twitter hashtag. It’ll be #SBGC, Super Bowl Greatest Commercials, followed by the name in a spot. That’s how America votes and then at the end of the hour we will disclose the winner.

MW: Awesome. Looking forward to it. Glad we’re finally almost at the big game and all the best on the special tonight!

BH: Almost there. Thank you very much and enjoy the game but most importantly enjoy the commercials!

MW: Thank you, you too, take care.

Tune in for Greatest Super Bowl Commercials 2021 tonight at 8:00PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.