NEW YORK - A flatulent horse ruining a romantic carriage ride. Octogenarian Betty White getting pummeled during a football game. Money "coming out the wazoo" of a hospital patient. An adorable pint-size Darth Vader.
There have been many sweet and funny highs - as well as many cringe-inducing lows - during the past 24 years of USA TODAY's Ad Meter, our real-time consumer ranking of Super Bowl commercials.
Each year for nearly a quarter century, this publication has gathered hundreds of volunteers to watch and score ads in the big game, using handheld meters. With that data, USA TODAY ranks each year's ads from best to worst.
To mark Ad Meter's silver anniversary, our advertising editors and reporters analyzed the master list of each year's winning ad - and then selected an all-time Ad Meter champion.
Competition was stiff. Every commercial in contention beat out dozens of others during the year it made its debut during the Super Bowl broadcast. (Of the well-known ad themes mentioned above, only one earned a top spot on Ad Meter: a humorous Snickers commercial featuring White.)
Among those in consideration, one was clearly the MVP: A 1993 commercial where Michael Jordan and Larry Bird shot an outlandish game of H-O-R-S-E - where each player tries to make an increasingly more difficult shot than the other - to decide who could dine on a McDonald's Big Mac.
That commercial, which simply became known as "Nothing but Net," won the hearts of consumers, as well awards and accolades in the ad industry. It nabbed the top spot in our rankings. There was an Ad Meter tie in 2011, so 25 ads were in contention for the best-of-the best honor.
Even today, the Jordan-Bird ad remains popular. One YouTube video of the ad has slightly more than 5 million views:
McDonald's re-created the ad with hoops stars LeBron James and Dwight Howard in 2010, and other major advertisers have replicated its theme.
Jim Ferguson, copywriter for that 1993 commercial, says the ad shoot was fun. He recalls one particularly daunting moment when Jordan showed up with the flashy outfit he would wear for the taping.
It was a matching black shirt and shorts decorated with a bright red, blue and yellow lightning-bolt like design.
"I remember that God-awful uniform we had to put on Michael," Ferguson says. Bird, in contrast, donned a plain tank top and gym shorts.
Jordan stars in the second-place honoree as well, a 1992 Nike ad. That commercial features Jordan and an animated Bugs Bunny playing hoops - and became the basis for the live/animated feature film Space Jam.
Learn more about these classic ads, as well as the commercials of Super Bowl XLVII, on admeter.usatoday.com.
The ranking of Ad Meter's other greatest ads and links to the ads:
3. Pepsi 1996: Coke driver busted. A Coke delivery man is caught on a store security video as he tries to steal a can of Pepsi from a cooler. While trying to nab the can, he loudly sends shelves of Pepsi crashing to the ground. The song, Your Cheatin' Heart, plays in the background.
4. Bud Light 2001: Cedric's date goes awry. Comedian Cedric the Entertainer's hot date is ruined when he accidentally shakes beer bottles that then explode all over his lady friend.
5. Pepsi 1995: Inner Tube. A beachgoer boy tries to drink the last drop of Pepsi with a straw, sucking so hard that the backlash pulls him through the straw and into the bottle. His sister then yells, "Mom, he's done it again!"
6. Nike 1990: Announcers. Well-known sports announcers report on the actions of stars such as Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan, while on-screen messages from sponsor Nike says "Buy Nike Shoes."
7. Bud Light 2003: Zebra Ref. A parody of the NFL's video review policy - with a real zebra checking the instant replay while a group of football-playing horses wait. One man in the ad says "That referee's a jackass." His companion replies: "No, I believe that's a zebra."
8. Diet Pepsi 1991: Ray Charles and the Uh-Huh Girls. A tuxedo-clad Ray Charles, a trio of sexy "Uh-Huh" girls and a band of other performers take center stage as Charles sings "you've got the right one baby."
9. Budweiser 1999: Separated at Birth. Two Dalmatian puppies are separated at birth. One becomes the mascot of a firehouse while the other gets a more enviable duty: mascot of a Budweiser wagon.
10. Budweiser 2008: Training Montage. A takeoff on the film Rocky, in which a Clydesdale is inspired by a canine personal trainer to become a member of the Budweiser beer wagon hitch team.
11. Pepsi 1994: Chimp Experiment. Two chimps are given either Coke or Pepsi to drink in a lab experiment. The one that consumes Pepsi busts free and enjoys the good life.
12. Bud Light 2002: Satin Sheets. A woman uses a beer to entice her man into bed. But he slides on the satin sheets and flies out the apartment window.
13. Snickers 2010: Betty White. Two young men playing football are portrayed as actors Betty White and Abe Vigoda. It turns out that those guys just need a Snickers for energy to play like the young men they truly are instead of old people.
14. Pepsi 1997: YMCA Bears. Computer-animated grizzly bears head into a small town to do their annual rite: a Pepsi-inspired version of the YMCA dance.
15. Doritos 2012: Dog Bribe. A dog uses a bag of Doritos to bribe a man to keep quiet after that man becomes suspicious about the dog's cat-killing ways.
16. Bud Light 2011: Dog Sitter. A man house-sitting for a friend gets that pal's very intelligent dogs to serve up Bud Light during a house party.
17. Budweiser 2000: Rex the dog. A canine actor needs to draw inspiration to cry in one scene. So he thinks about chasing a Budweiser truck, and then accidentally jumping head-first onto a minivan. That image makes him howl, and makes the film director happy.
18. Bud Light 2006: Magic fridge. To keep guests from drinking his beer, a guy installs a refrigerator on a turntable so it can easily disappear. But once that fridge rotates, it ends up in the apartment next door, much to the glee of the residents.
19. Pepsi 1998: Extreme Goose. A skysurfing man does extreme aerial tricks with an equally agile goose, and they share a Pepsi in the sky afterward.
20. Bud Light 2005:Skydiving. A skydiver tries to entice his frightened fellow skydiver into jumping out of a plane by throwing a pack of Bud Light out first. But it's the pilot - not the scared skydiver - who jumps out after the brew.
21. Doritos 2009: Crystal Ball. An office worker uses a snow globe "crystal ball" to make predictions. He says that everyone will get free Doritos, and then throws that ball into the glass of a Doritos vending machine to break it open for everyone.
22. Bud Light 2004: Fetch. Two men compare the skill levels of their dogs in terms of fetching beer. One guy's mutt gets the beer by biting the other man's crotch.
23. Doritos 2011: Pug Attack. A mean-spirited man uses Doritos to entice a dog to run into a glass-plate door. The dog gets the last laugh when the door falls on top of his tormentor.
24. American Express 1989: Yes. Comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz head to Miami for the Super Bowl - where they learn that AmEx is the only credit card that will let them buy any big-ticket items.
25. Budweiser 2007: Crabs. A group of computer-animated crabs worship a cooler full of beer. The ice chest has two Bud bottles sticking out, which made it look like a giant crab with protruding antennae in the setting sun.
Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY