SNL’s 10 Best Ad Parodies, as Selected by Some of Advertising’s Top Creatives

From Mom Jeans to Colon Blow, a bevy of classics

An SNL classic NBC

Saturday marks the premiere of Saturday Night Live’s 44th season. That’s a lot of comedy over the years for what is a genuine American institution. Adam Driver, who starred in one of the funniest shorts in the show’s recent history, hosts this year’s first episode with musical guest Kanye West.

The sketches are the main course, but the show’s commercial parodies hold a special place in the hearts of ad nerds and creative types.

Finding a favorite is sometimes a tough proposition, according to Wieden + Kennedy ECD Jason Bagley.

“Favorite SNL parody? This is a trap, isn’t it? Picking just one is impossible. Colon Blow, Mom Jeans, Bass-O-Matic, Heroin AM—I could go on. Without them, would we even be America anymore?” he pondered. “We love these comedy gemstones because there’s nothing funnier than being excessively transparent and truthful. It’s a great place to start when trying to make funny ads as well.”

Impossible to pick just one? Probably. But Adweek rounded up 10 top creatives to pick some SNL gems from both days gone by (when HD wasn’t quite a thing yet) and more recent seasons—creating a nice mix of parody genius.

Enjoy their choices below.

Mom Jeans
Shannon Washington, SVP, CD at Deutsch L.A. and Jen Bills, CD at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul in Chicago

Why it is so good:

“An all-star SNL cast and a brilliant take on how female sexuality, desirability, bodies and motherhood is viewed in society all in one. Definitely my type of commercial. Also, I’m typing this while wearing mom jeans, which are ironically now very trendy. And I’m not a mom.” – Washington

“Anything with Maya, Dratch, Amy and Tina prancing around and joyously shaking their hips in pleated stonewashed was likely to take the crown for me. It nailed the previously avert-your-eyes fashion of invisible women over 40 and thrust it into the light. With lines like, ‘she’ll love the 9-inch zipper and casual front pleats’ and ‘I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom,’ you can’t help but watch it 10 more times and join in on the whispered jingle of, ‘givin’ up, givin’ up.'” – Bills

Suzanne Keen, CD at Pereira O’Dell in San Francisco

Why it’s so good:

“The best SNL parody commercials shine a light on uncomfortable truths making me laugh yet cringe all at the same time. And there are a few ‘funny ’cause it’s true’ jokes going on in this ad. Cecily Strong kills.”

Amazon Echo
Marcus Wesson, ECD at Dailey in Los Angeles

Why it’s so good:

“My favorite parodies are always grounded in a human truth but take a ‘what if’ approach. This one is no exception. We’ve all dealt with the challenge of setting parents up with technology. The Amazon Echo gets bonus points for hilariously highlighting the fear and racism ingrained in the older generation showing Leslie Jones’ character spying on kids across the street, or Kyle Mooney’s ‘black jazz’ request.”

Oops! I Crapped My Pants (click image to view)
Mike Caguin, CCO, Colle+McVoy in Minneapolis

Why it’s so good:

“Sure, ads for adult diapers are common today, but back in 1998, this topic was definitely not on the airwaves. Plus, the product name: Oops! I Crapped My Pants. It’s personal. Has urgency. Paints a picture. It’s poopy poetry.”

The Love Toilet
Parker Channon, co-founder, Duncan Channon in San Francisco

Why it’s so good:

“Ad Land can’t resist using love and romance as a way to sell pretty much anything. SNL takes this idea to 11 with its tandem toilet —quite possibly the world’s least sexiest product. The languid candlelit stares across the toilet and the couples’ flush get me every time.”

3-Legged Jeans (click image to view)
Teresa Herd, VP and global creative director, Intel

Why it’s so good:

“I’m always excited when the show cuts to a parody vs. a real spot. It’s like a little bonus. I wish there were some deep insight (in this parody), some societal parallel that they brought to life. But no, it’s just funny as hell. It’s from 1991, but I can still remember all of the words. ‘Not any dumber than acid washed.’”

Bad Idea Jeans (click image to view)
Greg Hahn, CCO at BBDO and Adam Reeves, director of innovation at Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Why it’s so good:

“Most ads gloss over the truth. Bad Idea Jeans subverted the friendly scenes, aspirational tone and warm cinematography of the commercials of the day to deliver some heavy truths. And serious laughs.” – Reeves

“The premise is great, but it’s all about the execution. Stylistically, it matches the reference pretty well. But beyond that is the crafting of the dialogue. They didn’t just go for easy jokes. You can tell they probably wrote 100 lines to get to the ones in the cut.” – Hahn

Old Glory Insurance (click image to view)
Dan Kelleher, CCO, Deutsch NY

Why it’s so good:

“It’s executed perfectly with the right mix of underplayed and absurd. And having Sam Waterson from Law & Order as the paid spokesperson is genius.”

Frederic Bonn, ECD (East), iCrossing

Why it’s so good:

“Chanel 5 and Pepsi are both obvious critiques of what happens when our industry becomes too self-centered, but ‘Papyrus,’ while not technically a parody, is an amazing insider’s joke about something some creative professionals can genuinely get obsessive about—the use of a specific font and its meaning.”

Colon Blow
Mark Ray, CCO at North in Portland and Michael Lemme, CCO at Duncan Channon

Why it’s so good:

“It was the 80s. Accelerating manufacturing technology meant more parity products. The good ol’ Unique Selling Proposition method now felt desperate with more and more hollow benefit claims. SNL skewered them with surgical timing, casting and absurdity. Plus, poop jokes are always funny.” – Ray

“The product name alone is 95 percent of what makes it so great. Phil Hartman is another 60 percent. How many percents do I get? The black bowl of Super Colon Blow cereal. The song. Hilarious at a time when Total was touting fiber as the holy grail of health.” – Lemme

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.