Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging. This week’s installment is a guest post by Jason Morehead.

While most people watch the Super Bowl for the football, there are many like myself who watch it for the advertisements. Super Bowl Sunday is prime advertising time, given the game’s massive audience, and companies shell out millions to produce high profile ads for the event. (This year, companies spent an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot.) The days following the Super Bowl are filled, not only with analysis of the game, but also with analysis of the ads: which ones were the funniest, the most offensive, the biggest failures and wastes of time and money… and which ones were the best.

According to Jim Cramer, the best Super Bowl ad didn’t feature Matthew Broderick, Victoria’s Secret models, clever dogs, or cute babies. Rather, it took place at the end of the game:

But there was one ad that struck me as the most honest, most riveting and most compelling of all. You see, the game had just ended, and Colts great Raymond Berry ran the Giant gantlet with the Lombardi Trophy. Suddenly it seemed like every other Giant pulled out an Apple iPhone to snap pictures of the moment. One after another after another. And I said to myself, there it is, not some pet dangling a bag of chips or some headlights killing vampires or King Elton getting trapdoored. Nope, there was an ad worthy of Steve Jobs and the company he built.

Of course, it wasn’t an ad. It was just a collection of the most cool, most idolized competitors in the world whipping out their favorite device, which they had on the field, ready for action.

The best ad, according to Cramer, was footage of the mere presence of Apple’s iPhone, not in some highly stylized presentation or cleverly designed set, but in real life. In stark contrast to the overly produced high (or low) concept ideas that made up the bulk of Super Bowl advertising — such as this $10+ million dollar Samsung spot that directly targeted the iPhone — Apple got promotion for their device that was rooted in the here and now, in the reality of a heightened Super Bowl moment.

Granted, Apple has the sort of cultural cachet that most companies would gladly give half of their board of directors to have, so in one sense, it’s not all that surprising that all of those NFL players had iPhones with them to capture an important event. But this display, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Apple directly, nevertheless cemented even further the iPhone’s position and status in our culture. And the best part, at least for Apple? It didn’t cose them a single dime.