Super Bowl XLIX ended in a rather controversial fashion, when the Seattle Seahawks chose to forego giving the ball to Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch at the one yard line, and instead watched Russell Wilson throw an interception, cementing a win for the New England Patriots, 28-24. What the heck was Pete Carroll thinking?
Oh wait, this isn’t a Super Bowl recap. It’s about the commercials. And there were plenty of them, more than 50 in all, with advertisers paying a gaudy $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time. We’ll skip over the half time sponsorship by Pepsi, the ludicrous one by Jublia on toenail fungus, the slight variation on a previous theme by Discover, or the ones released before the Super Bowl by Geico, Skechers, and NASCAR. Instead we will focus on the new ones, and if you saw last year’s Super Bowl and the accompanying cornucopia of commercials, you’ll recognize many of the same participants.
So let’s kick it off (heh). The number in parentheses reflects the ranking of the ads from a USA Today Ad Meter consumer panel of 6,703 voters. And fair warning, this has almost all the ads from the game, so there are a lot of pages.
Budweiser: Lost Dog (1)
Budweiser always likes to pull on the heart strings, and what’s better than a lost puppy being saved by the company’s trademark Clydesdales. This one ranked high on the cute meter, something that Budweiser does really well every year. The ad is reminiscent of last year’s Puppy Love spot.
Budweiser: Brewed the Hard Way (37)
When it chose not to appeal to emotion, Budweiser went back to it’s old standby of quick-paced ad with good music aimed at the hard-working people of America. “We aren’t a craft beer, people. We’ve been doing it right for decades! Buy Budweiser.” Routine, but still effective.
Bud Light: Coin (16)
Bud Light went back to a variation of last year’s ad, which asked random people if they were “up for anything.” Here, the “unsuspecting” individual gets dumped into a party where he plays a very large game of Pac-Man after being asked if he was “up for whatever happens next” Bud probably went back to the theme once too often, although props for the human Pac-Man.
Coca-Cola: Make it Happy (8)
Coke likes really sugary, feel good ads. Last year, America the Beautiful was sung in different languages for a multicultural melting pot them, while this year, it focused on hate on the Internet, and how spilling a Coke into a server can turn bullying and harassment into a wonderful world of happiness and joy. If only it were that easy.
Always: Like a Girl (2)
This ad focused on stereotypes of females, and how young girls don’t have an image problem until thrown into the bigger world. Run by Always, maker of feminine products, the ad was very well done and reinforced the need to treat everyone as equals and doing things like a girl in sports is not a bad thing.
Doritos: Middle Seat (5)
It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without some hilarious Dorits commercials. Each year, the company gets submissions for fans on what the ads should be, and this year’s $1 million winners were just as good as last year. The first had a man doing everything he could to scare away potential seat mates on a “sit anywhere you want” flight, until he eyes a good-looking girl and flashes the Doritos. I won’t spoil the ending, but it is another quality spot from the chip company’s creative fans.
Doritos: When Pigs Fly (11)
This one was also good, paying tribute to the ingenuity of kids who want to get their hands on the cheesy junkfood at any cost. These ads were definitely the best of the fan submissions, but you can go judge for yourself.
Snickers: Very Brady (12)
A throw-back ad using Old Brady bunch footage to play up the ongoing Snickers theme of “You aren’t you when you’re hungry.” With Danny Trejo taking the role as Marcia (and a guest appearance by Steve Buscemi at the end as Jan), the ad isn;t quite as memorable as the spots with Robin Williams or Roseanne Barr, but still clever given the old footage.
Skittles: Settle It (29)
Arm wrestling for Skittles? The “Settle It” theme here is actually a bit more clever if you watch the ad a second time, focusing on the right arms of all the actors involved. It’s more obvious when you see the baby and the dog, but all I can say is that this town needs a lot more Skittles (or should be tested for steroids and HGH).
Fiat: Blue Pill (3)
This was a really clever spot from Fiat for the company’s new 500X. While parents may have needed to explain to kids watching the game why a blue pill could bulk up a car, or cause on older gentleman such grief when he lost it, the ending provided a good chuckle, especially when adding in the female reactions to the bulked up vehicle.
Dodge: Wisdom (6)
Dodge chose not to focus much on its vehicle until the end of this spot, instead choosing to impart words of wisdom from our elders and what they have learned in their life. What ensued were some of the best “positive thinking” phrases out there, finishing with how much Dodge has learned in its 100 years. I didn’t think car immediately, but the ending tied everything together in a nice, if unspectacular, bow.
Toyota: Bold Dad (7)
A few ads focused on Dad this year, and this was probably the best done of the bunch. It focused on the memories a dad has while driving his daughter to the airport to join the military. It was cute and emotional for any dad with a daughter, but again, didn’t scream car ad. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it was definitely a feel-good spot.
Toyota: How Great I Am (22)
This was an interesting ad that focused on Paralympian Amy Purdy, with a narration by Muhammad Ali about being the greatest. Again, it was a low-key spot on the car side, focusing more on accomplishment and the drive to be the best and overcoming obstacles.
Overall, both ads were good, but I’m not sure how well they actually promoted the Toyota Camry.
Nissan: With Dad (9)
Another Dad ad, this time from Nissan, and one that probably rambled a bit too much. Focusing on a race-driver father who leaves his family for the circuit, but still thinks about his wife and a son who idolizes him. It can be a tough balancing act. A good message that could have been put together a bit better, and one that keeps the Nissan link very subtle.
(Side thought: Interesting that Nissan and Toyota chose ads focusing on the Father, and since neither company decided to more blatantly splash their association in the ad, I can see both companies losing because of this similarity).
Jeep: Beautiful Lands (15)
Another car ad that chose to focus on something other than its vehicle (in this case the Jeep Renegade), this spot is all about our beautiful country. With “This Land is Your Land” being performed by Marc Scibilia playing, you visit see gorgeous scenery and only get sporadic shots of Jeeps. Subtle, but not sure how effective.
BMW: New Fangled idea (18)
This ad is particularly clever if your understand the original context. In 1994, TODAY Show hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric start to talk about the Internet, but don;t really know what it is. In a spoof of that segment, BMW got both to come back playing themselves to show of the new electric i3 vehicle. The end is classic with Gumbel asking Couric is she twerks, and Couric coyly responding “Maybe.” Nicely done.
Kia: Perfect Getaway (19)
Pierce Brosnan misses playing James Bond. He loves fast cars and action. Kia does a good job of getting Brosnan to play against himself here, and he pulls it off with a wry wit. The ending is particularly funny, and makes for a good humor ad to counter other feel good ads coming from the competition.
Mercedes Benz: Fable (20)
This ad was dead to me before it even aired. ESPN was pushing this with teaser commercials leading up to the Super Bowl, and by the time it finally aired, I didn’t care. We know the tortoise won, even if he did ditch his “slow and Steady” mantra. Move on.
Chevrolet: Colorado (39)
Losing your TV during the Super Bowl? Scary thought. But you can always watch it in your truck because it has wifi? A bit of a stretch, but OK. A little more creative than some of the other car ads.
Lexus: Let’s Play (43)
While many of its competitors were going with minute-long spots, Lexus decided to split their $9 million budget into two ads, this one featuring how fun it can be to drive a Lexus. I’m dying to know how much of that was actually stunt driving and how much of it was CG.
Lexus: Make Some Noise (54)
Turn of the music, hop in your Lexus and go have some fun. The company chose to forego creative or funny and just stick with your basic promotion of it vehicle (in this case the NX) and the company’s brand. Not flashy, but effective.
McDonald’s: Pay with Lovin’ (10)
McDonald’s is using this month to reward random customers with a free meal in exchange for “Lovin'”. Hug the family, call your mom, do a little dance. Nice concept and great for the people that get the freebies, but I wasn’t lovin’ the spot.
Dove: Real Strength (13)
Yet another ad that focused on Dad, although this one wasn’t as egregious given it was for Dove’s line of products for men. More feel good gooey-ness on what being a man should be. All noble sentiments, which seemed to be an ongoing theme for this year’s commercials.
No More: Listen PSA (14)
This ad was rather appropriate, given the laundry list of domestic violence cases in the NFL this year. I wonder whether No More actually had to pay for the spot, or if the NFL used this as penance for how poorly it handled the Ray Rice case and others this year. A strong message that hopefully the league and its players hear loud and clear.
NFL: Rally (33)
In contrast, LET’S PLAY SOME FOOTBALL!
Nationwide: Invisible (21)
Comedian Mindy Kaling is feeling invisible because she isn’t getting the right treatment from her insurance company. She gets away with quite a bit, until she tries to kiss Matt Damon. Not LOL funny, but enough for a smirk.
Nationwide: Boy (46)
This ad was a complete polar opposite from the other Nationwide ad, and perhaps the biggest downer of the entire commercial batch. Granted child mortality is an important topic, but given the levity and feel-good nature of 99 percent of the Super Bowl batch, this just left a bad taste in my mouth. Nationwide said it wanted to build awareness on the issue, but time and place, Nationwide.
Esurance: Sorta Pharmacist (24)
Bring Bryan Cranston in to reprise his Breaking Bad Walter White role as a “Sorta Pharmacist” was nicely done on the part of Esurance touting its insurance for unique individuals. Clever and fun.
Esurance: Sorta Mom (47)
Lindsay Lohan as Sorta Mom was also clever, but not as much as Cranston. These two ads provided a good theme package for Esurance and it will be interesting to see if they offer more “Sorta” ads in the coming months.
Avocados from Mexico: First Draft Ever (23)
This ad came out of nowhere and offered former NFL greats Doug Flutie and Jerry Rice pairing with the caveman du jour for commentary of the first draft ever, with the kangaroo, lemur, and dodo all being “drafted” by countries ahead of the avocado, which then goes to Mexico. A bit corny, but at least it tried to be funny.
Mophie: All Powerless (26)
The whole commercial appeared to be an ad for some Armageddon-like comedy, until the very end, when you see God’s phone running low on battery power. It was a nice unexpected twist at the end for the phone battery charger company, and one of the better ads overall during the Super Bowl.
T-Mobile: One-Upped (32)
T-Mobile usually has some fun ads during the Super Bowl and this year was just as entertaining. The first had Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler trying to outdo each other on where their phones can get the best wifi signal. From Silverman’s “sorry, it’s a boy” to Handler stuck under her house with a “rabbit,” the whole spot was chuckle-worthy.
T-Mobile: Save the Data (59)
The Kim Kardashian spot, however, was pure gold, with Kardashian lamenting how mobile phone companies waste your data that your could be using to see her outfits … lots of outfits. Fun to see Kardashian spoof herself in this mock public service announcement designed to Save the Data.
Sprint: Apology (34)
With AT&T and Verizon choosing not to air Super Bowl ads, Sprint used the opportunity to take a shot at them with their plan to cut their rival’s bills in half for new customers transferring service. Several nice visual jabs that made the spot somewhat entertaining.
Microsoft: Braylon (4)
Microsoft followed up on last year’s “empowering” ads with two more this year having the same vibe. The first talked about everything the company was doing in the field of prosthetics, spotlight young Braylon O’Neill, who is without both legs below the knee. A decent emotional pitch in the “Here’s what we are doing” vein.
Microsoft: Estella (27)
The second is a similar ad focusing on Estella Pyfrom and her “Brilliant Bus” full of technology that she uses as a mobile learning center for kids across the country. Another feel-good spot with Microsoft at the center of the technology aspect.
TurboTax: Boston Tea Party (35)
TurboTax continues to be entertaining with its spots. Last year, it talked about how love hurt, while this year, it explains how the Boston Tea Party would have become unnecessary had the British allowed the colonists to file their taxes for free. We all the taxes are a pain in the ass, but at least TurboTax is trying to keep us entertained through our pain.
Loctite: Positive Feelings (51)
For a company that had little name recognition, this ad should do wonders for that now. People of all shapes and sizes in fanny packs using Loctite glue to repair everything, including relationships. The ad got a lot of buzz after it aired and proved you don;t need a lot of high priced talent to get your message across.
Then we had the domain name and registry commercials.
Wix.com: It’s That Easy (36)
Retired NFL players using Wix to start second careers? Brett Farve, Emmitt Smith, and Franco Harris show off their website building skills thanks to Wix. A few smiles that had me checking to see if the sites were real.
GoDaddy: Working (55)
Compared to past year’s with spokesperson Danica Patrick, this year’s ad was boring in comparison. GoDaddy has had Super Bowl ads for the last several years and this was the first to fall flat, despite the attempt at a good message.
SquareSpace: Om (58)
Jeff Bridges chants Om to a sleeping couple. No words other than captions stating of the web page “Dreaming with Jeff,” which actually is a website offering 15 tracks of dream “music” by the actor.
Victoria’s Secret: Let the Real Games Begin (50)
Included this because, well, it’s Victoria’s Secret and … lingerie.
A few video game commercials made it in, the most prominent featuring Liam Neeson.
Supercell: Angry Neeson (17)
Liam Neeson gets beat in the mobile game Clash of Clans. Please do not make Liam Neeson angry. He will hunt you down and hurt you. Also, don’t say his name wrong.
Machine Zone: Game of War (57)
The mobile game Game of War has Kate Upton in shiny armor riding a horse. The theme is the same as previous commercials for the title, but here we see her stepping out of a bath as here castle is attacked. Pure titillation, granted, but … wait, what were we talking about again?
And finally, the movie trailers. There always has to be a few of those.