Last year, I reviewed all of the Super Bowl commercials, and I’m going to do it again. I’m going to review and rate each of the commercials in the Super Bowl. I watched the game in real-time (or as close to it as one can get with a wife and three-year old daughter who went to bed somewhere in the 3rd Quarter), compiling notes as I went. After the game, I went back, using the magic of DVR technology, and took a second, third, and sometimes fourth look.
Let’s get to it…(note – the names of the ads are my own, since I didn’t feel like looking up the names for 50 some ads. Also, I didn’t link to any of them. They are all on YouTube if you need to see them again).
Budweiser Black Crown – “Black Crown” – Remember back when Budweiser used their customary first ad slot for a clever, funny ad that set the bar for the evening’s commercials? Me neither. Now Bud uses this ultra prime piece of real estate to introduce snooty, faux-highbrow brews (see also: Bud Light Platinum, 2012). Towards the end, some guy in an apron says “Here’s to taste. Here’s to our kind of beer.” What does that mean? A mass-produced beer that is trying to taste like a good craft beer? I can only drink this if I wear all black or take myself too seriously? Please, Budweiser, I’m begging you: if you’re not going to do something memorable with the lead-off spot, let somebody else have it. D-
M&M’s – “Anything for Love” – The red M&M plays a stirring version of Meatloaf’s ballad, while we see clips of all of the things Red would do to be with his human girlfriend. Unfortunately, the relationship stars to cross into a 50 Shades kind of place when the girl starts licking, nibbling, and trying to heat/melt Red. One wonders why a chocolate candy is dating outside of his species, but given last year’s ad (Red got naked at a party and danced around) it’s pretty obvious that Red does not make good decisions. Bonus points for the line “It hurts, but I kinda like it.” B
Audi – “Bravery” – An average guy heads off to his prom without his date, earning both a motherly dose of reassurance as well as criticism from his little sister (nicely done on both roles). Dad, feeling bad for the boy, gives Skippy the keys to his Audi. Driving dad’s fancy car transforms Skippy from loveable loser to a kid who doesn’t give a crap. He parks in the principal’s spot. He strolls right into the dance and gives the prom queen a big kiss before her boyfriend punches him. We see Skippy driving off into the night with the start of a big shiner. Frankly, I’m not sure how the Audi makes him brave – unless Audi has confused bravery with a “____ it” attitude. Maybe the brave thing was for the loser to kiss the girl instead of going to the prom in a trench coat with dad’s gun collection. Good potential, just didn’t hit on all cylinders. C
Hyundai – “Team” – A kid gets his football stolen by bullies at the park, and is told to come back when he “has a team”. Our hero then rides around with mommy in her Hyundai recruiting bad-ass kids (a weightlifter, welder, a kid saving a man from a burning building, and my favorite – the kid with a grizzly bear in a figure-four leg lock) to whoop some bully butt. When told to kick off, we see the ball hit the bully so hard it blows him out of the frame. I saw a different version of this where the kids were asked if they wanted to play touch or tackle, and they all responded “tackle”, and I like that ending better. But this is still a pretty solid spot, even if it has little to do with minivan/SUV crossovers. B+
GoDaddy.com – “Two Sides” – A new approach from the guys at GoDaddy: instead of their usual ad dripping with scantily clad women, innuendo, and teasers to “see more” online, GoDaddy is actually trying to illustrate a point. They have sexy side (every other ad they’ve ever done) and a smart side (the actual business, where they will make a website for your business), and the joining of those forces is good. The illustration is done in typical, over-the-top GoDaddy style with a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model making out with a geeky looking guy – complete with gratuitous close-ups and lots of face-sucking audio. I know GoDaddy never met a stereotype they didn’t like, but I’m sure IT and web guys everywhere cringed at being protrayed as the awkward geek virgin still living in his mother’s basement. But seriously, kudos to GoDaddy for actually trying to promote their product instead of using the tease of sex to get people to click on their site. (Also, I’ve got $100 that says this commercial was not done in one take. I’d guarantee the actor portraying the tech nerd saw to it that they needed to shoot that scene over and over). B-
Doritos – “Goat For Sale” – An odd-looking guy (who reminds me a lot of Mr. K from Go On) buys a goat from guy on the street, apparently because the goat shares his love for Doritos. Guy takes goat home. Goat eats 156 bags of Doritos, causing weird guy to reconsider this purchase. The next day when the goat sees the Doritos are all gone, he freaks out (loved the scream, by the way) and breaks the guy’s stuff before finding him finishing up a “Goat 4 Sale” sign of his own, surrounded by multiple bags of nacho cheese corn chips. One fairly big quibble: goats are rather notorious for eating anything and everything, not exactly a ringing endorsement for the taste and quality of Doritos. Look: I know Doritos likes to farm their Super Bowl ads out to the general public, but maybe it’s time to have professionals take over again. B-
Pepsi Next – “Party” – Guy is hosting a wild party, mom and dad come home, but he avoids trouble by giving them a can of low-cal soda. The biggest accomplishment is making the other Pepsi Next spot (with the new parents raving about bubbly brown water while their baby does CGI stunts in the background) look realistic. Otherwise, a dud from a company that used to be reliably funny. D
Best Buy – “20 Questions” – Amy Poehler is doing some electronics shopping at the local Best Buy, and has a ton of odd and humorous questions (“What does LTE stand for? Is it contagious?” “Does it make you uncomfortable when I say ‘dongle’?” “Are we in the cloud now?”) to the friendly sales guy in the blue shirt. I think Poehler is funny in this ad – probably the live celeb performance of the night – but yet I’m a little underwhelmed. I guess I’d like to see more of the “Weekend Update” biting satire Amy instead of the naive and slightly obnoxious “Baby Mama” Poehler. A missed opportunity for a Tina Fey cameo. B
Budweiser Black- “Our Kind of Beer” – Bud’s snooty launch party is still going on, and apparently the black-wearing trendsetters in the room (“the loud, the savvy, the famous”) have spoken: Bud Black is now officially “our kind of beer”. Here’s the problem: I don’t see a lot of people in that party that I want to hang out and drink with. I see a bunch of pretentious pseudo-hipster pricks who are only drinking Bud heavy because they’ve put it in bottle with fancier labeling. Even if this is the greatest beer on the planet (and I’ll personally guarantee it is not), I’m not going to order it because of what it would say about me (I’m an image-conscience sheep who cares more about appearances and fitting in than I do about a drink that tastes good). F
“Oz the Great & Powerful” – The first movie promo, and like last year, I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about these, since these are almost always just like any other movie promo that you’d see during an “Everybody Loves Raymond” rerun in July. Studio execs and their ad agencies would be smart to look at the brilliant ad Pixar released for Monsters University during the Rose Bowl. That is a great parody of campus ads each school shows during a college game, and was a better attention getter than if they would have released a standard trailer. C’mon folks, it’s the Super Bowl, give me something worth talking about. Trivia: can anybody name the big blockbuster movie that was first advertised in last year’s Super Bowl? If you said “Battleship”, you either read last year’s post, or you have a great memory.
Coca Cola – “Surveillance” – Coke shows us a bunch of security camera footage showing good deeds, tender moments, and other feel-good emotions that Coke likes to associate themselves with. I have a soft spot for ads that take your expectations (grainy security footage = something bad is about to happen to somebody) and flipping them on their head, especially tied with some good on-screen copy. In the Great Cola Wars, the advantage in the battle for best Super Bowl ads has definitely swung back to Coke. B
Oreo – “Whisper War” – Two guys in a library get into an argument over which part of an Oreo is best – the cookie or the creamy middle. This argument escalates into a full scale melee, but since they in a library, nobody’s voice gets about a whisper. Creatively, I like the whisper concept – the preceding ad had a fairly loud song accompanying it, so the relative silence is a good attention getter, plus idea of a something loud like a brawl taking place in a a quiet hospital is good. But, I have a fair number of nits to pick here: Why are people eating Oreos in a library? When the fire alarms sound, shouldn’t they be quiet too? Ditto for the police car that comes crashing, Kool Aid Man style, through the wall. Have it be loud on the street, but reduce the siren to a whispery volume once it penetrates the wall. And the biggest one of all: Who in their right mind picks cookie over cream? Until I see Oreo eaters scrapping the cream out and throwing it away so they can enjoy the cookie, or see a bag of “Double Cookie Oreos” at my local store, I will not believe there is anybody who picks cookie over creme. B-
“Fast & Furious 6” – The Rock, Vin Diesel, and Ludacris? In the same movie? Pass.
Toyota – “RAV 4 Genie” – A genie appears to grant wishes, some of which are related to the family’s import SUV. This ad gets off to a pretty good start – the dad getting mocked for wanting the spare tire removed is funny – but then the spot goes into Super Bowl Mode where things are extreme and full of special effects for the sake of being extreme and full of special effects. At the end of the ad, the only reason I have to consider buying a RAV 4 is the spare tire is apparently gone, and there may be satellite radio (even if I’d rather have Pandora or Spotify in my ride). Bonus points for the wish for “infinite witches” and using Skee Lo at the end. B
Doritos – “Princess Party” – A dad chooses to spend time playing princesses and tea party with his daughter over football with the guys. Why? Because she bribes him with nacho cheese Doritos, of course. When the guys come to find him, dad is wearing a dress, feather boa, and loads of makeup, but then they see the Doritos and join in. This ad was predictable, full of gender cliches, and a little bit cheesy…and I liked it. Of course, I have a four year old daughter, and would be willing to play princess party with her even if the only chips I get are pretend ones. I’m inclined to think the pre-kids me would have been amused by this ad too, just not as much. B
Calvin Klein – “Concept” – In the words of David Lee Roth, we’re “Dedicatin’ one to the ladies”. You might think that 30 seconds of some impossibly buff guy stretching in his underpants would be an odd commercial to play during the biggest football game of the year. Of course, the folks at Calvin Klein know that a good portion of Super Bowl viewers are women, and Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away. Since I’m not in the target demographic, it shouldn’t be surprising that this ad does little for me (and would it kill CK to toss in something funny at the end?). But, the media buy is a brilliant move – even if you have to sell a ton of underpants to cover $4 million for a 30 second ad. B
Cars.com – “No Drama” – The central message: use cars.com and you won’t miss the drama at the dealership. This is brilliantly illustrated by the dealer handing a couple a wolf pup, while its “overprotective mother” growls menacingly. Clever and memorable. But one thing keeps this from being an A: if cars.com eliminates the dealership drama, then why is this couple at a dealership? B+
Bud Light – “Voodoo” – In this extension of their season-long “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” campaign celebrating the odd superstitions of fans, we see a guy going through great lengths to meet with a Nawlins voodoo doctor, who provides him with a doll that can be used during the Super Bowl. But, what’s this? His buddy has his own voodoo doll for the other team? The build-up to the voodoo doctor is a little long, but I’m willing to overlook it, mainly because I thought the campaign has been good, and the use of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is brilliant. Plus, in one of the scenes, you can see the two guys from the other Bud Light ad (running later in the game) carrying their lucky chair. That’s a great touch. B+
GoDaddy.co – “Your Big Idea” – A series of wives from around the globe are nagging their husbands if they have put their big idea online yet. They all respond with “nobody else is going to think of it”, before we see a rich jerk sipping champagne on his private jet, asking for “more of everything” from the “sky waitress” (a line that I found incredibly amusing). I am fascinated by GoDaddy’s decision to switch their advertising motivator from sex (i.e. scantily clad women and the tease of seeing “more” at their website) to fear (i.e. some pompous ass is going to steal your big idea if you don’t grab the domain name*). A clever and well executed ad from GoDaddy? Maybe the Mayans were right after all… A-
*On a related note, you may have noticed that I am now operating under my very own domain (www.feitcanwrite.com). For the record, the registration occurred prior to me seeing this ad – and I did not use GoDaddy to register the domain.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” – Given the choice between watching this, Fast & Furious 6, or 100 minutes of the GoDaddy makeout commercial, I’d go with the kissing.
Milk – “Got Milk?” – The Rock is out of milk and his kids cannot enjoy their cereal. As he ventures out into the city to chase down a milk truck, he encounters an ever-escalating series of crises, crimes, and catastrophes. Does he stop and help? Nope. Good Samaritan laws be damned, the Rock’s kids cannot eat their cereal dry. I see where they were trying to go with this, but it fell flat for me. I enjoy milk as much as the next guy, but end up thinking the Rock is a douche for not helping out because they forgot to pick up a gallon the day before. C-
Hyundai – “Better to be in Front” – Why should you get a car with a turbo? Because often you find yourself driving behind folks you don’t want to follow: the creeper with the tramp stamp, horses, neon green waste, nuclear warheads, a fireworks truck, etc. I thought they did a really nice job of illustrating the central need through the different scenarios. The final one – slobber from the two mastiffs sticking their heads out of the back of an RV – was my first laugh out loud moment of the evening. That helped this spot earn the highest grade so far. A
VW – “Jamaican Me Crazy” – That guy in accounting (who looks a little like Tim Tebow) is walking around the office talking in a Jamaican accent, spouting peppy little motivational sayings (“Turn the frown the other way around!”). Why you ask? Apparently it is because of his new car – a Volkswagen from Germany. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Surely I was not the only person hoping that Terry Tate, Office Linebacker would show up. D-
Coca-Cola – “The Race” – For reasons unbeknownst to anyone not associated with VW’s ad, gangs of cowboys, Mad Max outlaws, and Vegas showgirls are cruising through the desert towards a giant bottle of Coke. We are then supposed to online to vote for which group wins the race and gets the Coke. Maybe I’d do that if the commercial was better, but this one was a flop. D
Subway – “Jared’s Anniversary” – A big cast (14, by my count) of athletes and semi-recognizable TV actors (is that Kevin from The Office or David Ogden-Stiers from M*A*S*H?) recount the story of how Jared lost a ton of weight (and made a ton of money) by eating Subway every day, 15 years ago. Look – Jared was a nice story, but can we let him go or find somebody else to hold up a pair of fat pants on TV? I was expecting Kevin from The Office to declare that he’s going on the Jared Diet – as that would have made this ad noteworthy – but instead all we get is a guy celebrating with candles in his sandwich. Can we at least get Jared one of the delicious cookies that Subway bakes as a reward? C-
Taco Bell – “Somos Jóvenes” – A group of active seniors leaves the nursing home and causes all kinds of mischief and mayhem during the wee hours before stopping for late night grub at Taco Bell. The soundtrack is the popular song “We Are Young” sung in Spanish (hence my title for the ad). At first, I didn’t get why the song was en espanol, but the second time through the connection (Mexican food, Spanish lyrics) dawned on me. I still find it distracting, since I don’t really think of the Bell as a Mexican place. Otherwise, the ad has some amusing moments (the guy putting his nipple on the window of the restaurant) as well as some disturbing images (Granny coming out of the bathroom stall with some guy) that hurt the overall grade. B-
Sketchers – “Cheetah” – This riff on a nature documentary has some guy running down, tackling, and hog-tying a cheetah all because he has on his fancy Sketchers running shoes. Everything about this ad, from the guys outruns a cheetah to the CGI wink and hoof bump from the gazelle, feels like it has been done before. Consider me underwhelmed. C
Lincoln – “MKZ” – Let’s review the luxury car commercial checklist: Car driving in the desert? Check. Robots in the factory? Check. Car driving on a winding seaside highway? Check. Announcer using hushed tones? Check. Background music more likely to be found on NPR than classic rock? Check. Close up of some feature that may be in your domestic sedan in 15 years? Check. Guy dressed up as Abraham Lincoln? Huh? What? This is a rather safe and conservative car commercial. That’s not bad, but it’s also not good. C-
NFL – “Evolution” – If the NFL can reuse the same commercial from last year, I can reuse the same review from last year: We start with a kickoff of a football game in 1906. The guy catches the ball and runs up field as the narrator tells us about all of the safety improvements the NFL has made over the years. I really liked how they used the yardage markers on the field as their timeline (the 40 yard line was the 1940s, and so on), and they did a very nice editing job, stitching several players into the action. I’m not really sure of why the NFL felt the need to produce this. Are they acknowledging that the game, while seemingly more dangerous than ever is actually safer? Is this part of the lockout ending settlement with the players? And seriously – enough with the Deion Sanders cameos. C
My 10 month old son, was really enjoying Beyonce. He was bouncing up and down and didn’t take his eyes off of the TV.
Jeep – “Homecoming” – Pass the Kleenex, Jeep has brought in Oprah to narrate an extremely touching commercial paying tribute to the service men and women in the armed forces who have sacrificed so much to serve our country. This really treads the line between commercial and short film – a great piece of writing, expertly narrated, and synced up with touching images. One interesting note: in the two minute spot, I only counted ten times where a Jeep is recognizably shown – and none of those are in the first minute of the ad. If this commercial did not choke you up or make you shed a tear, you are truly dead inside. A+
“Iron Man 3” – Ironically enough, the first commercial after the power failure is for a movie featuring a superhero who swoops in to save the day. Tony Stark, please report to the Superdome generator room, stat.
Century 21 – “Wedding Day” – At his wedding, the groom faints when his mother-in-law tells him they will be one big happy family. The bride scans the church and asks not for a doctor, but a real estate agent. Fortunately, a friendly Century 21 agent just happens to be sitting on the aisle and can suggest a nice starter home for the happy couple. One question: does the bride not know this guy, or know that he is a Realtor? He’s sitting on the bride’s side of the church, and from the sparsely populated pews, I’m guessing the couple would know everyone there. But that is not as big of leap in logic as the tagline “Stay calm, there’s a Century 21 agent in the house”. C’mon, people. C-
Blackberry – “What Can’t It Do?” – A guy is walking down the street twiddling with his smartphone. He bursts into flames, sprouts elephant feet, explodes in a colorful cloud of dust, emerges from a manhole, and turns an out of control tanker truck into a load of rubber duckies. The concept (“in 30 seconds, its easier to show you what it can’t do”) is clever. But if I’m looking for a new phone, I’m likely not considering Blackberry, so they should take some time and show me why their phone is better (or even as good) as Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and others who own the smartphone market. Knowing that I won’t suddenly grow elephant feet is nice, but that probably won’t influence my purchase. C-
eTrade – “Hidden Fees” – That creepy baby with the deep voice is back with more financial advice. This time, he’s letting us know that we may be getting screwed out of tens of thousands of dollars in hidden fees on our 401(k)s. The baby then says that we are bent on “blowing this fat stack of cash”, we should enjoy it, as we cut to pictures of the kid living the high life: drinking champagne, playing polo, running with the bulls, hot tubbing with a panda, etc. I’m glad eTrade has gotten such good mileage out of this baby, but they need to make a couple of minor tweaks: 1) Cut it out with the herky-jerky video. I know you’re trying to make it look like a buffering web cam feed, but haven’t advances in high speed internet/4G networks made that obsolete? If not, maybe the baby should use some of his “fat stack” to upgrade to a T1 line. 2) Why is this kid sitting in what appears to be a high chair stolen from McDonald’s? Can anybody answer that? C+
Subway – “Februany” – Probably the only ad in the entire game that refers to a specific promotion, Subway is telling us about $5 footlong sandwiches during the month of February. The gag is they’re calling it “Febru-any” and none of their 47 spokespeople can pronounce it, turning the ad into a blooper reel. The first time through I missed the details of the promotion because I was distracted by trying to identify all of the folks in the ad – and I’m still wondering if Kevin from The Office is going to be Jared 2.0. C-
Bud Light – “Lucky Chair” – The New Orleans voodoo doctor (or, in a reference that will be lost on those who do not have young kids or love Disney movies, the Shadow Man from Princess & The Frog) returns. This time, two guys bring their old recliner in for some positive juju. Unfortunately, the Shadow Man does not do furniture, but his sultry associate will. As I mentioned above, these guys can be seen in the other Bud Light ad, but I did not spot the guy from the first ad in this one. I’m liked the other Bud Light spot better, and I’m also hoping that Bud Light retires the “Here We Go” slogan at some point this year. C
Axe – “Astronaut” – There have been some great ads over the years that have started in one direction before swinging off in a completely different, and totally unexpected, way. For example, here we have a lady being attacked by a shark. The handsome lifeguard rushes into the water, punches the shark out, and carries the girl back to safety. As he’s checking her, she sees an astronaut on the beach and rushes off to be with him. Sometimes the 180 degree turn works, and sometimes you’re left saying “Huh?” This is the latter. Apparently, Axe ran an online promotion where you could win a trip into space – assuming you could survive being in a spacesuit with half a bottle of Axe body spray on you. Probably could have found a better way to promote it. C-
MiO Fit – “Change” – Tracy Morgan wants to sell us a concentrated sports drink mix via an off-shoot of a stand-up routine about how change = progress. I’m with you so far Tracy. Then Tracy tells us how that progressive change occurs when things are truncated. Interesting – give me some examples. Tracy comes up with whole chicken into nuggets, shortening a formal greeting to “S’up?”, and man bands into boy bands. Yikes Tracy – you’re striking out on your examples. So why should I put buy a bottle of concentrate, knowing that I’m much more likely to make my drink too weak or too strong than just right. C-
Kia – “Respect the Tech” – A guy at a car show is checking out a new Kia. Why? Beats me. Just go with it. Instead of the typical sexy models, this car has robot show girls. When the guy kicks the tire, the robo chick freaks out and beats him up (including an atomic wedgie) before we see the tag line “Respect the Tech”. What amazing technology is in Kia that is not in other cars? No clue, but given the robot’s reaction to the kick, the technology must be focused in the tires. D
Gildan – “Favorite T-Shirt” – A guy who looks like the last living fan of Grunge wakes up in some girl’s room. As he tries to sneak out, he realizes that she’s wearing his t-shirt. The spot ends with him attempting to remove the shirt from her sleeping body. Not a top 10 ad, but not horrible either. But here’s my question: why spend the money for the time slot? I probably have over 40 different t-shirts of various ages and conditions. I’m sure some of those shirts were made by Gildan, but I could not tell the Gildan ones from the Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, or any other random brand. If I’m buying a new t-shirt, I care about lots of things (design, colors, fit, and price among them) and I could give a crap about what brand the shirt is. I care more about what is screen printed on the shirt than the company label scratching my neck. They should have saved their $4 million and purchased a $2 Gildan t-shirt for every man, woman, and child in the state of New Mexico. C-
Wonderful Pistachios – “Gangnam Style” – One of the great things about Super Bowl ads are the celebrity appearances. Some are head-scratching train wrecks, and some are done well enough that both product and endorser come out better for it. This is a good example of the latter. Initially, I thought this was just a good excuse for that pistachio folks to piggy back on the wild success of Psy’s “Gangnam Style”. The song from the most watched YouTube video of all time plays, albeit with the lyrics altered to “crackin’ Gangnam Style”. Psy dances around with folks in pistachio costumes (seriously – wouldn’t you love to be the person to pitch that idea?) and it is just good, clean Super Bowl silliness. But the final line “Psy does it and we all go nuts”, is what ties it all together, turning this from a silly celeb sellout ad to a good ad. B
Lincoln – “Jimmy Fallon” – One of the first things a good ad should do is get your attention. When I read “The Lincoln Motor Company & Jimmy Fallon Present”, I got excited. Fallon is a great performer, a funny guy who does some great musical numbers, and his Late Night skits are usually pretty darn good. But instead, we got random stories (allegedly based on Twitter responses) about great roadtrips. What a boring letdown. Next time, have Jimmy and Justin Timberlake do a rap about Lincolns. Another sign of failure: they mention that the ad is inspired by tweets, but do not provide a hashtag for Twitter users to chime in about their great road trips. A huge missed opportunity. D
Speed Stick – “Handle It” – A guy gets tired of waiting for a laundromat dryer to open up, so he starts taking the clothes out; including a tiny pair of yellow panties. The owner of the panties – aka “the hottest girl to be in a laundromat since the Ali Landry Doritos ad” – asks what he’s doing. The guy drops some lame excuse which the hot girl totally buys. Meanwhile, we’re led to believe his deodorant is saving him from creating the world’s largest pit stains. I’m hoping the guys from the Lincoln commercial saw how Speed Stick made sure to ask folks to tweet about their “handle it” moment using the #HandleIt hashtag. Not sure how many folk would tweet about deodorant, but its still better than how Lincoln dropped the ball. C
Beck’s Sapphire – “Singing Fish” – Beck’s has a new beer made with something called “sapphire hops”. They chose to market this with a black goldfish swimming around singing “No Diggity”. Sure, that is probably the way I would have gone too. Or, I might have chosen a character that does not look like an extra from Finding Nemo. And would definitely avoid anything that makes me want to associate Beck’s Sapphire with fish and the smell of aquarium water, which is all this ad succeeded in doing. D
Budweiser – “Clydesdales” – I appreciate how Bud will always run a spot with the iconic Clydesdales. Sometimes they are funny (the horses playing football), sometimes they are touching (the post-9/11 ad in NYC), and sometimes they try too hard to be the best of the night. This is one of those years where they try too hard. The idea is pretty good – guy raises a Clydesdale from birth, forms a strong bond, but lets him go to Bud. Guy sees the horses are coming to town, so he stands by the parade route, and looks slightly dejected as they march past without acknowledging him. As he leaves (strangely, as the only guy on the street after a parade in Chicago) his horse comes running down the street to say hi (nice work Chicago Police – there is a 2,000 pound animal running free in the streets and you’re nowhere to be found). But what makes me dislike this ad is how familiar it feels. It sure seems like Bud has done something like this before. And if not, it is definitely a rip-off of a Friends episode (which ironically aired after a Super Bowl) where Ross reunites with his monkey Marcel, who has also gone onto fame. C-
NFL Network – “Leon Sandcastle” – Deion Sanders is asked by a makeup artist if he ever played. Spurred by that slight, he shows up for the NFL combine as Leon Sandcastle in a ridiculous Afro wig (why those are in the makeup room at the NFL Network is not specified) and proves that he still has it. He builds up a bunch of hype, eventually becoming the first pick in the NFL draft. Frankly, as egotistical as I’ve always assumed Deion to be (and the poor personnel choices made by the KC Chiefs), this is one of the more plausible ads of the night. Bonus point for the scout who says that Sandcastle “looks like an ugly Deion Sanders”. B+
Redd’s Apple Ale – “Branch Out” – Two 15 second spots sandwich a handful of local ads. Both are similar in plot: Dude at a party/bar can’t decide what he wants to drink until he gets clocked in the head by an apple. The blow to the head inspires him to get revenge against apples, which prompts his choice for a Redd’s Apple Ale. Wow, did it really take three full quarters of football before the worlds of beer commercials and cartoon violence converged? You’re slipping Madison Avenue. C-
Ram Trucks – “God Made A Farmer” – Wow. The best ad of the night, and it is not even close. The distinctive and folksy voice of Paul Harvey describing everything that makes farmers special while gorgeous images of rural America play in the background. This spot gave me goosebumps, and got the only round of applause from me. I’m not surprised that I love this ad – I’m Nebraskan born and raised, both of my grandparents farmed, and I grew up in a small town that had a very strong ag presence. I’m not a farmer, but I have a deep respect for those that do. Plus, I can remember listening to Paul Harvey as far back as elementary school. But I can’t help wonder how this ad was received outside of “flyover country”; if folks on the coasts or in big cities who never seen a feedlot or 500 acres of corn liked this ad the way that I did. I hope so, because this was a beautiful piece of advertising. One observation: apparently there is some corporate family ties between Ram trucks and Case IH tractors, because I counted five images of trucks to four images of Case tractors. Regardless, the champion of the night. A+
Kia – “Where Babies Come From” – Little Timmy is curious about where babies come from. Instead of giving an age-appropriate, deflecting answer, Dad concocts a tall tale which allows the special effects guys to have some fun creating baby astronauts and other assorted astro-animals. When Timmy questions Dad’s B.S. answer, Dad swiftly uses the voice control on his Kia to play “Wheels on the Bus”. Cute, but was I the only one who thought the image of the dozens of rockets approaching Earth was a visual innuendo for how babies are really made? No? Just me? B-
Tide – “Montana Stain” – I really liked this one. Good premise: 49’ers fan gets a stain on his jersey that looks like Joe Montana, creating a cult-like reverence. Good twist: his wife (the Ravens fan) washes the jersey. Great product moment: Tide got the stain out. I’ve heard rumors that the original version of this ad had an image of Ray Lewis created by blood splatter from an (alleged) murder. Probably a safe bet that they went with Montana. A
Soda Stream – “Exploding Soda” – The DIY soda pop machine wants to show us how many bottles could have been replaced if we used the fancy at home machine. They do this in one of the best ways possible: every time somebody makes a bottle at home, a bottle in a store explodes. Cool visual effect, but as somebody who has never used a Soda Stream machine, I’d probably respond more if they showed me the money I’d save and how the taste is the same. But a nice try. B-
Mercedes Benz – “Deal With The Devil” – An average guy ponders a deal with the Devil to get his hands on a new Mercedes. He pictures everything he could get (girls, dancing with Usher, more girls, the opportunity to ride a unicorn, something to do with anime, etc.) while the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil plays in the background. Just as he is about to sign, he finds out that the Benz starts at $29,900, and refuses the offer. Of course, once he realizes the base model has zero options, cloth interior, and a weak four cylinder engine, he’ll likely reconsider that deal. C
Samsung – “Next Big Thing” – Seth Rogen and Paul Ruud both think they’ve been picked to appear in a Samsung ad as “the next big thing”. They later learn they are just there to pitch ideas for the ad. Much like the Jimmy Fallon Lincoln ad, my expectations were higher than what I received. I think Rogen and Ruud are both very funny, and while there were some good lines (the subtle, yet biting digs on talking baby ads, crowd-sourced ads, and Asian rappers) there were a lot of moments where they just looked like desperate suck-ups willing to sell out for a buck (“I would wear a diaper for Samsung”). Great potential, but woefully underutilized. Personally, I’d like to see the R rated version of this, as I think it would be a lot funnier. C-
Ballgame, thanks in part to former Nebraska punter Sam Koch running eight seconds off the clock before taking a safety. The game, like the commercials, finished pretty strong after getting off to a slow start.
Overall, it was a decent crop of ads. A few standouts, a handful of duds, and bunch of commercials you’d fast forward through any other day of the year.
One of the things that really stuck out was the number of companies promoting a Twitter hashtag. Certainly it makes sense, as there were over 24 million tweets made during the game. I counted hashtags in 21 of the 53 ads above (40%) and I won’t be surprised if that number is higher next year.
My Top 5:
- Ram Trucks – “God Made A Farmer”. I’d love to hear from somebody outside of the Midwest (preferrably without any ag ties) to see if you liked it too.
- Jeep – “Homecoming”. God bless our soldiers and their families.
- Hyundai – “Better to be In Front”. My only LOL of the night.
- NFL Network – “Leon Sandcastle”. Deion’s finest performance since “2 Legit 2 Quit”.
- GoDaddy.co – “Your Big Idea”. Give credit for a good ad, without going to the sex card.
- Budweiser Black – “Our Kind of Beer”. Two ads, one worse than the first.
- Coca-Cola – “The Race”. If you care, the showgirls won. If you care, you should explain yourself.
- Pepsi Next – “The Party”. Dear Pepsi, you’re trying too hard.
- Beck’s Sapphire – “Singing Fish”. Was Big Mouth Billy Bass not available?
- Lincoln – “Jimmy Fallon”. Setting aside the numerous technical flaws, a commerical with Jimmy Fallon should be funny. Period.