This Year, the Game Outshone the Commercials

By Steve Cox | Group Creative Director

This is part two of our bi-coastal creative take on the best Super Bowl ads.

Sad to say, when it comes to the Super Bowl, we’re a long ways from Apple’s 1984 spot. And from the Bud Bowl, for that matter. There are no big surprises because Super Bowl spots, for the most part, start running weeks before the game. That said, I did notice a few things to the positive, such as no crowd sourced creative, no “see the rest of the story at,” and a whole lot less of giant corporation doing good.

I expect my Super Bowl spots to be big, and so do others. Unfortunately, I think in many camps, big equals “give me a celebrity.” Hey, Lil Nas X is hot, let’s make a spot around him. There still needs to be an idea. In fact, I would sum up this year’s selection with three words: celebrities and borrowed interest. Which is four words if you count the conjunction.
Not that I have an issue with celebrity actors. They are actors, after all, and often very good ones. For me, there needs to be a solid reason for it.

It’s not my goal to critique every spot. There’s plenty of people out there doing that who have already beaten me to it. I particularly liked the take on Slate today. Besides, it’s easy to be a critic. I have no idea how and why the clients and agencies arrived at the points they did.

To track my thoughts, this year I sat down for the NFL’s ultimate championship with my laptop on lap, taking notes of my mostly in-the-moment reactions, a lot of which is subjective. That’s advertising. Now on with the list.

I had no idea what they did even after the spot. I had to look in up on the internet. I suppose that’s good, but would I have done it if I wasn’t writing this? Probably not.

Tide/Bud Light/Wonder Woman/Masked Singer
Borrowed interest isn’t as bad when you’re borrowing from yourself. Tide used the same platform which worked so well last year. Sure, it had a celebrity playing himself, which is great if you like Charlie Day. What impressed me with these spots was the effort it took to coordinate different brands (to share the cost?), as well as the efforts of the media department to plan the string of spots to tell a story that continued throughout the game.

Walmart Pickup Service
Continuation of an existing campaign full of nicely produced – and probably very expensive – borrowed interest. The first spot had an idea, this one is further removed. And still better than their Giant Corporation Who Cares™ ad later in the game.

Rocket Mortgage Jason Momoa
An interesting concept. But creepy. Good CG is so hard to pull off.

Porsche Electric Car
I like car chases. But finally an electric car that steals you? Steals your heart, maybe. It doesn’t feel like the concept and the brief quite lined up and they tried to shoehorn it.

Snickers Hole
I don’t know what they called it, but this is what I call it. I enjoyed the cynical approach to Coke’s Teach the World to Sing spot from the 70s. Does the world have an empty hole in its gut or in its soul? Either way, I guess Snickers fills it, just like it will fill your empty holes. At least they’re lucky enough not to have to explain what their product is. Yes, it had a celebrity, but he played a role, not himself. I’m not a hypocrite yet.

Hulu Tom Brady
Ugh. I was so excited not to see the any Patriots in the Super Bowl. Thanks, Hulu.

Mountain Dew The Shining
I like Bryan Cranston. I like The Shining. This has both celebrity and borrowed interest, but I can’t figure out what either have to do with the product.

New York Life Kinds of Love
Here’s our giant corporation doing good. I don’t know if anyone ever believes it. I don’t.

Hyundai Smart Park
Bahstin accents are always funny. Chock full of celebrities, playing roles. Could it have been pulled off with actors you didn’t recognize? Maybe, and probably would have been outside of the Super Bowl. Fun idea, and I enjoyed it, but I don’t get the product. Get out of the car and let it park itself so the people who were already too inconsiderate to park in their spot can’t get into their car. What could go wrong?

Cheetos Can’t Touch This
Here was an idea that people can relate to if they’ve even eaten Cheetos. The guy realizes that by eating Cheetos, he doesn’t have to do anything. Ever. Then it dawned on someone involved in the process that they didn’t have a celebrity in the spot. Some of the MC Hammer visuals were kind of amusing, but unnecessary.

Olay Spacewomen
This was a nice message, right up to the end where pressing the wrong button makes them look stupid. Felt insulting to me and I’m not a woman.

Michelob Ultra Organic
Sounds like a nice program. But buy our beer and we’ll buy land for organic farming? Maybe buy the land first and do the farming, then talk about the good. At least in that case the do-gooding would be tangible. This way, it feels conditional, like a bribe.

Avocados from Mexico
My grandparents had an avocado ranch. I like avocados. I hear spreading them on toast is a thing. I prefer to scoop them out with a spoon and eat them for breakfast like a weirdo. What I don’t like? This commercial, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Sometimes that’s the case. The little avocado jump suit was cute. I didn’t even catch the Molly Ringwald celebrity sighting until someone pointed it out this morning. They even called out Molly to make sure I didn’t miss it. But I did.

Hard Rock Hotels
Celeb fest. I don’t get it. Why would DJ Khalid steal JLo’s bedazzled sippy cup? Couldn’t he buy his own? Why does this make me want to stay there?

Pringles Rick and Morty
I like Rick and Morty, so I enjoyed the commercial. Just felt like borrowed interest. I guess they’re hoping for McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce-level outrage if a store runs out of Pringles. Are cartoon characters celebrities?

The John Legend and Chrissy Teigen ad
The spot was for the Genesis GV80. It had a couple of easy gags, but the problem with having a celebrity driven spot is I think most people will remember it for the celebrities who were in it.

Coke Energy
Jonah Hill and Martin Scorsese hang out. Okay, sure.

Mr. Peanut Rebirth
I think just about everyone saw this coming when they killed him off a couple of weeks ago. Felt anti-climactic.

Google My Wife Died
I’m usually not one for sappy ads, but this one worked pretty well. It’s Google doing good. I’m sure they won’t sell any of the personal information about his wife to a third party.

Sabra Celebrity Spot
All celebrities, no idea.

Bud Light Seltzer
Can’t say I’m a Post Malone fan, but this ad held up. I think all the little Post brain people tatted up was a nice touch. A solid spot for one of the many new Zima products.

Little Caesars
I like this one for the Sliced Bread, Inc. company logo. Fun and had an idea. Didn’t need Rainn Wilson to carry it through.

Cool Ranch Sam Elliot vs Lil Nas X Dance Off
A lot of people liked this. I didn’t and I felt bad for Sam Elliot, though I’m sure he was paid well. I like the song, though.

Reese’s Take 5
A guy with his head up his ass. Clever.

I liked this one. Had me laughing at a few of the lines and scenes, and was built off the idea “what did people do before Alexa?” Clearly pulled from the brief and dropped in the ad. Would have completely worked without Ellen and Portia playing themselves. But it was the Super Bowl.

Michelob Ultra
Jimmy Fallon. John Cena. Yup.

Toyota Highlander
I liked the spot, especially the monster. The Highlander has plenty of room, point well-made and driven home.

Discover No Fees

Discover Yes We Take It
Still no.

T-Mobile Anthony Anderson
Here’s me being a hypocrite. T-Mobile makes the case they now have good coverage. It’s a celebrity spot, but Anthony Anderson and his mom are charming.

Budweiser Typical Americans
Typical pandering. I don’t expect much out of Budweiser’s beer, but I do expect better out of their advertising.

Proctor and Gamble We Make Everything
Another mash up moment that at first made me think it was a Tide ad, then wonder what was going on, then finally wonder why. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know who P&G is?

Jeep Groundhog Day
I’m guessing the concepting session went something like this: “Hey, the game’s on Groundhog’s Day, what if we remake Groundhog Day with a Jeep Gladiator in it?” It has celebrities, it’s borrowed, it’s meticulously recreated, and it works because there’s an idea – what if Bill Murray had a Jeep in the movie? It’s even summed up when Murray sees the truck and says, “That’s different.” Now he’s excited, a parallel for every one of us getting up each day to do the same thing. If only we had a Jeep Gladiator. And if only it wasn’t homely.

Audi etron
Arya Stark’s brand is stabbing people. No one was stabbed in this ad and it left me somewhat disappointed. Instead she sang a song from Frozen.