Every year, it seems we get hyped for the Super Bowl ads and they don't seem to live up to the hype. Is it that we expect too much or that the level of Super Bowl creativity has actually gone down? Probably a little of both. Plus, lately the games have been more compelling. One tweet I saw last night said something to the effect of, "You can tell the lack of great ads to talk about, by the fact I'm tweeting about the game."
Right after the Super Bowl, I didn't think it was an outstanding crop either. In fact, when asked this morning what my favorite was, I had to really think about it. It wasn't immediately on my lips. But then a couple came to mind and as we talked about it in our status meeting, more people threw out ads they liked. As I went through them again this morning to chose my annual best of, I felt better about what our industry put out. Sure there were those who were too commercial (Turbo Tax) and previous greats who weren't this year (Budweiser) and some that were downright creepy (#PuppyMonkeyBaby anyone?). But overall there were some pretty good efforts. Here's my top 13, in descending Letterman style.
13. T-Mobile – "Restricted Bling" By now we're used to all the cell phone carriers getting after each other in all kinds of ways. I thought this ad at least took a different approach. Maybe it's because I've had to deal with corporate lawyers messing up my copy for ads in the past, but I found this funny and strangely compelling. Although, I'm not sure what would get Drake to let himself be portrayed as such a sellout – unless it was for the boatload of money they gave him to do this commercial, which by definition is being a sellout. (note: honorable mention to T-Mobile to their other ad with Steve Harvey poking fun of himself)
T-Mobile – Restricted Bling
12. Budweiser USA – "Give A Damn" It's interesting that the only Bud spot on my list is their spot telling you not to drink too much of their product. They have dominated previous Super Bowls with great ads, but this year they seem to be running scared. The big Bud spot just came across to me as a brand that's running scared in front of the craft beer movement. Going so far as to say "they're not for everyone." And while that's true, that has never been their brand position, it's the opposite of their previous position. Anyway, in this spot, actress Helen Mirren gives a frank, no hold barred verbal beat down to anyone who would drink and drive, while enjoying her own beer and burger. I enjoyed it.
Budweiser USA – #GiveADamn
11. Apartments.com – "Moving Day" This one was kind of fun. But mostly it makes the list for the great "George and Weezy" twist at the end.
Apartments.com – Moving Day
10. Audi R8 – "Commander" One of the better storytelling ads of this year's group. It portrays a former astronaut who's near the end of his life and seems destined to slip quietly into the night. It's the story of how a car can rekindle enthusiasm in his life. Tells a compelling story while doing a good job of portraying the car as a performance vehicle.
Audi R8 – Commander
9. Shocktop – "Unfiltered Talk" I like this ad for its simplicity. Just a guy and a talking beer tap trying to top each other in an insult contest while sitting at a bar. Basically T.J. Miller sits down at the bar and the Shocktop logo on top of the tap starts on one-upmanship contest with him. It's fun and gives you a smile. This is one ad that I enjoyed even more when I found it online and watched the longer version of it, which I've shared here.
Shocktop – Unfiltered Talk
8. NFL – Super Bowl Babies Choir" I thought this was a fun extension of their "Football is Family" campaign. In this case, football is literally family as we feature the crops of kids who were conceived in the winning teams towns on the nights their home town team won. Choirs of kids ranging from those born in the 70's to Steelers fans to the screaming babies from Seattle's most recent Super Bowl victory in 2014. And (except for the latest crop) they're all singing parody lyrics to Seal's "Kissed by a Rose" and Seal joins in to help the song move along.
NFL – Super Bowl Babies Choir
7. Avocados from Mexico – "Avos in Space" This was one ad that, unlike the Shocktop ad mentioned above, I actually liked the shorter version that aired during the game better than the longer version I placed here. Probably because the whole reason it made the list was that in the lineup of artifacts from Earth these alien museum goers get to see is an actual living Scott Baio. And the best line of the spot was at the end when the curator asks if they wanted to feed the Scott Baio, "it's included in the admission." So, the longer version just means less Scott Baio.
Avocados from Mexico – #AvosInSpace
6. Mini USA – Defy Labels Okay, maybe this is just political correctness and Millennial sensibilities embodied in one ad, but it's a pretty darn good one. And I think it may be the best use of celebrities this year. It has a whole host of people saying all the "labels" the car is or isn't. This is a chick car. This is a "gay car." This car has no street cred. It ain't no Hip Hop. And so on and so on. It's shot really well and genuinely fits the Mini brand of being too cool for traditional labels.
Mini USA – #DefyLabels
5. Death Wish Coffee – "Storms a Brewin" I love the brand strategy within the strategy. Yes, it's a compelling commercial for Death Wish Coffee beautifully shot with Vikings rowing their ship over a waterfall that becomes the last bit of coffee being swallowed by some guy. But the real story is it's a branding ad for Intuit Quickbooks who put their money behind taking one of the small brands that use their product and creating a high quality big budget spot for the Super Bowl. It's a brand who could never afford the production, much less the cost of a Super Bowl spot. The underlying message is that if Quickbooks will go above and beyond for one of their customers like this, you know they'll treat you right too. Nice out of the box thinking Quickbooks.
Death Wish Coffee – Storms a Brewin' (via Intuit Quckbooks)
4. Hyundai – "First Date" It was the first commercial of the Super Bowl and it didn't disappoint. It features comedian Kevin Hart letting his daughter's date use his car. He then uses the car's location feature to stalk them on their date. Popping up in unlikely places to give the guy dating his daughter the stink eye whenever he gets to close or later when he tries to go parking with her. It literally made me laugh out loud.
Hyundai – First Date
3. Coca-Cola – "Coke Mini (Hulk vs Ant-Man)" Full disclosure, I'm a sucker for Marvel comics done well on the big screen – or, in this case, the big stage. And this was done as well as any Marvel movie, featuring Ant-man taking the last Coke Mini from Bruce Banner's fridge. This of course makes Dr. Banner mad and he becomes the Hulk, who chases Ant-Man through the streets, smashing everything in site. Finally cornered, Ant-Man gives up the Coke. But in a fun twist, Hulk's fingers are too big to open it. So, Ant-Man has to run up and open it for him, grabbing a drop out of the air as it opens, which is a decent drink for someone his size.
Coca-Cola – Hulk vs Ant-Man
2. Heinz Ketchup – "Wiener Stampede" This was the favorite of a lot of folks around here, especially our resident wiener dog owner and media director, Buffy O'Connor. It has just the right mix of cuteness and goofiness. Basically a bunch of people dressed in different Heinz ketchup and mustard bottles (including a cute little girl as the ketchup packet you might get at a fast food place) standing on a ridge as a thundering herd of wiener dogs dressed as hot dogs in buns runs gleefully towards them, jumping into their arms as a 70's love song blares in the background. It's cute. It's sort of funny. It's memorable. And it actually has something to do with the product – you remember what the product is! That's what makes it number 2 in my countdown.
Heinz Ketchup – Wiener Stampede
1. Jeep – "Portraits" In recent years, the Chrysler Corp has made a habit of making epic, emotional Super Bowl ads. This year, it was Jeep's turn in a spot they call portraits. True to it's name, the spot is a series of black and white portraits of the faces who may have used Jeeps over the last 75 years. The copy begins "I've seen things… no man should bear. And those… that every man should dare." This sets the tone for a storied 75 year history that includes its military service and traversing every back road in the world. I like that many of the faces are caked in mud or covered in ice – attesting to Jeep's tough, go-anywhere persona. There's even a nod to its movie roles in Terminator and Jurassic Park. But, it is the barage of images and poem-like quality of the copy that carries the emotion of this spot. It's the kind of spot that can make you smile and give you goosebumps. It's the kind of spot that deserves this year's Super Bowl Brand Championship
Jeep – Portraits
So, what do you think? Did I miss some of your favorites? Did I chose one you thought was horrible? I'd love to hear what you think. Let me know in the comment section. It's all subjective, but this is what I think. How about you?