Super Bowl

Ad Review: The Super Bowl That Made You Cry

This Might Have Been the Dad Bowl, but It Definitely Wasn't Your Daddy's Super Bowl

By Published on .

Daddy, are you crying?
Daddy, are you crying?

Look at me. Now look at your man. Now look back at me. Now look back at your man. That dude's totally crying during the Super Bowl.

We've had emotional Super Bowl ads before, but this year marketers seemed intent on squeezing a few gallons of tears out of the crowd, especially the male half, what with all the tributes to Dear Old Dad.

The crazy thing is that it took them this long.

For years, guys have been portrayed mostly as dolts or bros in these ads. Why? Not because marketers are out to get men -- as some angry men were always quick to point out -- but because it was the easiest laugh. Marketers, though, have come around. It's not a capitulation to a group of outraged men. Rather, it's just smart marketing. First, when everyone's going for comedy, it's harder to break through. Second, dads like to feel special, too. And dads buy things. Lots of things. And, hello, dads are watching this game. A lot of dads. Dads who may have had a few beers and are maybe feeling a little emotional.

But that's not the only thing that's changed.

Not so long ago, Super Bowl advertising was basically an environment peopled with white people, cartoon characters and monkeys. These days, the ad landscape is quite a bit more representative of the audience when it comes to race, gender, age and even physical ability. Good on you, marketers.

Housekeeping: Ad reviewing, like any other reviewing, is subjective. And for the Super Bowl, it's even more nebulous. What makes a good Super Bowl ad doesn't necessarily make a good ad-ad. There are different expectations. Four Stars does not necessarily translate to "crowd favorite."

Four Stars: Powerful and or entertaining advertising that belonged in the game.
Three Stars: Solid effort that met Super Bowl expectations or actually sold something.
Two Stars: Average Super Bowl advertising. Nothing to be ashamed of, really.
One Star: You could have spent your money or time more wisely.

Check out all the ads here. If any ads are missing, it's for one of the following reasons: the marketer refused to share the ad prior to the game; the ad is not a national Super Bowl ad and is rather something that ran in select markets (like that great American Family Insurance ad); the ad is not, technically, an in-game ad (which we define as happening between kickoff and final whistle).

As stated in previous years, this review is done before the game, not during the game. So there is some crucial context missing. Watching these ads in an office is not like watching them in a real Super Bowl environment. Or, if it mimics a real Super Bowl environment, it's one in which you're on antibiotics and can't drink and the game is a blowout and there's that one guy who just refuses to shut up during the ads and when everyone tells him to shut up, he's like, "They're just ads."

Hey pal, these aren't just ads, they're Super Bowl ads.

At any rate, on with the review.

NoMore.Org, "No More"

Let's put aside the fact that the ONLY reason the NFL ponied up some bucks for NoMore.Org is to cover its ass in the wake of last year's Ray Rice scandal. (This is similar to the NFL previously using one of its Super Bowl spots to crow about its safety record as player lawsuits regarding concussions worked their way through the legal system.) It's an effective piece of advertising, chilling even, we listen in on a woman calling in a fake pizza order to emergency services, hoping the operator will pick up on the fact that she's in distress. Grey and NoMore.Org took a bit of internet folklore -- the transcript for this particular 911 call seems to have been born in a Reddit feed -- and transformed it into a visceral spot that should stand out from the pack.

Advertising Age Player

Budweiser, "Brewed the Hard Way"

Everyone loves a puppy, but a puppy isn't going to make the hard sale like "Brewed the Hard Way," a bit of chest-thumping alpha aggression from the King of Beers. "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale," says this Budweiser ad that takes off the gloves and starts pounding some flannel-wearing, beard-sporting, microbrew-drinking norm-core hipsters. Budweiser is a "macro beer" and it's not brewed to be "fussed over." Nope. It's for drinking by secure men and women who aren't concerned with image (or complex flavors). Sure, in bashing micro-brews the way it does, it bashes the consumers who drink them. But I love this ad, partly because it's calling people names, partly because it's addressing the challenger (or challenge) head-on, partly because it borders on inciting class warfare. It also tosses in a couple of killer visual references to Bud's longevity and heritage, including decades worth of labels and some vintage Clydesdale action. You be you, Budweiser!

Always, "#LikeaGirl"
Leo Burnett

Wait a minute. A maxi pad ad in the Super Bowl. Just what is this world coming to? Hey, it can't be all about Dad all the time, right? Sure, the Super Bowl seems like a majority-man thing, but there are plenty of young women and little girls watching the game. And their dads are in the room as well. So this is a pretty good time for Procter & Gamble to hit them with this viral video spot for its Always feminine-care brand. The spot asks the question, "When did doing something 'like a girl' become an insult?" To answer, it asks two groups of people -- pre-adolescent girls in one group, the rest of the world in another -- to run like a girl, to throw like a girl. Ask a young girl how to run or throw like a girl and she -- get this --runs or throws. Period. She gives it her all. Ask a young boy how to run like a girl and you know what you're going to get. But what really makes the video is when women are asked to perform these tasks like a girl. Somewhere between girlhood and womanhood, it turns out, they've internalized the boys' idea of throwing and running and hitting like a girl, mockingly flopping their hands and legs. I could go on and on about this one (and I have). It's an eye-opening effort -- and one that could sear the Always brand into the minds of any little girl or adolescent girl watching (and their moms and dads, too).

Loctite, "Positive Feelings"

And, lo, the entire country proclaimed, in unison, "WTF?" And then rewound the spot, during the game, and watched it again. This ad cost Loctite roughly what it spends on all of marketing in a typical year, so it was a hell of a gamble. The spot is visually and audibly weird enough to not look like any of the other spots in the game. The soundtrack is not only oddly arresting, but the lyrics are about glue. Go on. Go back and listen to them. The visuals show product benefits (the glue sticks!) and repeatedly flash the brand's name. In a way, it's almost like subliminal advertising: You're focused on the dancers and the song, trying to figure out what's going on, meanwhile the spot is flashing the brand logo and packaging at you over and over again. And next time you're in the hardware store or Walmart, which glue brand is going to catch your eye? I'm going to bet that this is one of the most polarizing spots of the game.

BMW, "Newfangled Idea"

The ad starts in 1994 with a much younger Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, "Today" hosts at the time, struggling with the concept of the internet. "What is internet, anyway?" asks Gumbel. "What do you, write to it like mail?" Cut to the future and the two are struggling with the concept of the BMW i3, an all-electric car built in a wind-powered factory or something. Both Gumbel and Couric do a good job selling clueless -- they're better actors than the athletes in a lot of these other spots. The ad's funny, but it's also true. "Big ideas take a little getting used to," it states. Back in 1994, the internet was a curiosity for many. In 2015, it's a necessity. The same may or may not be true for electric cars 20 years hence, but it's a good position for the ultimate driving machine to take. And it does it without preaching. The car looks good, too.

Budweiser, "Lost Dog"

Oh, c'mon, Budweiser. You really expect us to just sit there, year after year, and lap this stuff up like a loyal Labrador? Fine. We will. Creatively, this sort of sap is right up my alley, though I have to issue a demerit for that awful version of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." A-B InBev, you have the money to just hire the Proclaimers to sing it slow for you, live.

But thanks to Bud for delivering year after year. America appreciates it -- not enough to boost your sales, but they appreciate it. America's sort of like my mom. Every year this is her favorite ad, and every year she watches it drinking Coors Light.

Snickers, "The Brady Bunch"
BBDO, New York

Just when you thought Snickers couldn't squeeze any more life out of the "You're Not You" campaign, the brand and agency BBDO hit us with this delightful mash-up. It takes one of the best-known "Brady Bunch" episodes, in which Marcia gets her face busted with a football, and slaps Danny Trejo into the role of the eldest Brady girl. What happens when you're hungry? Miss Sunshine has the potential to turn into a vengeance-seeking, machete-wielding maniac! Subbing in Steve Buscemi for Jan, though, really puts this spot over the top.

Avocados From Mexico, "First Draft Ever"

Perhaps the horrible teaser released during the week was meant to lower expectations (look, guys, Jerry Rice is a nice guy and was a great football players, but he's a horrible actor). But this spot was a pleasant surprise. Some biblical-looking dude is hosting the first draft, in which countries select their plants and animals while Jerry Rice, Doug Flutie and a caveman provide commentary: Australia gets the kangaroo ("I like that pick," says Rice), Brazil picks the sloth ("Not a locker-room guy," says Flutie), and Mexico gets the avocado, which is a great pick thanks to Mexico's rich volcanic soil and perfect weather.

Super Cell/Clash of Clans, "Revenge"
Barton F Graf

Clash of Clans continued its charming and effective ad campaign from BFG, with a Super Bowl-worthy celebrity guest: Liam Neeson, who's intent on seeking revenge for losing the game.

Dove Men+Care, "#RealStrength"
The Marketing Arm

Brilliant move by Unilever to recycle this bit of Father's Day advertising for Dove Men+Care. Also smart to change the copy from "Isn't It Time We Celebrated Dads?" -- which sounded a little too much like those Men's Rights guys -- to a message of caring equals strength. Manly-man strength. Here we see various dads -- black dads, white dads, old dads, young dads, handsome dads, paunchy and balding dads -- interacting with young kids, old kids, happy kids, crying kids, cooperative kids, frustrated kids. Thankfully, the vignettes are shot and edited without that shaky home-movie look so that viewers can concentrate on the emotions of the spot. And bawl their eyes out. The mood's kind of ruined by the voice-over call to action at the end.

Advertising Age Player

McDonald's, "Pay With Lovin'"
Leo Burnett

Forget about a Happy Meal, how about a Sappy Meal? The fast feeder served up a heaping helping of, in the immortal words of Robby from "Joe Dirt," wah-burgers and French cries in this spot. In Mickey D's across the country, random customers were asked to pay for their orders not with cold, hard, American cash, but with some lovin'. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Tell your son why you're proud of him. Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight. Wait, where was I? Oh, a Super Bowl ad from McDonald's that is emotional, heartwarming and even shows clean restaurants and smiling, happy employees. I'm lovin' it.

Weight Watchers, "All You Can Eat"
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

We can debate all week long about whether Weight Watchers should be laying a guilt trip on people during a celebration that involves a lot of food. I say it's a brilliant time to do so. We just spent four or five hours on a Sunday consuming enough calories (from junk) to power an entire Amazonian tribe for a week. We should consider dieting!

"Wanna get baked?" asks the ad, which brilliantly draws parallels between drug addiction and over-eating, equating colored sugar with cocaine and crème brulee with heroin, and uses the addict's claims that he's totally in control and stops whenever he wants. Believe it or not, that might be a little too subtle for the Super Bowl -- and the fact that the voice-over is Aaron Paul from "Breaking Bad" is more than likely to be missed (especially since he sounds like George Clooney in this). But I still think it works. This ad is 30 seconds of well-timed selling.

Coca-Cola, "Make It Happy"
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Coke scored big eight years ago, when it imagined an animated hellscape that looked a lot like "Grand Theft Auto" turning into a land of peace and harmony thanks to the power of love (and Coke). The soda brand returns to that well this year. This time around, it's not dealing with a violent video game, but with the reality of the internet as we know it, filled as it is with outrage and bullying and hate. When a guy toiling in a server farm spills a bottle of Coke, it seeps into the social-media universe, spreading peace, love and harmony. A bottle of Coke will do no such thing, but the brand has always liked to teach the world to sing. This touching spot is true to its heritage and should resonate with those who spend so much time in the swamps of the web.

Dodge, "Wisdom"
Richards Group

God Bless America. Chrysler has found its sense of humor again after a few years of stern-faced lecturing and sermonizing and rallying -- some of which was, yes, moving and beautiful, but overall was getting a little long in the tooth. This ad starts out with nonagenarians and centenarians offering sage advice. "I'm 100 years old and I want to tell the world what I have learned," says one Reginald Gooch. He's followed by others his age giving sage advice. But 30 seconds in, they get downright sassy. "Keep your eyes open, and sometimes your mouth shut," says 100-year-old Dorothy Titleman, before the ad cuts to Fred J. Wild (also 100), driving a Dodge Challenger. Then more advice along the lines of "live fast" and "don't bitch" and "tell it like it is." It's a cheeky -- and unexpected -- way for Dodge to mark its 100th year.

Advertising Age Player

Mophie, "All Powerless"
Deutsch, Los Angeles

Mophie's ad provides viewers with the epic spectacle they like in a Super Bowl ad. The world is ending. And it's doing so in a very weird way. The kicker is that it's doing so because the battery on God's cellphone is dying. "Gosh darn it," says God -- though maybe he should have said, "Me darn it." What the ad doesn't do is explain what Mophie is. Is it a new cellphone that has extended battery life? (No: Mophie makes phone cases with batteries built in that extend battery life on your current phone).

Esurance, "Sorta Pharmacist"
Leo Burnett, Chicago

When a woman stops by the local pharmacy to pick up her prescription, she finds not a pharmacist but Walter White, from "Breaking Bad." He's sort of a pharmacist. And he's over 50 like her regular pharmacist and they both used to drive the same car. So, you know, close enough. Esurance is making a point about paying only what's right for you, not someone who's sorta you. The ad will be a hit with a certain demographic -- a cohort that are all sorta alike -- that Esurance is trying to reach.

NFL, "Super Bowl Rally"
Grey, New York

Fans from across the country -- including Don Cheadle, Britney Spears, "The Lego Movie" cast and some My Little Ponies -- cheer and cheer and cheer some more as a game comes down to fourth and goal with almost no time left. It's the sort of emotional bonding the league should be focusing on in the wake of this year's fumbles. It's too bad it couldn't do anything about having the Patriots in the game, considering #deflategate and the start of the Aaron Hernandez murder trial last week.

Sprint, "Apology"
Deutsch, Los Angeles

This is just the sort of low-concept, easy joke that is going to have high-brow ad critics shaking their heads and wondering what has become of us. And it's going to have Super Bowl viewers … wait for it … wait for it … laughing their asses off. T-Mobile can keep its high-concept comedy about data rollover fees and Wi-Fi connectivity, Sprint's just going to troll AT&T and Verizon -- and tell their customers Sprint is cheaper by half.

Fiat, "The Fiat 500X Blue Pill"

This is the sort of fun, oversexed ad that Americans expect from Fiat and accept because Italians are a sexy people. Just look at this ad! Even old Italians like to have sex! But alas, even in Italy, some old guys need a little help from a little pill. But our elderly Lothario's pill gets away from him and ends up in the gas tank of a Fiat, which suddenly becomes butch. It's a little on the long side, but amusing and finds a way to show the difference between the previous 500 and the new manly 500X.

GoDaddy, "Working"
Barton F Graf

As you may have heard, GoDaddy's original ad included a puppy. It was funny, a direct shot at Budweiser's Clydesdale spots. But then the internet's outrage zombies struck. GoDaddy was killing puppies and financially supporting puppy mills! How dare you, GoDaddy?!? Students of GoDaddy's advertising history suspected the outrage might have been part of a long con. But if you're looking for evidence that GoDaddy's "Journey Home" ad wasn't part of a marketing stunt, this ad, which seems hastily thrown together, should be Exhibit A. For any Super Bowl ad, a guy working at a desk with a simple voice-over would be considered understatement. For GoDaddy, it's just plain weird. But the thing is, it works. It's not roll-on-the-floor hilarious, but it's funny and the experience will speak to a lot of small-business owners and entrepreneurs, which is precisely GoDaddy's audience.

Kia, "The Perfect Getaway"
David & Goliath

Kia brings a little dose of reality to its Super Bowl advertising, which usually features aliens or hamsters or weird fantasies involving UFC fighter Chuck Liddell. But it does so while managing to be interesting and funny, playing with action-adventure tropes, as well as car-commercial tropes. Pierce Brosnan, formerly of the James Bond franchise, imagines a getaway featuring high speeds, missile launchers and explosions, when in reality it's a slow ride up a steep mountain in the rugged but safe Kia Sorento.

Toyota, "How Great I Am"
Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles

With Muhammad Ali's "How Great I Am" speech serving as a voice-over, Paralympic medalist and "Dancing With the Stars" finalist Amy Purdy running and driving and snow-boarding and driving and falling and driving and dancing and driving and modeling and driving and looking fabulous and fierce and beautiful and driving … the bold new Toyota Camry. Not quite sure what one has to do with the other. Sure, slapping that new grill on the front of the Camry makes it look a little more aggressive, but that's in a completely different universe from what Amy Purdy does. But, hey, Toyota at least recognizes this is a Super Bowl ad. You can't be boring in the Super Bowl and this ad isn't boring. It aims for inspirational and hits that mark, while speaking to athletes, fans of sport, and fans of comeback stories of both genders.

Toyota, "My Bold Dad"
Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles

Another one from Toyota that has very little to do with the product being sold. But, like its other ad, it shows that Toyota knows it audience. Got a room full of slightly inebriated men bonding over sports, throw down a full house of Go Dad and Team America -- from a daddy's little girl's point of view no less. BAM! Waterworks. Japanese-owned car company with an agency on the Left Coast just called your bet, Chrysler, and raised you a hundred.

Advertising Age Player

Mercedes, "Fable"
Merkley & Partners

Once upon a time, this ad from Mercedes might have been seen as a groundbreaking bit of animation. And it is beautiful to look at. But in a post-Pixar world, it's almost commonplace. The story is cute, but predictable; calling the turtle -- sorry, tortoise -- happening upon a car factory a "plot twist" is a bit of wishful thinking. It's the Super Bowl, it was either going to be a car ad or a shoe ad, right? That "Who's your turtle?" at the end is something only a six-year-old would find funny. And six-year-olds, for all their charms, are not the target demo for a car that costs well north of $100,000. (It also looked for a second toward the end that the hare was going to be turned into hasenpfeffer.)

Jeep, "Beautiful Lands"
Richards Group

Not all of the Chrysler brands found their sense of humor. Jeep is still exhibiting full-on Chryslertis, symptoms of which include long ads laced with moving imagery and inspirational words or music, sometimes involving patriotism. This ad starts out seemingly in full on Team America mode, with "This Land Is Your Land" as the soundtrack. But at the halfway mark, we start seeing international scenes cut into the American's highlands, etc. Ultimately we're encouraged to be good global citizens, sort of like the Jeep Renegade, which is an SUV, but it's America's smallest and lightest SUV. It seems an ad perfectly built for millennials and boomers who wish they were millennials -- and one easy to edit for an international audience.

Skittles, "Settle It"
DDB, Chicago

As weird as it is, this ad is almost normal compared to Skittles' typical advertising. No Skittles beards or Skittles teeth or Skittles-pox or Skittles clouds. Just an Old West town of dominant-armed freaks -- young, old, male, female, canine -- who settle their Skittles beefs the old-fashioned way: with arm-wrasslin' contests. It's eye-catching, hits the right notes for the target demographic and speaks to a universal truth (Skittles eaters do have favorite colors). But for such a strong start, it finishes a little flat.

Bud Light, "Real Life PacMan"
EnergyBBDO, Chicago

The "Up for Anything" campaign, in which Bud Light finds some schmoe and plops him into an unexpected scenario, is getting a little tired. One of the problems is that the non-actors they pick for these things never really get over that whole deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. The Tampa Bay fan who has his home and yard redecorated looks less like he's having a good time and more like he's worried his wife is going to have a fit when she sees what they did to the place (as she should). Or maybe he just looks like that because he's a Tampa Bay fan.

For this entry, however, Bud Light seems to have found someone who can emote and put him in a situation that doesn't look ridiculously stage, perhaps because it was really, really staged, what with the life-size Pac Man board, the DJs and the ghosts that look like they've been added to the action after the fact.

But Pac Man? Either Gen-X is the target or we're finally taking creative control of big-budget ad campaigns. (Or Super Mario Bros. was too hard to pull off in real life.)

Squarespace, "Om"
Wieden & Kennedy, New York

Will the sight and sound of Jeff Bridges chanting beside a sleeping couple's bed be intriguing enough to get people to rush to to figure out just what in Sam Hill is going on? ("What in Sam Hill" is totally something a Jeff Bridges character would say.) I'm not convinced. What this ad is supposed to do is drive you to the website and learn that Squarespace makes it easy to build a website, even if you're Jeff Bridges, possibly high out of your mind and possessed by a batshit insane idea -- sorry, a crazy dream -- for a business. This business? Sleeping Tapes, tracks of sounds and things, including Jeff Bridges just talking, meant to help you sleep at night. Though if you can sleep through the Ikea track, you might be less "The Dude" and more the inspiration for an upcoming "Law & Order " episode. I still haven't figured out if this is a joke or not. People can pay what they want for digital tracks, $20 for a cassette and $250 for a gold album and all money will go to No Kid Hungry. It's a fascinating project and it definitely shows off the ease and flexibility of Squarespace, but, again, will anyone hop from the Super Bowl ad to the site?

Discover, "No Surprises"

This is part of an ongoing campaign in which Discover pairs remarkably similar customers and customer-service operators to advertise that Discover It card users get their FICO credit scores on their monthly statements and online for free. This ad will look remarkably familiar to those who've noticed the campaign because it uses a customer-operator pair from a previous spot and the same general premise. This customer hates surprises. In the old commercial, he opens the door and is scared by a surprise party. In this Super Bowl spot, he is surprised by a goat. The goat screams. The customer screams. The operator screams. Because if there's one thing funnier than a screaming goat, it's a screaming man. And two screaming men is even better. Look at it this way, after advertising something as unfunny as credit scores, Discover manages to leave them laughing.

Nationwide, "Invisible"

That's right. I found this comedic bit featuring two A-List actors less funny than screaming goats. The premise was ripe with promise. Mindy Kaling think she's invisible. Antic will ensue. There was a "teaser" campaign to excite America. But what America got during the game was the exact same ad with 15 seconds of Matt Damon thrown in. Turns out Matt can see Mindy. She's not invisible, but you can sometimes feel that way when dealing with certain other insurance companies. Overall, it's a perfectly fine Super Bowl ad. But we expected so much more., "It's that easy"
Committee LA: Jeff Huggins and Andrea Janetos

Know what takes longer than Brett Favre deciding to retire? The retirement of jokes about Brett Favre deciding to retire. The former NFL quarterback needs to start his own business and build a website. makes it easy, as evidenced by the websites of other former NFLers. You got yer loud-mouthed Terrell Owen's Humble Pies, Franco Harris' Immaculate Receptions and Emmitt Smith's Double Deuces's club. The jokes will resonate with true fans and fly completely over the heads of everyone else in the room. That's fine. Football fans deserve a little something just for themselves. And at least "Favre and Carve" will finally settle the debate over how to pronounce Brett's last name. This is ad is sort of like "Building a website is so easy, even a caveman could do it," but with professional athletes.

Nissan, "With Dad"
TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles

A dad keeps showing up for work every day while missing out on some of his son's key moments, set to a soundtrack of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle." That right there might be Peak Dad. It's a solid little piece of filmmaking, with some subtle acting and clear emotion. There are even a lot of Nissans in this ad. It's just that 99.9% of them are race cars, and the dad's job is race-car driver. He's got model looks and is married to a beautiful and obviously supportive woman who worries about him. And when he does hang up his helmet after finally notching a win, and picks up his son at school, the teenage boy is like, "Aww shucks, let's hug it out." In other words, it's just as fantastical as racing a Kia around a race track while Motley Crue rocks out in the infield.

Advertising Age Player

T-Mobile, "#KimsDataStash"
Publicis, Seattle

The premise -- Kim Kardashian making fun of her selfie habit -- is a good one that has some relevance to T-Mobile's data rollover message. And it's smartly tied to Kim's massive social-media presence. But for a celebrity this ludicrous in a game this big, I need my self-deprecation turned up to 11.

T-Mobile, "One-Up"
Publicis, Seattle

Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler star in this T-Mobile spot in which they demonstrate T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling from increasingly ludicrous rooms in their mansions. Though the comedians have been mostly defanged of their signature styles (it's the Super Bowl, after all), the spot still manages to be funny and tout a product benefit.

Microsoft, "Estella" and "Braylon"

"We are going to empower every individual and every organization to do more and achieve more." The text for the voice-over in Microsoft's two spots comes from speeches made by CEO Satya Nadella. It's a corporate rallying cry, part inspiration and part horrible marketing words like "impactful" and "empower," layered over tales of true American heroes. In one spot, we have Estella, founder and CEO of Brilliant Bus, a mobile learning center meant to conquer the digital divide and doing so with the help of Microsoft. In another, we have Braylon O'Neill, born missing the tibia and fibia bones in both his legs, but soldiering through life on advance prosthetics made with the help of Microsoft. While the text is Nadella's, the voice-over work is done by hip-hop artist Common, which makes them sound just a little less like corporate platitudes.

Doritos, "When Pigs Fly"

Kid wants Doritos so bad, but dude is all, "When pigs fly," so kid runs off and straps a rocket to a pig. Get it?!?!? (But seriously, these spots always do well for Doritos and there are always far too many professionally made ads that are worse.)

Doritos, "Middle Seat"

Dude on a plane has an empty middle seat next to him and is going out of his way to stop standby passengers from sitting next to him. But when he sees the hottie, he whips out his bag of Doritos to lure her to the seat. It works, but she totally has a kid. Get it?!?!? (But seriously, these spots always do well for Doritos and there are always far too many professionally made ads that are worse.)

Carnival, "Return to the Sea"
BBDO, Atlanta

Someone contact the Centers for Disease Control. It's not just Jeep: Carnival, too, has contracted Chrysleritis. Here, instead of Paul Harvey extolling the virtues of the farmer for Ram Trucks, we have John F. Kennedy extolling the virtues of the sea for a cruise line. Chrysler used stunning still images. Carnival uses somewhat attractive video and slows it down a bit. Paul Harvey's delivery was oddly haunting and near perfect. John F. Kennedy's was sort of, uhhh, odd and, uhhhh, somewhat, uhhhhh, rambling and kind of, uhhhh, sounded more like a preacher trying to make a weird point, or one of those scientifically inaccurate motivational JPEGs your aunt keeps posting on Facebook. But old people -- sorry boomers -- love 'em some JFK, so maybe this will make the phones ring off the hook for Carnival.

Intuit (Turbo Tax), "Boston Tea Party"
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

The premise of the ad -- the American Revolution is called off because the Brits allowed for easy and free tax filing -- is completely ridiculous, well-executed and kind of funny, especially ol' George Washington saying, "Alright then. Pack it up," then rowing back across the Delaware. Then the voice-over guy butts in and says, "OK, so maybe that's not exactly how it went down." That's not comic understatement, that's just lazy writing trying to tie your selling proposition to your goofy Super Bowl-ad concept. Try harder, guys!

Skechers, "Pete Rose: The Hall"
Siltanen & Partners

Hey, the young people can't have all the jokes. This 15-second ad for Skechers relaxed-fit shoes will strike the funny bones of baseball fans and those old enough to know why it's funny that Pete Rose can't be in the hall. It's going to take longer than 15 seconds to explain to the kids in the room why this is funny, and who that guy is, and why anyone would need relaxed-fit shoes. GET OFF MY LAWN, YOUNG PEOPLE!

WeatherTech, "America at Work"
Pinnacle Advertising

Getting in front of millions of Super Bowl viewers might be worth $4 million, especially if you're in a category that doesn't have a lot of big-ticket, national advertising. They'll remember your name next time they're in the store! But that only works if they see your ad and, sorry, guys, but this is the Super Bowl. And this sort of low-key, straightforward product ad is basically a 30-second bathroom break.

Victoria's Secret, "Let the Real Games Begin"

Oh, look, some models with the come-hither looks rolling around in their lingerie. Bragging about its global reach and its effect on libido, this Victoria's Secret spot claims that all around the world there is magic in this bag. (Hocus Pocus! We took 15 cents worth of lace and cotton and turned it into $30!) The spot, set to run during the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter, closes with the words, "Let the real games begin." You know, because nothing gets Americans in the mood for love like watching their significant others suck the meat off of chicken bones while screaming at the TV. But the sexy ladies are memorable and Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so it's not the worst media buy in the world.

Lexus, "Make Some Noise"
Walton Isaacson

"Be seen. Be heard. Make some noise," says this ad for Lexus. Well, it succeeds at making some noise. Being seen and heard, I'm not so sure about. This ad is nice to look at -- it's reminiscent of Cadillac's "Chrome Couture" spot from 2006, which is remembered only by ad people who like shiny things. And it might fit in well during the Oscars or as a Fashion Week ad. But considering the Super Bowl competition, the lack of gee-whiz factor makes it just another chance to slip out to the kitchen. This might sound crazy, but considering the success of "Dancing With the Stars," "So You Think You Can Dance" and Sia videos, the ad could have used more dancers, fewer cars.

Another Lexus spot, bought at the last minute and from agency Team One, for the RC F coupe, was sort of fun, but also lacked that special Super Bowl something.

UCool, "Heroes Charge"

Are mobile-game companies doing that well that they can justify this kind of media buy for a mediocre ad? The graphics are fine, but this ad lacks the charm and humor of "Clash of Clans" advertising we've seen recently or the cheese-ball (and cheesecake) factor of those Kate Upton ads for "Game of War."

Nationwide, "Boy"
Ogilvy, New York

I could quibble with the writing in this ad. "I'll never learn to ride a bike, or get cooties." The initial "learn to" reads (and sounds) like the kid will never learn to get cooties. But my problem with this ad is less that Strunk and White (and David Ogilvy) might be upset, it's that YOU PORTRAYED THE DEATH OF A CHILD DURING THE SUPER BOWL. Now, you may be asking, "Why does the NFL get a pass for the ad and we get slammed for this?" Because rightly or wrongly, people see a relationship between sport and domestic abuse. And they definitely see one between the NFL and domestic abuse. The NFL might even be lauded for some self-examination. People don't want to think about a child drowning in the bathtub or stuffing his face full of household cleaners or being crushed by a flat-screen TV while they're watching the Super Bowl. Hey, by the way, anyone seen Jimmy Junior since the second quarter?

I see what you did there. I did. Sure, you want to "spark debate" and "start a conversation" -- and you will. I just hope you're all wearing your flak jackets and outrage pants.

Jublia, "Tackle It"
Harrison and Star, New York

Do you have toenail fungus? I'm sorry. But there WAS a Super Bowl spot just for you. It looks just like a regular pharmaceutical ad for a drug that would treat toenail fungus, except in this one, the disgusting, fungus-covered toe creature is wearing a football helmet! Because you're watching a football game! That said, any sufferer of toenail fungus that sees this spot is likely going to remember Jublia's name if he decides to actually do something about his toenail fungus. (I have now reached my quota for mentions of toenail fungus for the year.)

Pepsi, "Halftime Intro"

You got points for creativity last year. But this is how you choose to use your Super Bowl time for the second year in a row? With an ad for the thing that's going to happen at the end of the ad? And one that features a Pepsi machine, a Pepsi truck being beamed up by a UFO? I'll take it back if this somehow ties into the Katy Perry halftime show in such a way that my mind is completely blown. Hell, I'll take it back if anyone remembers this intro at all. But I'll give you a star for trying to reinforce the fact that the halftime show is sponsored by Pepsi.

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