Super Bowl

Super Bowl Ad Review: The Good, the Bad, the Clydesdales

In a Clutter of Car Companies, Bud, Samsung and Tide Stand Out

By Published on . 17

Budweiser's 'Brotherhood' gets four stars.
Budweiser's 'Brotherhood' gets four stars.

Yes, I know. Reviewing Super Bowl ads at a computer is like playing the Super Bowl on "Madden NFL": It's not exactly realistic. Then again, neither is this idea that the average consumer is hoping your Super Bowl ad will lead to some enhanced experience with the brand. They're not asking for connections. They're not asking to vote for anything. They're not asking for originality -- not that there's much of that on display this year. You, the marketer, have 30 to 60 seconds (or, in the case of Chrysler, 120), to delight, entertain and sell. Or at least just delight.

Interestingly, the auto companies have shouldered the bulk of the burden to do that, it seems. Sure, their ads might be derivative or have nothing to do with cars, but they're trying, God bless 'em. It's Friday afternoon and I'm going to bet that the car companies, along with Doritos and Budweiser, will dominate water-cooler conversation today.

Note: Super Bowl ads are defined as ads running nationally between kickoff and the final whistle.

See all the spots here.

Budweiser, "Brotherhood"
Anomaly, New York
Looks like someone in the C-suite of A-B InBev realized that last year's relegation of the Clydesdales to bit players was about as American as Belgian beer. This year the horses return to their rightful role as stars. Weepy, sentimental, nostalgic. I don't care. This is everything I want from a Budweiser Super Bowl spot.

Samsung, "The Big Pitch"
72andSunny, Los Angeles
Samsung takes a break from mocking Apple to mock all the other Super Bowl ads. Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, after trashing each other, pitch ideas to Bob Odenkirk for a campaign -- ideas including talking babies (E-Trade), sending people to space (Axe), crowdsourcing (Doritos, Audi, Coke), Asian rappers (Wonderful Pistachios) and celebrity endorsements (uh, Samsung). The spot gives Samsung a little extra bit of cool and manages to repeat the tagline "The Next Big Thing" seven times.

Coca-Cola, "Security Camera"
Landia, Buenos Aires
See, Coke, this is what I want from my Super Bowl ads. I don't even care if it already ran during the Olympics. This spot, according to Creativity, came from Coke Latin America and producer Landia and stitches together "security-camera footage that has captured little acts of love, kindness, silliness and happiness." Good feelings associated with the brand help us to forget all about calories, sugar and gimmicky social-media stunts. Super Tramp's "Give a Little Bit" helps, too!

Tide, "Miracle Stain"
Saatchi & Saatchi, New York
Tide is back with another stain-themed ad. This one, too, is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Unlike the singing stain from a few years back, this is a miraculous one, a Joe Montana-shaped splatter on the jersey of a 49ers fan. It turns into a media sensation as 49ers from around the country line up for a look. Until the stain is disappeared by the fan's wife -- who's washed it away with Tide. And also happens to be wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey. For my money, this is better than Coke's trick last year with the polar bears (though as this is running in the fourth quarter, it could seem weird if the game is a blowout).

Axe, "Lifeguard"
BBH, London
How to tie a Super Bowl ad to a promotion giving away a trip to space? With this ad, which has two payoffs. The first is the studliest lifeguard ever punching a shark. The second is the swooning girl being distracted from this "Baywatch" god by the appearance of a dork in an astronaut suit. Because astronaut beats everything.

Bud Light
Translation, New York
Stevie Wonder is the star in two spots that work as natural extensions of the "Superstition" campaign that Bud Light has been running through the regular season. In each spot, fans traverse the land to reach a back-alley Voodoo parlor in New Orleans, where Stevie works some magic. In one spot, he's assisted by Zoe Saldana. Funny spots that don't rely on fart jokes or frat-boy humor and build on previous efforts. Imagine that.

Jeep, "Whole Again"
Global Hue, Detroit
Chrysler, the Italian-owned American car company marketed by a Frenchman, is back at it again, making Americans feel really, really American during the Super Bowl. This Jeep spot is a salute to the solider and his or her family, voice-over provided by none other than Oprah Winfrey. "In your home, in our hearts, you've been missed, you've been needed, you've been cried for, prayed for," she says of "our nation's heroes," many of whom are supposed to be returning from our wars abroad. Actual Jeeps account for maybe five seconds of this two-minute ad, but expect it to resonate (and possibly get Republicans in a huff).

Mercedes-Benz, "Soul"
Merkley & Partners, New York
Considering the tawdry, off-brand, low-rent video Mercedes-Benz posted to the web leading up to the game -- look at Kate Upton jiggle—expectations for this ad were extremely low. But it's a solid Super Bowl effort. Set in New Orleans, Satan (Willem Dafoe) offers a young man a Mercedes CLA and all that comes with it -- Kate Upton, moves like Usher, etc.—in exchange for his soul. While a lot of this looks like last year's Kia ad, the payoff -- the MSRP of $29,900 means the kid can pay cash -- drives home an actual selling point.

Ram Trucks, "Farmer"
Richards Group, Dallas
The other two-minute half of Chrysler's "Hit 'em in the Heart(land)" combo. It's just like the Jeep spot. Except replace soldiers with farmers and Oprah with radio legend Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" essay and video of families with still shots of harsh landscape and rugged agrarians. The spot is dedicated "to the farmer in all of us." The majority of America might think potatoes grow in aisle at Walmart (or at Whole Foods if we're talking organic potatoes), but they still like to fancy themselves one step removed from a dirt patch somewhere. And Ram Trucks certainly look like the sort of big tough truck a real farmer would use.

SodaStream, "The SodaStream Effect"
Alex Bogusky, Pale Dot Voyage, Octopus of the Mind
CBS rejected a fun ad featuring Coke and Pepsi drivers (an echo of previous Pepsi spots), so the company went with this ad, which isn't so bad itself. Exploding 2-liter bottles is a great way to illustrate an environmental claim and noting that SodaStream could have saved "500 million bottles on game day alone" puts concrete numbers behind it.

Taco Bell, "Viva Young"
Deutsch, Los Angeles
Someone took "Cocoon" and replaced its score with the Spanish version of last year's big Super Bowl song, Fun's "We Are Young." Feels a little long by the end and I'm pretty sure a Taco Bell diet would be lethal to people that age, but the ad may conjure up pleasant 3 a.m. college memories for Gen Xers (who aren't getting any younger, you know!).

Volkswagen, "Get Happy"
Deutsch, Los Angeles
I have no earthly idea why Volkswagen is cross-promoting a Jimmy Cliff album. Or why it didn't go with the super cute dog Das Hund spot it's running in Holland. Everyone loves dogs. But survivors of dreary office spaces and coworkers who come back from Jamaica with an accent will find this one funny. Jamaicans found it funny, too, even if sanctimonious PC press pundits didn't. And although claiming a car can make a person that happy is a stretch, and least the ad is claiming the product can do SOMETHING.

Doritos
Consumer-generated
This year's contest winners present a mixed bag. "Fashionista Daddy" is funny and shows that the Doritos are so irresistible that burly men will go to great lengths. Yes. A product benefit. "Goat 4 Sale" features a screaming goat (this being a thing on the web). Funnier than the other spot, but seems to imply that Doritos are so noisy as to be an annoyance.

Hyundai
Innocean
"Team" is a clever spot that uses children in an hommage to the adventure-buddy films in which the lead man collects team members that each have a specific trait, whether it be fire rescue, welding or bear wrestling. It will resonate with picked-on kids, dudes and moms. It also shows that the Santa Fe can carry a number of people. Should have gone with the "A-Team" theme, though, instead of Quiet Riot's "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)." The spot for the Sonata, "Stuck," was forgettable (and the pre-kickoff ad featuring the Flaming Lips was just plain weird).

Kia, "Space Babies"
David&Goliath, Los Angeles
Great ad. Cute. Layered with verbal and visual innuendo. Funny. In fact, the funniest thing might be the ham-handed attempt to make it seem in any way relevant to a Kia Sorrento by use of the closing two seconds. But it will be a fan favorite.

Lincoln
HudsonRouge, New York
For the Ford brand's first ad in the game, it turned to Jimmy Fallon and Twitter? Really? Not as crazy as it sounds. The car looks good. Jimmy Fallon isn't annoying (as he sometimes can be). Nothing horribly off-brand -- and perhaps enough humor to drive people to SteertheScript.com to watch the full-length video. A second spot, "Phoenix," takes bits and pieces from a 60-second ad that's been running all season, with the addition of an MKZ bursting from an old Lincoln Town Car.

Oreo, "Whisper Fight"
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Sigh. Hoping that a year's worth of killer print and online Oreo marketing would lead to an epic Super Bowl spot? Sorry, you get the snack-food version of "Tastes Great, Less Filling." The whispered shouting match is amusing, people do debate cookie vs. cream and the average consumer probably missed out on all that Oreo advertising, so fans might eat this up. But still, sigh.

Toyota, "Wish Granted"
Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles
Penny from "The Big Bang Theory" is a genie in this spot. She sort of hates men, too, judging by the way she treats the dad. Some funny sight gags based on jokes that probably predated Vaudeville, but, like Kia's ad, nothing in here has anything to do with a car.

Audi, "Prom (Worth It)"
Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco
A lovable loner is empowered by Dad's Audi to walk into the gym and smooch the prom queen. He drives off with a black eye (from the prom king) and a smile. This ad works! (If Audi is targeting teens.)

Best Buy, "Asking Amy"
CP&B, Boulder, Colo.
If you like Amy Poehler's schtick -- manic, not very bright -- then you like this spot in which she pesters a Best Buy employee with stupid questions. Unlike the stupid questions they're usually faced with, some of these are funny.

Budweiser Black Crown
Anomaly, New York
In two separate spots lot of sexy, skinny people wearing black -- "the finest of our nation" -- have gathered in what looks like the ballroom of some painfully hip urban hotel to celebrate Black Crown, "a distinctive amber lager." "Here's to taste," says what is either a hipster, a brewmaster or both. Whatever he is, he's wearing an apron. "Here's to our kind of beer" -- you know, as opposed to that regular old Budweiser made for the proles out in the suburbs. This smug self-satisfaction might actually be music to millennial ears.

Cars.com, "Wolf"
McGarryBowen, Chicago
After last year's singing neck-heads, Cars.com plays it safe with a couple buying a car. A wolf puppy -- and its angry mother -- add drama, cuteness and a chuckle.

Century 21, "Wedding"
Red Tettemer & Partners, Philadelphia
No one expects a real-estate ad to push the boundaries. This one lives up to expectations with a plot straight out of The Saturday Evening Post. The groom doesn't want to live with the mother-in-law! This might speak to the anxiety of all those millennials who've boomeranged home after college (and their put-upon parents as well).

Coca-Cola, "Mirage"
Wieden & Kennedy
I expect more from my Coke ads. If you're going to try to get me to vote on something -- and I don't want to vote on anything during the game -- you're going to have to make it more interesting than this "Mad Max"-"Lawrence of Arabia"-"Priscilla Queen of the Desert" mishmash. Hell, Coke's recent "We didn't make you fat" ads are more interesting. And who wants to stick around to see what happens after the game? No one. Coke said it's a decent way to get more out of its money. Maybe it shouldn't have spent so much on this in the first place.

E-Trade, "Save It"
Grey, New York
The baby's back. Blah blah blah something 401K blah blah blah. Cute bit showing the baby blowing the money you've wasted in fees. Blah blah blah. The kid's still irresistible, though.

Gildan Activewear, "Getaway"
DeVito/Verdi, New York
Legend has it that dudes sometimes develop strong, irrational attachments to a favorite T-shirt. The Gildan T-shirt is so good that the lout in this spot risks his morning-after getaway to go back for his shirt -- which is on his ladyfriend's body. We can pretend the reaction shot from the cat represents the Parents Television Council response to this ad.

GoDaddy, "Your Big Idea" and "Perfect Match"
Deutsch, New York
GoDaddy gets one star for completely forgoing cheap sexual exploitation in its YourBigIdea.co ad. But loses it for the tight closeup of the long, awkward kiss between model Bar Refaeli and Walter, meant to symbolize the sexy side and the smart side of the company respectively. Still, it's a smarter brand position than "bimbos." And kudos for keeping everyone in clothes and not implying that Danica Patrick and Bar Refaeli will run off to the shower together after the shoot.

Kia, "Hotbots"
David & Goliath, Los Angeles
The nerd in this spot is unlikable, but the violence visited on him by the "Hotbot" seems a bit excessive. So if we don't "respect the tech" in a Kia Forte, we're going to be bullied into submission? (Note: Spot may be funnier after a few beers.)

M&M, "Love Ballad"
BBDO, New York
Red singing Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" is bad enough. But the montage of scenes showing him in real-world M&M situations -- being licked, shoved into an oven, etc. -- brings up a lot of questions about this campaign I've long repressed. Still, it works.

MilkPep, "The Rock"
Deutsch, New York
With sales flagging, MilkPep turns to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and the message that milk has the protein to power your day. The spot has all the theatrics of a Super Bowl ad, but isn't much different from an earlier ad featuring Selma Hayek.

Mio, "Anthem"
Taxi, New York
"Honey, why is that strange man with the crazy eyes shouting about change on TV? I thought the election was over!" Tracy Morgan tries to make the case that Mio brings excitement to sports drinks? Or something.

Subway, "15 Years in the Making"
MMB, Boston
A host of Subway endorsers, including Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, boxer Laila Ali and speed skater Apolo Ohno congratulate Subway spokesman Jared Fogle for 15 years of keeping off the 200 pounds he lost. Too bad that the few seconds in which Jared appears, he looks like someone being held against his will. "Just ... want ... CHEESECAKE FACTORY!"

NFL Network, "Sandcastle"
Grey, New York
This is a mildly entertaining spot starring Deion Sanders, former NFL star and personality. But people aren't going to ask cable providers for the NFL Network for the on-air talent or analysis. They'll only do so because the NFL is taking more games away from broadcasting partners.

Pepsi, "Anticipation"
Mekanism, New York
Pepsi would have you believe that this thing created by an ad agency and for which it paid CBS lots of money to run is not an ad. OK. Fine. It's not an ad -- it's just a really expensive introduction to the really expensive half-time show it's sponsoring.

Pepsi Next, "Party"
TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles
A kid is having a house-shredding party when his parents come home earlier than planned. Unlike real house parties, everyone here is drinking Pepsi Next instead of jungle juice and cheap beer. And golly-gee, Pepsi Next is so astoundingly good that the parents totally don't care about the party anymore. Weak ad, but giving away a million bottles of Pepsi Next is a good promotion.

Wonderful Pistachios, "Get Crackin'"
In-House
Sigh. I mean Psy. It's only natural that an ad campaign that latches onto pop-culture detritus and internet memes would turn to Psy. Fine for the brand. But Psy's 15 minutes just ran out.

Blackberry, "My New BlackBerry"
AMV BBDO, London
Really, BlackBerry? "In 30 seconds, it's quicker to show you what it can't do." Really!? You're in a battle to the death against feature-laden phones from Apple and Samsung. You're releasing a phone that got some half-decent tech-world buzz last week. And you're going to drop millions on a 30-second spot that doesn't offer one gee-whiz feature that would separate you from the smartphone pack?

Calvin Klein, "Concept"
Baron & Baron, New York
In this ad for men's underwear, a sexy oiled man is like a sexy greasy piston. Or is that a gear? Not sure how Concept skivvies are better than any others, but hey, eye candy for the ladies!

Skechers, "The Chase"
Siltanen & Partners Advertising, Los Angeles
Gazelles are saved from a CGI cheetah after it's caught and tackled by a man wearing Skechers. An ad this unoriginal is destined for greatness in post-Super Bowl polls.

Speedstick, "Laundry"
Red Fuse, New York
Shhh. Over there. It's a bro ad, a species on the endangered list in this year's Super Bowl. Goofy set up in a Laundromat with a guy caught handling a girl's panties -- yes, that word is used. But he handles it, no sweat, because: Speedstick. We could let this species go extinct, but c'mon. Gotta give the drunks in the back of the bar something to laugh at.

Beck's Sapphire, "Serenade"
Mother, London
Because a CGI goldfish singing to a beer bottle makes no sense in any universe. Someone was consuming something other than beer when this was created. And when it was approved.

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