So first off, I just have to say, this was a dud year. There were a shocking number of ads that were completely boring, including the very first ad, which was so dull my notes just say, “boring beer ad.” When I sat down to write this I looked up the ad and failed to write down what it was for. Some variety of Michelob, apparently, and it had heavy breathing in it. Seriously, ad people: this is your showcase. This is your night! Make this worthwhile.
I did watch the game, too. We rooted for the Panthers because we have a minipanther that lives in our house, although my younger daughter almost rooted for the Broncos because she likes horses.
This was not, as these things go, a particularly bad year for misogyny. The Hyundai ad that sells its Car Tracking feature by suggesting you could let your daughter’s date borrow the car and then stalk them obsessively, though… it’s offensive and also a really tired joke.
I tried to decide if they could have breathed new life in it by doing something a bit unexpected, like gender-swapping the teenagers so it was an overprotective parent of a son doing the stalking, or making both the kids the same sex, but I don’t think that improves the joke any.
It’s clearly a feature designed to let you spy on your teenager, though. I think a more amusing ad might have featured a parent stalking their teenager because they were afraid they were getting into some sort of mischief, only to find out that they were spending all their free time LARPing and didn’t want to admit to their parents what an incredible nerd they were.
Worst overall idea:
“Depressed elderly astronaut parent moping around the house? Give him the keys to a car that goes 200 mph and take him driving on mountain roads late at night.” The Audi ad was particularly worrisome given that my initial take on it was that the elderly man was a dementia patient.
Will haunt your dreams forever:
Why would anyone run an ad that basically says, “our product induces terrifying hallucinations“? This was apparently an ad not for regular Mountain Dew but for some beverage called Kickstart but I was so riveted by the PuppyMonkeyBaby that I missed what they were actually selling. Someone out there probably found this thing cute. I think it would’ve worked just fine as a trailer for a horror movie.
Most pointless use of a celebrity:
Too many to really pick one. Celebrity appearances are frequently wasted on me, since I have trouble recognizing people out of context. Some ad makers, aware that this problem exists, helpfully have them tell you at the beginning of the ad who they are so that you know to be appropriately impressed.
The Scott Baio appearance in the Avocado ad was baffling to me, but I kind of loved the aliens wandering around the museum and then stuffing their faces with guacamole.
Most pointlessly insulting to much of the viewing audience:
“Are you a great person? Only if you have have a credit score of 740 or higher.” The ad for SoFi randomly pointed the camera at people, telling you which ones were “great,” including lines like, “This guy’s mom thinks he’s great, but she’s wrong.” The last line is, “find out if you’re great at SoFi.com,” and apparently the original version finished with, “you’re probably not.” WTF, SoFi.
Oddest use of a cute animal:
“Beastiality jokes are totally on for the Super Bowl as long as no one’s trying to go past first base.”
Some things shouldn’t be anthropomorphized, ever:
The creepy and surreal talking razor advertising the Dollar Shave Club was sort of squicky, but it had absolutely nothing on the little unhappy intestines with a face that had to leave a sporting event to go stand in a long line for a bathroom, until discovering the wonders of some new drug for IBS.
Unpleasant medical issues award:
Opiates cause constipation (I knew this from watching Trainspotters, actually) and people taking opiates from chronic pain may deal with this a bunch, but the guy wandering around envying everyone their ability to poop made me want to change the channel.
It was still better than the toe fungus ad, which for some reason started with a guy getting sucked through a portal from his Super Bowl party and being scorned by cool football people for having toenail fungus.
Hindsight is 20/200 Award:
“Wouldn’t it be great if it were super, super easy to get a mortgage? Because then people would spend all sorts of money furnishing their houses and that would grow the economy and things will just grow and grow and nothing about this will ever go wrong in any way!” It’s like the housing bubble of the early 2000s summed up in a sixty-second ad spot, but apparently Rocket Mortgage wants a do-over of the whole thing.
Best ad from a beer I will never drink no matter how good their ads are:
The Bud Light Party ad with Seth and Amy and people waving political signs saying “CANS, NOT CAN’TS.” Cute! Still not going to drink Bud Light, though.
Best car ad:
The Kia Optima ad with Christopher Walken, whose line, “it’s like the world’s most exciting pair of socks, but it’s a mid-sized sedan” deserves to become a re-mixed classic. Also, Christopher Walken with a sock puppet. Also, the whole surreal premise of Christopher Walken hanging out in the walk-in closet.
I also rather liked the Prius bank robbery get-away ad. Though as someone pointed out on Twitter, the whole storyline rather neatly underscores the fact that white people do not worry about getting shot by police, even if they’re in the process of committing a crime.
On re-watching it, I noticed that there is a black person in the ad — the original Prius owner, who has his car stolen by the bumbling thieves who leave their ill-gotten gains behind as a thank-you. We don’t see whether this guy gets arrested by the police as a suspected accomplice and tossed into the slammer while everyone raves about how cute the bank robbers are.
Best inadvertent commentary on an adjacent ad:
Possibly this was a specifically local set of ads, since it aired during half time. But there was an ad for Associated Banks in which a waiter brings out a plate that the diners didn’t order and refuses unapologetically to take it away even though it contains ingredients they’re allergic to; the punch line is something like, “a restaurant couldn’t get away with this sort of thing, why should banks?” So, you know, basically a complaint about companies that aren’t honestly about what they’re selling you. This ran directly after an ad for Scientology which did not, of course, say things like, “we will take all your money and recruit your children into our insane space navy.”
Over the Top Futurism Award:
A TRON-esque ad with Liam Neeson (and his son, apparently) featuring a race through a maze and a motorcycle that spews sparks, with an ominous soundtrack and statements like “there is a revolution coming” and “it will change everything…that’s why they want to stop it.”
It was an ad for a TV.
Best cute animals:
There was a Heinz ketchup ad that featured a large mob of dachshunds, all of them costumed as hot dogs, running toward humans dressed up as Heinz ketchup bottles.
(The YouTube video is the “extended version,” which means more footage of adorable dogs running through a field. Win!)
It was kind of a surreal ad and I’m not even sure what it was trying to say, but hey, dachshunds dressed up as hot dogs running through a field. What’s not to like?
I also rather liked the singing sheep. I think I may have been the only one, though.
Best use of fictional characters:
You’d think that if you were going to swipe the last Coke belonging to one of the Avengers, you wouldn’t take it from Bruce Banner. The Coke Mini ad, in which Ant-Man goes hunting for soft drinks in Bruce Banner’s laboratory, essentially comes across to me as video fanfic, complete with shipping. I went hunting on a large fanfic site, and Bruce/Scott doesn’t actually seem to be a particularly common pairing. Yet.
Best ad starring our favorite lawyer
Texas Law Hawk for Taco Bell, of course. LAW HAWK!