The dust has settled. Green Bay has won the Super Bowl, and football season has come to an end. I no longer have to check BetUS for Super Bowl Odds and can return to my normal life of pontificating about pop culture. This, of course, means weighing in on Super Bowl commercials. Overall, this year’s offerings were generally solid. Pepsi, Budweiser, and Doritos all offered up their usual mixed bag of fare — cheap animal jokes mixed with occasionally clever concepts — while stars such as Eminem and Justin Bieber popped up to shill for the likes of Lipton Iced Tea and Best Buy, among others.

After the jump, a list of many (but not all) the spots that made an impression on me for better or worse…

The Good

Doritos Dog Commercial — It was pretty obvious where this commercial was going, and using a small dog to overpower a full-grown man is not necessarily fresh humor, but somehow, the creators of this spot sold us on it. I think it was all the slow-mo of the dog running toward the glass door. Despite myself, I laughed.

Volkswagen — Definitely one of the best of the night, this ad featured a kid dressed as Darth Vader thinking he had used the force to start a car. Truncated down to thirty seconds, the spot is definitely better in its full-length version. And to learn more about the kid, check out this interesting article here.

Bud Light — The Bud Light commercial that scored highest on USA Today’s ad meter featured dogs catering a party. I didn’t really dig that one. I much preferred the silly kitchen makeover spot which featured a sole bucket of beer serving as the only improvement to the space. It wasn’t the strongest spot, but the before and after visuals of the kitchen made it work.

Snickers — I’m not sure casting Richard Lewis as a serial complainer has been Snickers’ finest moment (they’ve done better with Betty White, Liza Minelli, and Aretha Franklin), but the Roseanne Barr bit at the end made it work.

Audi — A cinematic commercial that not only told a story but provided great imagination in the process, this Audi spot followed two prisoners of a luxury jail attempting to escape. One takes a Mercedes and winds up trapped in the old confines; the other breaks free with an Audi. The message is clever, the visuals sharp, and the plot engaging. Definitely top of the class here. The only quibble: I don’t think wealthy blue bloods listen to Kenny G. More like Vivaldi.

Chevrolet — Just like every year, the Chevy commercials generally made no impression; however, a quirky ad featuring two voiceover guys discussing their dream commercial turned out to be fairly amusing. Not the best ever, but solid. However, I definitely feel bad for the perfectly attractive woman driving the car who gets swapped out for someone “hot.”

Teleflora — Any commercial that features a guy saying “I like your rack” is always going to win points in my book.

Groupon — This wry sendup of super serious “message” commercials proved to be clever AND controversial. Isn’t that what we want?

Verizon — I liked this spot only because it passive-aggressive attacked AT&T’s reprehensible service. I’m all for that. — Okay, so the image of Joan Rivers in a hot girl’s body is highly unsettling, but let’s be honest: she looked better than Jillian Michaels.

Motorola Mobility — An artistic, engaging story about two potential lovers trapped in a stark, Orwellian universe, this iPad competitor offered up a nifty spot that may have been predictable but still a leg up over half the junk on the air.

NFL — And my favorite ad of the night: a digitally altered montage of our favorite sitcom characters getting ready for game day. If you love sitcoms as much as I do, this was like the Holy Grail of Super Bowl ads.

The Bad

Coca Cola — Coke offered up two duds: one was a spot featuring border guards; the other an incomprehensible mess with a dragon. Neither captured anyone’s attention. I know the company is all about promoting this image of “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” but the message is getting stale.

Budweiser — A rugged cowboy shows up in a Wild West Saloon, sips some beer, and then busts out with “Tiny Dancer.” It’s wacky, bizarre, and totally dumb. All in the bad way. Listen, people, the whole “Tiny Dancer” thing is over. Great song, but using it in pop culture is soooo 2000.

Chevrolet — Aside from the spot mentioned above, everything else put forth by this automaker pretty much sucked. Actually, it didn’t suck. It was just so generic and boring that it failed to resonate whatsoever.

Pepsi Max — A silly commercial featuring a high-speed Pepsi launcher ended in the cheapest of gags: a can socking a guy in the nuts. Listen, I’m all about the groin humor, but not in such an uninspired way.

CarMax — Featuring several metaphors come to life (ie. kid in a candy store), this wannabe clever ad turned out to be merely weird.

Lipton Brisk — The first of two Eminem commercials (the other was a somber ode to Detroit by Chrysler that many people seemed to love but I found merely morose), this stop-motion ad proved to be fussy and loud… and ultimately inaccurate, ie. Eminem announcing that he doesn’t do commercials (see the aforementioned Chrysler commercial).

HomeAway — I wasn’t really sure what was going on here except that a fake baby got flung into a glass window. It was strange.


Doritos — I don’t think I was the only one creeped out by the aggressive man licking Dorito crumbs off of fingers, pants, and whatever else was around. This didn’t make me want to grab a bag of chips; it made me want a restraining order.

E-Trade — The talking baby has never been fun or amusing or clever. This needs to be retired immediatley.

Sketchers — Starring Kim Kardashian and a chiseled trainer, this commercial merely left me musing about Nasim Pedrad’s spot-on imitation of the reality star. Then again, there was a lingering shot of Kim’s famous ass; so I guess that makes this spot the opposite of a FAIL for many people.

Best Buy — After all the hype about Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber coming together for a commercial, the end product was beyond underwhelming. In fact, I didn’t even remember the two singers were hawking Best Buy until I looked it up just now. This was certainly a gross misuse of star-power.

Sony Ericsson Xperia — I’m not sure people love the image of a floating robot with sewn on thumbs. I didn’t have a problem with it per se, but literally every person viewing the Super Bowl with me squealed, covered their eyes, and even demanded that the TV be turned off. Not a great sign.

Stella Artois — The worst commercial of the night: Adrian Brody crooning to a room of weeping women, all in the name of Stella Artois. Here’s the problem: Adrian Brody is the worst. He’s a wannabe hipster who thinks reggaeton freestyle outbursts are cool (see his infamous SNL gig). Why anyone would think he would be an ideal pitch man is beyond me. And what is an Oscar winner doing in a Stella commercial anyway (that could go for Timothy Hutton in the Groupon spot too). I liked whoever said it on Twitter that the women in the ad were crying for his career.

11 replies on “SUPER BOWL ADS: The Good, The Bad, and the FAIL”

  1. I agree with the Volkswagon/kid Darth Vader ad–that was so unexpected, but cute. The Snickers one also rated up there because I really got a satisfying moment seeing Roseanne Barr get knocked down by a stray log or steel beam. Whatever it was that hit her, I applaud it.

    I agree with the e-Trade ones. The talking baby was a novelty at first, now I just wish it was in that Homeaway commercial…

    1. Totally…. do you remember that commercial from several years ago — I think it was a Verizon ad or something? — with the monkey with a cold? It was my favorite. I told this to my friend who does creative for a major advertising agency and he told me when they were at a dead-end for a concept, they would just throw in a monkey. I fully appreciate that.

  2. I loved the Groupon commercial but I was afraid to admit it. Then I found out Christopher Guest directed it so I feel free to let my freak flag fly.


  3. The Lassie/pickup one struck a chord with me as we have a young man in our family much like the one that needed constant rescuing.

    I liked the Chrysler 200 one ONLY for the writing and how it was shot. A great nod to a formerly great city. Chrysler and Eminem? Don’t care for either one.

      1. Fair enough. Have friends that work in the auto industry there and they say it’s not what it used to be. I have only made brief stops there and shouldn’t have made a comment about something I don’t really know about.

  4. I live in a suburb of Detroit, drive a Ford, and hate Eminem, so I guess I have no room to talk.

  5. What about the “blind date” pepsi max and “carma” tire ads? Those were solid.

    How does groupon have that much $$ to be tossing around? Also, now my mom is calling me trying to figure it all out. Thanks, super bowl ad.

  6. I was quite perplexed by the number of super-gay ads during the Superbowl (not that there’s anything wrong with that…!)

    I think I counted at least 3-4 during the first half.

    That’s not counting the ‘pussy’ one involving a black couple where the female won’t let the male eat certain foods. And then they assault her and run away.

    The robot with thumbs was truly disturbing, even more so than the kid in A.I.

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