This year’s Super Bowl was a lot more understated, with less of an emphasis on showy ads or slapstick humor. That’s not to say either of those things were absent, but that there were less of them than in years past. And, if I’m being honest, I felt this was a fairly weak year, ads-wise.
But, there were a handful of ads that I felt worked for a variety of reasons, so I’m going to talk about them:
1. Hyundai “Dad’s Sixth Sense”
This is my favorite overall ad of the year. In a lot of ways it exemplifies the tone of the year by being light-hearted and telling a story about a dad & his son. As I kept thinking about ads, this one kept coming to the front of my mind and while it’s not as funny as the VW ad, or as family-focused as the Cheerios ad, it tells a sweet story and explains a Hyundai USP.
As someone who spent months thinking about car technology working on a Nissan campaign, I know how difficult it can be to explain innovation eloquently, and this ad did a fantastic job of explaining—a no doubt a super-complicated technology—automated-braking in an easy to understand way.
2. Volkswagen “Wings”
Not unlike how Hyundai took an interesting approach to explaining one of its USPs, VW did a good job of getting to the idea “more Volkswagens get to 100,000 miles than other cars” in a funny way. Plus, in an otherwise soft year, it was nice to get some old-fashioned physical comedy.
3. Cheerios “Gracie”
Beyond this being a cute father-daughter moment, I really like how the Cheerios play a major role in the ad’s story. You can’t tell your friends or family members about why you like the ad without mentioning the Cheerios themselves.
Also, I love that Cheerios responded to the racist crazies that made them shut down the comments section on an earlier ad that focused on this family by making another ad with the same family and spent $4M+ to get it into the Super Bowl.
4. Wonderful Pistachios “Stephen Colbert”
What I think is really great about this ad was that WP did something really interesting by splitting their 30-second buy into two 15-second spots, split up by a 30 spot for H&M. It was attention-grabbing because of the non-standard time units, and the joke is amplified by the gap.
Once again, like the Cheerios ad, you can’t tell anyone why you liked this ad without saying “pistachios.” Granted, in this case, its slightly less strong because you can get away without saying Wonderful Pistachios.
And that’s where my list ends. It feels weird to say, but out of 57 ads, those are really the only ones I cared enough to recommend.
That being said, there are a few ads I personally didn’t care particularly strongly about, but are worth discussing:
Budweiser “Puppy Love”
After last year’s super-sweet “Brotherhood,” to me “Puppy Love” doesn’t add anything to that story or universe, so I’m not going to link to it, but it won the USA Today Ad Meter so I thought I’d mention it.
Budweiser “Hero’s Welcome”
I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, like most of the heart-having world, I am particularly sensitive to soldiers’-homecoming stories and on that measure this spot hits right where is seeks to. And, I think it’s actually really nice that Budweiser did something decent for that soldier and that they spent a few million dollars to thank the troops on a national stage like the Super Bowl.
But, on the other hand, for those same reasons it seems a little manipulative to use something like serving men & women to associate that positive feeling to their almost entirely unrelated brand.
Sometimes it’s OK to enjoy dumb comedy. Sort of like fast food. And I think this is dumb fun in the best way. That being said, I actually think they pulled off the simple funny idea of “chihuahua + doberman= potentially disastrous combination” as a way to explain why mass appeal isn’t Audi’s style.
Doritos “Breakroom Ostrich”
So, technically this ad didn’t run. It was, however, one of the five finalists for this year’s Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” competition, so that’s good enough for me. It’s here because I think it’s a good example of a simple idea, well executed. Because, even though you can see the joke coming a while away, it still gets you at the end.