The Great and Not-So-Great TV Spots from the Big Game

From beers to trailers, it’s time to look at all of the funny, weird and obnoxious commercials that came out this year.

By Eric McInnis, Arcadia University


Last Sunday, Americans all over the country came together to watch Super Bowl LI.

And when I say all over the country, I’m talking about millions upon millions of viewers.

Naturally, many companies and organizations want to show their products to millions of potential customers, meaning dozens of brands, such as Kia, Budweiser, Transformers and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” all purchased 30-second spots to advertise during the game, and each ad, even the bad ones, was given star-studded, big-budget treatment (the air-time itself cost $5 million). Still, even if the ad sucks, given the amount of passion put into each television spot, oftentimes the commercials are more entertaining than the actual match.

So, which were the best? Based on memorability, creativity and efficacy, here is a completely subjective list of the most captivating commercials, organized into types, and presented in no particular order.

BEST

1. Car: “2017 Ford Go Further”

While the other automobile ads touted one specific new vehicle, Ford’s ad focused on the company’s future technological innovations and plans, including ride sharing, electric vehicles and more.

Playing with the idea of “being stuck,” from a woman in the middle of traffic to a boy unable to put his shirt on, Ford juxtaposes the conundrums by again showing how far they’re going, ending with a very interesting concept vehicle. Likable and technologically stimulating, Ford’s future is a bright one, making this commercial deserving of recognition as one of the best ads of the game.

2. TV/Movie Trailer: “Stranger Things” Season 2

One of the biggest difficulties when making this list was picking the best TV or movie trailer, but I believe “Stranger Things” won by a hair. While “Logan,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “A Cure for Wellness” were all memorable and exciting, “Stranger Things” was the first to have exciting, never-before-seen footage.

From Eggo waffles to “Ghostbusters” to a giant beast, the next season of the Netflix hit series is sure to be a great one. The only problem? Season 2 won’t be out until Halloween.

3. Cleaner Product: “Cleaner of Your Dreams” from Mr. Clean

Easily one of the funniest ads of the night, the idea of portraying Mr. Clean as “sexy” sounds stupid, but, thanks to its music, the animation of Mr. Clean and the adorable little twist at the end, the ad is effective.

Nothing groundbreaking or ultra-clever, but one can’t help but watch the commercial and smile at the end.

4. Technology: “#Punished” from T-Mobile

T-Mobile had done several ads during the game, but “#Punished” was definitely their highlight.

Taking jabs at its main competitor, T-Mobile mocks Verizon’s data plans in a clever “Fifty Shades of Grey” parody while also managing to tout the T-Mobile One data plan.

Also, T-Mobile managed to get the hilarious Kristen Schaal, whose presence alone can make a good anything into something great.

5. Beer: “Born the Hard Way” from Budweiser

Out of all of the “political” ads that aired during the Super Bowl, Budweiser’s was by far the best. The minute-long commercial plays out like a short film, depicting a young Adolphus Busch, his immigration to America and the struggles he faced in his new country.

Outside of the fact that the ad aired at an important time in American politics, the ad still works great on its own, not just in its production value, but in the depiction of the power of immigrants, while still connecting back to Budweiser. In my opinion, a magnificent commercial.

WORST

1. Tax Service: “Humpty Hospital” from TurboTax

TurboTax had an interesting campaign. Their idea was to have one ad released online a few weeks before the game, while the follow-up to the events of the first ad will play at the Super Bowl.

A noble idea, but unfortunately, both ads just weren’t very clever. I like the concept of Humpty Dumpty falling because he was doing his taxes, but the end result is a creepy-looking effect, awkward comedy and a waste of time.

2. Candy: “A Live Super Bowl Commercial” from Snickers

Snickers had the bold idea of broadcasting a commercial live, but it was poor in its execution. The classic “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign was given a twist, with “Star Wars” star Adam Driver destroying the live set in a ravenous rage.

I know criticizing a commercial for being intentionally awkward sounds strange, but I have no other words. Simply put, Snickers’ live commercial just didn’t work.

3. Technology: “Brady Everyday” from Intel

Intel claims that their 360-degree replay technology makes anything epic, but they are wrong.

Sorry, Intel, but I don’t see how Tom Brady getting out of bed, brushing his teeth and eating pancakes is exciting, especially when your showcase of the technology consists of one swoop to the right and a stupid fanfare.

4. Beer: “BUSCHHHHH” from Busch Beer

In comedy, the worst mistake any writer could possibly make is to drag out a gag for too long.

Busch’s commercial takes the sound of a beer can cracking open and does a “hilarious” bit, drawing out the sound to the very end of the ad. Seems cute at first, but soon, the nerves become grated and you just end up uninterested in whatever’s being sold

5. Car: “Daughter” from Audi of America

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Audi’s ad, as it seems to be a decent girl-power ad, bringing up the issue of the wage-gap and equal pay. However, behind the curtain lies a different situation.

Even ignoring any personal stances or beliefs on the wage gap, I’m fascinated Audi of America claims to be a huge supporter of gender equality in the workforce, as they have no women on their six-person executive team, and their supervisory board has only 16 percent female representation, below the very low average of 20 percent female representation found in the Fortune 500 corporate boards.

I know I sound off-topic by criticizing the man behind the curtain instead of the ad itself, and Audi has made a couple of positive strides forward, but when promoting the company as pro-gender-equality, maybe Audi should first practice what they preach before releasing the ad. A shame, since removing the wage gap element would’ve made Audi’s commercial a heartwarming girl-power ad, but what can you do at this point?