Every national Super Bowl commercial. From kickoff to the final whistle. In 3 sentences or less. Reviewed as they air. As has been our tradition, I give you my almost-real-time opinion of each ad — its effectiveness, clarity and entertainment value. I didn’t pre-watch any ads (or watch any ads again), as strong as the temptation was. Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!
So without further ado . . .
Google Home: John Denver’s “Country Roads” with an urban beat can’t quite rescue this. The dialog was a bit difficult to understand, and the product comes across as merely an Amazon Echo/Alexa imitator, with no clear differentiation.
Michelin: A great sound bed by José González from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” can’t overcome an ad that struggles to show a consistent story, and so you lose the point.
Avocados from Mexico: Selling avocados with a secret society worrying that their “secrets”, aka conspiracies, might be discovered (including that “there’s only 49 shades of gray”) seems a bit disconnected, despite some fun dialog and a “subliminal message” appearance by Jon Lovitz. A little wacky, a little fun. But will it sell avocados?
Mobile Strike: Arnold. He’s back. Hasta la Vista, baby. And probably another cliché or two that I missed.
H&R Block: A box that predicts global weather, educates children, and — helps your taxes? In this application, Watson doesn’t seem to have quite the same degree of global magnitude, no matter how important the IRS may think they are.
Skittles: The cliched “throwing rocks at a window to get the girls attention” gets an update with Skittles instead of stones. The twist is that the family inside is catching the Skittles in their mouths, including Grandma, a thief, the policeman, and a stuffed beaver. Fun, weird, and in perfect keeping with the Skittles brand — but not sure it’s worth the money they paid for a Super Bowl spot.
Busch: Crisp Cold Buschhhhhhhh. It got reallllllllly annoyingggggggg.
American Petroleum Institute: Some motivational sayings, a few all-American images, and fancy technology don’t do enough to convince me that the money they spent on this was worth it. I can’t imagine anyone’s mind being changed about oil.
GoDaddy: Cats on Roombas, a panda in the front yard, and aliens in the front seat of a late 70s VW Rabbit convertible to convey “The internet loves you.” Maybe, but not sure how that promotes GoDaddy. And true to brand, there’s a good deal of exposed skin — just on a guy (“the internet”) this time.
LifeWtr: Raining color cinematography, a John Legend soundtrack, and lines like “Art makes life more inspired.” A mixed bag for flavored water.
Intel: A chip that makes waking up, tooth brushing, pancake dropping all “epic.” I just wish I understood more — too much time was spent on the effects and not enough on the message.
AirBnB: A type-only manifesto of sorts: “We believe,” “We all belong,” “We accept.” On brand, but if you’re not familiar with Airbnb, you don’t know any more than you did before they dropped a few million on the ad.
World of Tanks: Teensy House Buyers get their teensy house destroyed by a tank, and Real Awful Moms get their ideal living room destroyed by a tank. Perfect parodies, and the fact that they are back-to-back makes the ads even more effective.
Yellow Tail: Yellow suits, stuffed Kanagooos with yellow aprons and some awkward Australian innuendo. I guess the good thing (?) is if you were unaware of the brand, you’re not anymore.
Pirates movie: Johnny Cash sings “I see a band of angels, and they’re coming after me” as creepy pirates invade your screen — a far more appropriate music choice than for some of the other movie ads.
Pistachios: An animated elephant with the old falling-off-a-treadmill joke. Not very original, and doesn’t do a whole lot to sell pistachios.
Buick: “If that’s a Buick, then my kid’s Cam Newton” is the start of the action (and the jokes) in this ad that reads like a cliché. But the acting and directing really works — quite honestly, I was laughing too hard to write coherently. Full of fun, slapstick, and obvious jokes, but it definitely gets the point across — Buicks aren’t what you might have expected.
Logan movie: Amazing Grace as the soundtrack to a superhero movie trailer? Doesn’t work for me.
T-Mobile: Justin Bieber, “celebration expert,” gives a weak history of touchdown celebrations, including Terrell Owen’s “unlimited moves” — which proves to be an awkward segue to unlimited data. I guess the point is made, but the connection was really, really rough.
Honda: Tina Fey, Amy Adams, Magic Johnson, Steve Carell and Jimmy Kimmel as talking motivational yearbook heads (“All dreams are within reach”) is fun and almost-inspiring. But it seems self-serving when it becomes a promotion for a Honda CRV. Fun idea, weak linkage.
Bai drinks: Christopher Walken sits elegantly reciting song lyrics, ending in “it aint no lie baby; bye, bye, bye.” When the camera pans to a deadpan Justin Timberlake, you get the joke. But when the product is revealed — Bai — you get the promotion. Very nicely done.
Transformers movie: They tell us our world is dying — but it has been for sequels and sequels, it seems. More of the same.
Tide: Terry Bradshaw, a trending stain on his white shirt, Jeffrey Tambor, and a documentary about gazelle migration makes for a really great way to sell Tide pods and keep you captivated. Entertaining, compelling, and sells well. Nicely done, Tide.
Sprint: “Isn’t that illegal?” asks the little kid after his dad pushes his car into a ravine to “fake his own death” and get out of his phone contract. (“Yes, extremely illegal” reads the tongue-in-cheek on-screen fine print, along with “do not attempt.”) Not sure what the Sprint spokesperson is doing, though.
Coke: Nice food shots and typical Coke shots. “A classic love story” says the tagline — maybe, but boring.
Handmaid’s Tale: This ad for a Hulu series, based on an important book, is confusing and unclear, which is unfortunate.
Weathertech: Vehicle protection in instant form, as the floormat is built, delivered, and installed in the half second before the falling coffee cup hits the floor in the driving vehicle. Better than their previous Super Bowl commercials, but still not exceptional.
Febreeze: The Halftime Bathroom Break is a clever concept, accompanied by some clever writing (“When we go from standing as rivals to sitting as one”) and clever art direction (a crocheted Little Bo Peep toilet paper holder) to make for a clever commercial that does a great job selling the product.
Alfa Romeo: Little boys do superhero things, little girls provide grace, Alfa Romeo makes red cars, and we can all now “ride on the backs of dragons.” Um, ok — even though I REALLY want to drive a Quadrifoglio.
Michelob Ultra: The beer brand continues its niche advertising of “perfect for workout types” with some CrossFit/spin class footage and lots of back-slapping, all to the Cheers theme song.
TurboTax: Horses, knights, and a patched-together-egg in the hospital make for an interesting pitch for tax software, but it works somehow. Clever dialog like “We DID try to put you back together!” and “But you were the one sitting on the wall!” helps.
Lexus: Even a Sia soundtrack can’t quite rescue same-old footage of cars driving around a warehouse.
The Fate of the Furious movie: Vin Diesel, fast cars, explosions, a giant wrecking ball and a submarine.
Squarespace: John Malkovich in his wry, escalating anger attempts to get his name/URL back from someone else, and Squarespace tries to get us to buy our names as URLs. Hmmm. I’m sure Squarespace gets a markup when someone buys a domain, but that’s not really a high-profit area. It makes a curious strategic choice for a build-your-own-website company.
Wendy’s: The setup is nice, with rows upon rows of frozen beef patties. The payoff — with a guy holding a pink hair dryer “thawing” patties to the Foreigner tune “You’re as Cold as Ice” — is fun and effective, and definitely makes the point. The cherry on top is the use of a clever URL on-screen. Very effective.
84 Lumber: Beautiful, gorgeous cinematography throughout this VERY long commercial showing a Hispanic mother and daughter. You think you know where the story is going; however, there are enough diversions along the way that you second guess yourself. But the ad stops abruptly with only a URL to continue the story, leaving me confused (although my crack team of researchers tell me there’s a good reason). **Update** As of halftime, the URL (www.journey84.com) was NOT functioning, either through a traffic overload or malicious activity. **2nd Update** Thanks to one of our readers for letting us know you can screen the entire 84 Lumber ad here on YouTube.
NFL: Super Bowl Babies, a soundtrack from Chicago (“You’re the Inspiration”), and the tagline that football is family. Cute.
Audi: The narration gets a little heavy as the girl is challenged by slightly clichéd “evil” boys down the soapbox derby course. But she wins the race, and she and her dad walk off into the sunset (and into an Audi). Equal pay for equal work is a noble cause to champion, but I wish Audi could have done it more subtly.
Mr. Clean: Your favorite bald cleaning cartoon mascot appears to be getting a little risqué — until Mr. Clean turns into an overweight husband. Slightly uncomfortable for me, for some reason.
Snickers: As the western town falls down (live?) around the actors, the tagline reminds us that “you ruin Super Bowl commercials when you’re hungry. Great use of the “when you’re hungry” franchise, and great use of the “live” feature — including a score, just so you knew it was live. Clever and fun.
Anheuser-Busch: As a man immigrates from Germany and navigates his way across America, it became pretty clear where this commercial was going. The ad was well-shot, well-acted and well-directed, but was a bit risky (more than a bit?) in the 2017 political environment. The closing tagline “When nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink.” ties it all together nicely.
T-Mobile: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg pitching more unlimited T-mobile. Seems gimmicky, and I didn’t immediately get what it had to do with unlimited. Or T-Mobile.
Persil: Bill Nye. White lab coats. White tuxedos. And 10 dimensions of clean. Just odd.
Kia Niro: The whales, the trees, the ice caps and the the rhinos need Melissa McCarty’s help — and she ends up getting tossed, dropped, buried and speared in the process. You aren’t sure where it’s going until the voiceover tells us that “it’s hard to be an eco warrior, but it’s easier to drive like one” with a Kia Niro hybrid. Funny and effective.
It’s a 10 Haircare: Black and white shots of wild hair and a tongue-in-cheek political reference to “the next 4 years.” We’re challenged to “make up for it with great hair.” Not sure why or how, though . . . especially since I’ve never heard of the brand.
Netflix/Stranger Things 2: Starts out with an 80s Eggo commercial and it just gets weirder from there. Scary shows aren’t really my thing, but the ad definitely gets your attention.
A Cure for Wellness movie: This horror (?) movie takes the typical pharmaceutical list of side effects and tortures it a bit (insanity is a listed symptom), along with some slightly frightening images. Effective, if you’re into that sort of entertainment.
Battle of Evony videogame: Lush, dramatic and anachronistic battle of Chinese, Civil War, Revolutionary and medieval European warriors pitch a video game. I’m told the actors were some big names (although I didn’t recognize them).
AMC Walking Dead: A football gets obliterated by a spiked club, and an on-screen title. More of an announcement than a promotion.
Fiji Water: Child voiceover about pure water, with a bottle overlay onto a busy dark blue interstate. Yawn.
Baywatch movie: The Rock is an unlikely lifeguard in what appears to be a make-fun-of-ourselves, tongue-in-cheek comedic approach to the ’90s franchise. Funny, but you wonder if you’ve seen it all in the trailer.
Alfa-Romeo: Nice engine sounds as a red car winds its way along curvy mountain roads. The voiceover tells us she’s “found the perfect escape from monotony.” Better than the earlier Alfa-Romeo ad; however, no new ground here. (But I still want to drive one — that exhaust noise . . . . .)
T-Mobile: I think the point of this ad was that Verizon is the perfect phone carrier for S&M lovers, so choose T-Mobile. I think?
NFL: The field crew paints lines while footage from old Super Bowls plays, as the camera pulls back to show they’ve been painting the lines of the USA on the gridiron. The voiceover reminds us that “We live united inside these lines;” a not-so-subtle reminder that would be helpful to take to heart as a country right now. Very effective.
Wix: Action movie meets cooking show; the restaurant is destroyed while the chef builds his website, prompting his decision to start a mobile food truck. Pretty involved commercial, but it does make the point well enough.
Amazon Echo: The dog gets into some food, Alexa gets asked a question, and . . . the ad was over.
Turkish Airlines: Morgan Freeman admonishes us to explore the world. Except the camera pulls back to show a plane full of Morgan Freemans, and then he’s in a field in his airline seat. A bit creepy, especially when the voiceover suggests you could be “one of us.” Does nothing to make me want to fly Turkish Airlines.
Amazon Echo: The little girl makes a smart football reference, the dad makes a comment to Alexa, and . . . the ad was over.
Kings Hawaiian: A couple of guys stuff rolls in a hole in the wall, which the kids find in the grandfather clock on the other side. Puzzling.
Amazon Echo: They’ve run out of Doritos, someone asks Alexa for more, and . . . the ad was over. These 3 VERY short ads happen too quickly to be effective.
Bud Light: So the ghost of Spuds McKenzie shows up in some sort of Dickensian/Christmas Carol/Ghost of Christmas Past-Present-Future long-form commercial. The moral? Apparently Spuds’ soul can’t rest if people don’t drink Bud Light with Friends. A little funny, a little creepy.
T-Mobile: Another weird, innuendo-laced Verizon put-down, this time with a customer service rep. And I’m even LESS endeared to T-Mobile than before.
Nintendo Switch/Legend of Zelda: Interesting that they show the logo at the beginning of the commercial. Great gameplay video — compelling, if you’re a gamer.
Mercedes: A biker bar, full of leather-coated bearded folks starting to fight until they are informed they’ve all been “blocked in” by a Mercedes AMG-GT roadster. And they all stand in awe as the car, driven by Peter Fonda, drives away. Not sure I get the point of this ad, even if the Coen brothers did direct it.
Alfa Romeo: Italy, roads, engine, voiceover. Their best ad of the night. “Some cars take your breath away. Only one gives it back.”
Sprite: Lebron won’t TELL us to drink Sprite, but he’ll ask us. It’s actually pretty effective, despite breaking the 4th wall. And my co-watchers tell me it’s an old ad.
KFC: This gold stuff just keeps getting weirder. The facepaint, the extra “colonel” hanging around in the background. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s not working for me.
Tide: Part 2. Shorter, spilled coffee this time, but Jeffrey Tambor is again deadpan effective when Curt Menefee and Terry look at him through the screen. An effective extension of the first “stain” ad.
So that’s your 2017 crop of Super Bowl commercials. The ads were pretty good overall, but nothing was tremendously outstanding. My pick for best ad? I would call it a tossup between the Buick ad and the Tide pair of ads. Both were effective, funny, entertaining, and memorable. The Buick might get the nod, as it can be run many more times; the Tide ad really only works for the Super Bowl.
(A footnote: a big shout-out to my crack team of researchers, Carson McQuaid and Caleb McQuaid. Thanks, guys!)