More anticipated in some households than the actual Super bowl, or even the half-time show, is the interstitial advertising spots that break up the periods of play.
In the PVR and on-demand generation of viewing, live-event advertising has become coveted ground. The most sacred and lucrative of which is Super Bowl commercial real estate.
This is the one game that produces both a captive audience and an urge to share reactions, thus creating impressions on social media. This year the ads had a distinctively political theme as the ads that got the most Twitter engagement and reaction were commenting on Donald Trump from the get go. The cross section of commercials were a commentary on our current culture. Many were health, technology, celebrity or civil rights motivated.
With the game being underwhelming for the first three quarters, the commercials became the star of the show. So here is the not-so-definitive and totally-open-for-debate list of the best Super Bowl LI commercials.
1. Shields Health Care: 5 Rings #RogerThat
Tom Brady may have taken the high road in pre-game interviews and on the post-game podium, but even the GOAT isn’t immune to throwing shade. In what by default becomes his best commercial Brady takes a subliminal shot at Roger Goodell and filmed a commercial with the presumption he’d win a fifth Super Bowl well before the game was played. The original version of the commercial featured Brady with four Super Bowl rings but the alternate version plays like a diss track and shows that the Super Bowl MVP is not superstitious.
2. Hyundai: A better Super Bowl
One of the best commercials was the last. This is the closest thing to a tearjerker there was and it aired as soon as the game was over. Hyundai filmed this commercial live throughout the game and had to get approval from the NFL, FOX and the United States Military before it ran. Considering how many eyes were watching, it was a risk but it was worth it.
3. T-Mobile: #NSFWireless with Kristen Schaal
The commercial most likely to elicit a laugh out loud response was this ad. Although it may not be safe for work without further explanation, it will rack up impressions online. Schaal may very well go from underrated comedian to household name.
4. T-Mobile: Punished with Kristen Schaal
5. Google Home: Home by you. Help by Google.
This commercial set the tone for the suggestive political nature the commercials would have. One of the first shots seen was of a LGBTQ flag flying high. The diversity of the faces shown calling America “home” via Google Home was breathtaking to watch.
6. Mr. Clean: Cleaner of Your Dreams
I really loved this commercial. I love that Mr. Clean has been transformed into a new age character. The comedy is subtle and yet brilliant.
7. Audi Of America: Daughter
The luxury car brand made waves by promoting a pro-feminist movement and broaching the topic of equal rights. At the end of the spot the company pledges to be an equal-pay employer, but the real strength of the message is the “What do I tell my daughter?” narrative throughout.
8. Avocados From Mexico: #AvoSecrets
This is really smart spot because it comments on and makes fun of our current culture, and includes a Deflate-gate joke as well as a subtle Antonio Brown Facebook Live reference. It’s certainly a commercial people will be talking about at the water cooler on Monday.
9. Airbnb: We Accept
This yet another ad that stressed the themes of diversity and inclusion. The message holds weight considering the discrimination allegations previously laid against the company. The commercial was the visual depiction of the company’s stance to give free shelter to anyone adversely affected by the U.S. travel ban.
10. 84 Lumber: The Journey Begins
The first version of this ad was rejected by FOX for being too political because it featured a wall. This ad didn’t reference building a wall or who would pay for it, but it did show the struggle and beauty of immigration stories. Sadly the American building materials company was promoting a website that wasn’t working and lost momentum online shortly after it aired.
11. Honda: Yearbooks
The countless celebrities crammed into this “Letter to my Younger Self” style commercial makes it worth the watch.
12. Buick: Big Game Commercial with Cam Newton and Miranda Kerr
The best QB performance on the night was Cam Newton, who starred alongside Miranda Kerr for Buick.
13. T-Mobile: #UnlimitedMoves with Justin Bieber
When you have Justn Bieber, Rob Gronkowski, Terrell Owens and dance moves in the span of 30 seconds, your commercial can’t lose. This is a winner even though it has nothing to do with phones.
14. Sprite: As seen on TV
Not even Charles Barkley can critique LeBron’s acting chops. Sprite’s commercial making fun of celebrity pitchmen worked because the defending NBA champion sold it well.
15. NFL: Inside these lines
The latest example the NFL is the best promoted and marketed sports league in the world.
16. Sprint: No need for extreme measures just switch to Sprint
This commercial directly calls out their rival Verizon. It is well acted and one of the most effective comedic spots we’ve seen on Super Bowl Sunday in a while.
17. Ford Motor Company: Ford Go Further
This is an accurate depiction on all of the real life situations that are less than ideal, concluding with a hopeful depiction of how technology can solve them. At the very least you’ll relate to some of the characters, even if you don’t have the urge to laugh at/with them.
18. GNC: Courage to Change
The GNC ad was a powerful piece of work that balances being inspirational and motivational without being preachy. The campaign is the precursor to longer profiles like the story of Canadian Jack Thomas.
The teaser spots didn’t do much, say much, or entice you to care about the product. But the 30 second spot on Sunday was really well produced.
19. Budweiser: “Born The Hard Way”
This commercial gained lots of traction leading up to the game because of it’s timelines and subject matter. Under the guise of the American travel ban on Muslims, an immigrant story would be controversial. This spot is the story of the company’s founder’s ambitious migration to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers. The ad adequately told the story of the company and evoked emotion from consumers while barely showing or mentioning the product.
20. Devour Frozen Meals: The Audition
Advertisers still believe sex sells. This spot is a comedic play off of that mantra that hit the mark.
21. Secret Deodorant: No Love At First Sight
This commercial makes you think it is one thing, only to reveal it is something else. The punchline lands well but the best part is it takes into account that Super Bowl football fans are comprised of both sexes.
22. Wonderful Pistachios: Ernie Gets Physical
You can’t go wrong when you include an animal element in your spot. Quick while informative enough to let you know that the snack for watching sports is also good for active living. The added bonus of a quick laugh made this commercial memorable.
@ElephantErnie was won of the winners of the night.
23. H&R Block: Blow It Up
The new-age financial sector is represented with the Super Bowl staple of explosions. Although it is a good reminder of the brand, this spot isn’t effective in it’s messaging. But explosions are always a Super Bowl commercial.
24. Yellow Tail: Big Game
You don’t often see wine promoted on TV as live events are more often linked with beer and vodka. Yellow Tail tries to enter the fray by showing off their brand as a choice for a younger generation.
25. Squarespace: Who Is JohnMalkovich.com? | Get Your Domain Before It’s Gone
Squarespace did a layered approach with both a pre-game ad and a director’s cut. Although they were mildly amusing because of the Malkovich factor, neither would make you laugh out loud. Since the issue of needing to squat on a domain name isn’t overly relatable, it missed the mark.
26. Skittles: Romance
The premise started well but got to repetitive after a while. They would have been better off given us more of the amazing irony of Marshawn Lynch in Scotland.
27. Bud Light: Ghost Spuds
Everyone has those friends that flake on them. This add publicly shames them while positioning Bud Light as the beer to drink responsibly with friends.
28. Busch Beer: BUSCHHHHH
Busch effectively unveils a new spokesman and new can, but it is the same old guy-in-the-woods Beer commercial. It tries to be a parody of itself but it’s not overly obvious or clever.
29. FIJI Water: Nature’s Gift
It’s a commercial about water. There isn’t much that can be done to make it funny or sexy. However, it did make me thirsty.
30. Intel: Everyday Brady
This wasn’t as hard to watch as Tom’s first-half performance on the field. Still, Intel fares well by having the game’s biggest name talking about their brand during the proceedings.
You can see all of the ads on YouTube here.