It’s that time of year again. With just days to go before the Super Bowl, most of this year’s advertisers have started rolling out their game-day campaigns.
More than 40 brands have laid down the estimated $5 million required to buy 30 seconds of ad time this year – and plenty doubled down and bought 60-seconds, too. As excitement builds, the Marketing editorial team watched dozens of big budget spots and intriguing teasers, picking out the best and worst of this year’s crop of ads.
Someone had to pay tribute to the recently-departed David Bowie in a Super Bowl commercial, but it’s done very subtly here with some background music (“Starman”) in a clip that manages to tell a moving story about fathers and sons, the process of aging, the courage to explore the unknown and, ultimately, the joy of taking off. -SS
This is an example of where trading on popular music falls flat. It’s been eons since Aerosmith released anything worth hearing, and after stints on American Idol and other cameos, Stephen Tyler’s attempts at self-parody have become cloying and unwatchable. The lyrics to “Cryin’” come to mind: “Now I’m tryin’ to forget you.” Just like this ad. -SS
Your boy Drake brings it in his ad for T-Mobile. The ad is knowingly cheesy, just like Drake’s dance moves. And it pulls from one of last year’s biggest pop culture moments, placing T-Mobile’s corporate suits into the actual Hotline Bling video.
The brand’s super teaser was great, too. It was like a walk through the greatest hits of Super Bowl advertising. But who can compete with Drake’s full court smile? -RM
Pan: Rocket Mortgage
In its Super Bowl debut, Rocket Mortgage uncomfortably tries to position itself as the secret key to kick starting the engine of American prosperity. It casually posits that a “tidal wave of home ownership” could boost the economy by making mortgages as easy as sending a Snapchat.
The ad is dripping in misguided Make America Great rhetoric that glosses over recent history (like, the mortgage crisis) and boils down the biggest purchase most people will ever make to a trivial phone tap. -RM
Ryan Reynolds is hot right now, especially with his new movie Deadpool dropping on Valentine’s Day. What better way to capitalize on his good looks and popularity than cloning him? Hyundai does a good job setting up the ultimate payoff about the Elantra’s safety features, too, with its driver so dazzled by the Ryans she almost runs one over. A tragedy, for sure, if one Ryan was taken from us too soon. -GT
Pan: Mountain Dew
So the idea is to combine the three most popular things into a single hybrid that should look just as cute? This comes off more disturbing than cute or funny. I remember a time when the slogan was “Do the Dew” and the brand would encourage actually making the most out of your life. Now, just like its drink, a slacker mentality has come into play. Mountain Dew Kickstart doesn’t kickstart anything. -GT
Pick: Bud Light
Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen’s election-themed Bud Light spot doesn’t aim too high with its concept — a rallying cry for beer fans using enough celebrity power to keep eyeballs engaged — but it does hit its target. It’s good to see the brand didn’t shoehorn the celebs into unnatural situations, so we get to see what we like most about these two: Schumer gives us a bit of blue humour in her trademark style, and Rogen’s goofy charm shines through. For a concept that relies solely on famous people to get attention, this one works. -JL
Wix’s co-marketing effort with the Kung Fu Panda franchise starts off well with Jack Black’s character spoofing a number of commercial mainstays. It falls apart at the end, however, when the parodies are over and it comes time to actually sell the product. Suddenly, all the charm is gone and characters are reduced to spouting tag lines for almost ten seconds. Ten seconds! That’s a big window in which most will tune out and miss the call-to-action at the end. -JL
Pick: Kia Optima
Unless a brand is taking itself very seriously, most Super Bowl ads are trying to get a laugh. There’s a surprising number that fall flat comedically, but Kia’s ad for its new Optima model is brilliant, mostly because it lets Christopher Walken just do his thing. No one else could pronounce “beige socks” and “pizazz” with quite as much bravado, and the ad seems hilariously self-aware by the time it reaches the requisite “mid-sized sedan” mention-the-product moment. As Walken says, “Woah is right.” -KW
Another great weirdo of American acting, I was expecting more from a commercial that clearly booked Jeff Goldblum for his trademark quirk. This ad just didn’t come together though. Goldblum rises through the skies playing a piano and accompanied by a gospel choir, while we get a look at a number of increasingly stylish abodes in an apartment building. But at the top we find… George Washington and Lil Wayne having a barbeque on a miniature football field? Too much disconnected quirk, even for me. -KW