For decades, non-sports fans have counted on the Super Bowl broadcast to provide several of the most interesting advertisements of the year. The Big Game has earned its reputation for blockbuster ratings and memorable TV ads that have sometimes taken on a life of their own. It’s often been argued that the ads are the best part of the Super Bowl…but not this year.
For Super Bowl LI, this year’s ad lineup was surprisingly tame compared to previous editions. Although the two most controversial ads were both tied to immigration, which is currently one of the most divisive issues in the country. For the most part, it was all “follow your dreams!” and “laugh along with us!” Sometimes the makers of the advertisements seemed to lose track of what they were actually selling to the public. Needless to say, that’s not necessarily the best way to build a brand!
As part of our annual custom, CraveOnline has assembled our picks for the 10 best TV ads of the Super Bowl. Keep in mind, every choice is based on our subjective taste. So if you feel that we left out one of the best, feel free to share your picks in the comment section below!
BUDWEISER (“Born the Hard Way”)
We have to give Budweiser credit for continuously delivering high production values on its ads every year. In a regular year, viewers could simply appreciate “Born the Hard Way” as an especially well-made commercial that took the story of Adolphus Busch and depicted some very familiar adversity as the man went through a journey that culminated in the birth of Anheuser-Busch.
But because this is the year of the Trump, anti-immigration sentiment is on the rise. Suddenly, a feel-good story about a German immigrant trying to find his way in America is suddenly being condemned as being a political statement. And Budweiser has run, and run fast from that interpretation. We kind of wish that they hadn’t. If the company had intended to make a statement, this would have been a good one.
MERCEDES-BENZ (“Easy Driver”)
Here’s an interesting one: Mercedes-Benz is assuming that we’ve all seen Easy Rider, one of the great counterculture films of the ‘60s. Hey…we’re not that old! And as an added incentive, original Easy Rider co-writer and star, Peter Fonda appeared in this one, as directed by the Coen brothers. Classy!
Still, even if this is selling a Mercedes, it was pretty amusing to see the bikers react to the older Fonda as he drives his new ride by the men and women who idolized him. Perhaps it’s even funnier than Mercedes-Benz intended…
BAI (“Bai Bai Bai”)
Look, if you put Christopher Walken in anything, we’re gonna watch it. And we could give a s*** about Bai’s antioxidant infusions. Big f***ing deal. But you know what we do love? Walken reciting the lyrics to “Bye Bye Bye” as only he can.
KIA (“Hero’s Journey”)
Between her guest appearance on Saturday Night Live and her spot in this Kia ad, it’s been a very good weekend for Melissa McCarthy. Basically, this Kia ad gave McCarthy a chance to play to her strengths as a physical comedian by playing an environmental warrior who keeps winding up in some potentially perilous situations. It’s fun, and it served as a good reminder about the qualities that made McCarthy a star in the first place.
This was too perfect, especially with Fifty Shades Darker coming out in less than a week. T-Mobile recruited Kristen Schaal for two ads, both of which hilariously parodied Fifty Shades of Grey by depicting Schaal’s character as a masochist who loves receiving pain from her phone company’s data plans. That’s a pretty clever spin on the mobile carrier wars.
AVOCADOS FROM MEXICO (“Secret Society”)
To be honest, we’re not really huge avocado fans. And it seems like there’s a new avocado commercial every year that tries to convince people to eat them because they’re good for you. At least the “Secret Society” ad wraps up that message with an amusing tale about a group that couldn’t keep a secret if their lives depended upon it.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (“Einstein Goes Gaga”)
Because the television viewing audience is so scattered in the era of Peak TV, most people probably don’t even know that National Geographic has a new scripted series called Genius. For the first season, Geoffrey Rush is going to play the legendary Albert Einstein. And while the Super Bowl seems like an odd way to promote the series, we have to admit that watching Einstein play a violin cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was definitely inspired.
WIX.COM (“Can I Have This To Go?”)
And the award for the best action movie that isn’t actually an action movie is this year’s ad for Wix.com. You can barely tell from the ad itself that Wix is a web design firm, but only because it’s so much fun watching Gal Gadot and Jason Statham kick a lot of ass together. Forget about Wix, we want to see the rest of this Gadot and Statham film!
MR. CLEAN (“Cleaner of Your Dreams”)
Somehow, we don’t think anyone was expecting Mr. Clean to become sexually fetishized, but the last calendar year has been a pretty strange beast. Ol’ chrome dome finally gets a modern makeover in this ad, as a suburban housewife just can’t resist a man who cleans. This was unexpectedly funny, even the payoff worked.
“Yearbooks” may not have effectively sold Honda’s vehicles, but it instantly became memorable for its message and its presentation of nine stars who basically come out of their old high school yearbook photos with empowering words about chasing your dreams even when the odds are against you. We’re not going to argue against that sentiment, especially when it’s wrapped up in an ad like this.