Super_Bowl_IX_Logo

Why am I here? Oh yes, to elucidate this year’s crop of Super Bowl broadcast advertisements for upwards of two dozen mildly enthused readers. I shall endeavor to deliver adequate amusement.

The guidelines: I only review ads shown during the four quarters of the game, so no pre- or post-game spots. And no movie trailers, TV show promos, NFL ads (PSAs excepted) or local ads.

Spots are arranged in alphabetical order according to brand. I may have missed a couple. You’ll live.

As always, if you had a had in creating one of the ads that I ream, don’t forget who actually got a spot on the Super Bowl and who had to write a blog about spots on the Super Bowl. You win, Chachi.

Always, “#LikeAGirl” – I realize I’m supposed get all verklempt over this spot since I have a totally awesome 7-year-old girl of my own whom I believe will someday beat the bejeepers out of any person embodying one of the 50+ genders Facebook claims exists. I just wish the spot had been more about the goodness of being a girl and less about a phrase most people grow out of by college. (I hope. But then, I don’t work in Silicon Valley.) In fact, I wish the spot had been more about being an awesome individual. I don’t tell my daughter that she can do anything because she’s a girl (or my two sons similar things). There are many great and wonderful things about being a girl, but it is not her girlness that will make her unstoppable. No, I tell her she can do anything because she was created by God in His image with a special purpose and that no person or circumstance can ever keep her from doing what she is called to do. I tell her that Philippians 4:13 and Psalm 23 will give her hope when the turkeys (and there will be many) try to bring her down. I tell her she is like no other because there is none like her. And that her heart of gold will be tried by fire but come out shining brighter and stronger in the end. Yeah, I don’t expect that message from a feminine hygiene commercial, but it’d be pretty darn cool nonetheless. Still, I’ll gladly take this spot over anything related to Bratz or talking ponies any day. B

American Family Insurance, “Unknown Dreamers” – My wife, the Megan Fox with a vocal performance degree, liked the theatricality of this spot. But she and I were both confused as to the message. Is AmFam helping us achieve our dreams through car insurance? I mean, I get that life can get derailed by disasters if you don’t have insurance, but flipping that around to say it’s helping people achieve their dreams is a difficult task. And I don’t think opting for comprehensive instead of just collision is going to get me that much closer to helping Paul Feig script the new “Ghostbusters.” C-

Avocados from Mexico, “#FirstDraftEver” – This spot has a nice conceit and some mildly amusing moments. Could’ve used some better writing in the vein of the commentators from “Best in Show” or even “Dodgeball.” Also, too much brandspeak from Flutie at the end. B-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z75_oR3VOm4

BMW, “Newfangled Idea” – So Katie and Bryant were clueless in 1994 and remain clueless in 2015. I can understand the situation in 1994, but in a world of Teslas and Volts and Priusii, not knowing what an electric car is just makes the pair look daft. Which might be accurate, but still. And the thought of a twerking Katie Couric does not add to my Super Bowl experience, thank you very much. C-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1jwWwJ-Mxc

Bud Light, “Coin” – I have not been a fan of Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever” campaign as I believe people who really are up for whatever would tend to be more adventurous in their choice of beverages. That nit aside, I liked the giant coin and Pac-Man game. Maybe it’s because I had the 45 of “Pac-Man Fever” as a kid. Maybe. B-

Budweiser, “Brewed the Hard Way” – Methinks the king doth protest too much. C-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siHU_9ec94c

Budweiser, “Lost Dog” – I like this spot a lot more than last year’s “Puppy Love.” The song fits better and, being a cover, doesn’t instantly date the spot. The through line is generally the same – best buds find each other – but this one has a stronger, simpler narrative arc to follow. Not that last year’s was complex, but it required what felt like more edits and assumptions on the audience’s part to complete the store. Half a grade off for the wolf villain. Think mountain lion, folks. A-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM8azoZjI4U

Carnival Cruise Lines, “Come Back to the Sea” – Of the four spots Carnival posted on their website for the public to vote upon (the winner being shown during the game), this was the strongest by far. Even if 60% or more of the people watching don’t know that’s John F. Kennedy speaking, it’s still a long, long way from Kathie Lee Gifford. And that’s a good thing. B+

Clash of Clans, “Revenge” – I’ve never had much of a desire to play this popular smartphone MMORPG (that’s massive multiplayer online role-playing game, you L7), but this spot almost does it. Excellent use of Liam “Don’t Call Me Ly-am” Neeson. And excellent show of restraint in not quoting “Taken.” B+

Coca-Cola, “#Make It Happy” – This spot started so darkly that I thought it was a movie trailer and almost fast-forwarded past it. Is it as good as some Coke spots from the past like Happiness Factory? Not quite. But it was still a well-done spot that tied everything together, include the (shudder) hashtag at the end. A-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibgvkXm9Qkc

Discover Card, “Surprise” – There’s a lot right about this overall campaign for Discover, but this spot isn’t particularly strong enough for the Super Bowl. Which pains me to say given my love of screaming goats. Wait, that’s llamas. OR was it alpacas? I can’t keep track of my own peccadilloes. How sad. B-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwqq4MJ9yeQ

Dodge, “Wisdom” – As soon as this spot came on, I knew I had seen it before. And I had. Maybe this one is cut a little differently, but I’m too tired at this point to dig and find out. Nonetheless, a good spot that proves being old (like Dodge) needn’t be stodgy (like Chrysler, oops). Although I would have liked a continuation of the Dodge Brothers campaign myself. B

Doritos, “Middle Seat” and “When Pigs Fly” – Okay, I am seriously tired of this so-called “user content generated” Crash the Super Bowl shtick. It’s a way for Dorito’s to get production companies across the land to make dozens of free spots. Good for them, I guess. But you, your three-year-old GoPro and your neighbor’s trampoline don’t have a shot. The winning spots were at least pretty good this year. “Middle Seat” was the stronger of the two given that it remained relatively subtle. Actually more subtle than some things I’ve seen on an airplane. B- and C+, respectively

Dove Men+Care, “#RealStrength” – It was starting to get dusty in here right up until this spot reminded me that it was an ad. Voice over timbre was incongruent with the rest of the piece, and all the info at the end was just a huge elbow in the side. And then the hashtag call-to-action was a kick in the groin. All this spot had to do was end with a logo card. Period. Don’t do an ad where the dads aren’t all bumbling idiots and then treat us like bumbling idiots at the end. Unless your target is one person named Jim Belushi. B

EAT24, “Hangry” – EAT24 is a smartphone app that lets you order food from restaurants. Not that you would know that from this spot. They had me at “hangry” and lost me with “Gottfried.” D

Esurance, “Say My Name” – I’ve seen one and one-half episodes of “Breaking Bad” (don’t ask), but I still laughed at this spot and got all the allusions. That’s a testament to both how much “Breaking Bad” entered the zeitgeist, and how well the agency incorporated those markers into the spot. Good stuff. A-

Esurance, “Sorta Your Mom” – I’m not sure there are many ways that one can successfully use Lindsay Lohan. But this is one of them. Would have liked some zanier demographic stats tossed in, but I suppose that might have gone against the “sorta like you” message. B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoDWLntp5Ng

Fiat, “Fiat 500X Blue Pill” – Well-shot and nice acting by the seasoned Italian couple, but the last thing I want to do is drive around in an artificially enhanced euphemism. C-

Game of War, “Who I Am” – Nice production values. Still no desire to play. Needs a more compelling reason than being self-deluded into thinking Kate Upton might be stabbing you in the throat on her iPad in the Bahamas. Justin Verlander, maybe. But not Kate. C+

GoDaddy.com, “Working” – This spot lends credence to the idea that GoDaddy.com wasn’t pulling a stunt with their now-pulled (for reasons I don’t agree with) puppy spot. At least I think it does. I fell asleep halfway through. D+

Jeep, “Beautiful Lands” – So if I buy a larger Jeep I’m actually hating on the earth? Is that the message? I liked Jeep better when it wasn’t trying to court hippies. Looked like a fun shoot, though. C+

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYlBbY3gwmw

Jublia, “Tackle It” – Nothing says “pass the ball and praise the nachos” like an ad about toe fungus. D-

Kia, “The Perfect Getaway” – There is nothing surprising, shocking or breakthrough in this spot for the Kia Sorento featuring Pierce Brosnan. And that’s great. Because what is in this spot is an interesting character, strong direction and great production that highlights brand attributes above those of the actual car (although the touted CUV looks pretty nice, I must say). It’s a wink at both Brosnan’s TV and film personas, as well as car companies’ tendencies to produce over-the-top spots. And it’s much, much better than Kia’s “The Matrix”-inspired spots from last year. B+

Lexus, “Let’s Play” – Lexus has spent years halfheartedly trying to inject some performance cred into its rather stodgy (if, in some cases, nice looking) lineup. Perhaps it has finally succeeded with the RC sport coupe, which has received generally good reviews from the automotive press. This spot should help – it’s a long way from champagne glasses on the hood. And it says “rear-wheel drive performance” in language that only people who care about such things will understand. B+

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOZywMwhEIM

Lexus, “Make Some Noise” – I couldn’t decide if I was trapped in a Flock of Seagulls video or performance of Stomp. Either way, I lose. But what I really didn’t understand was the line “Introducing the first ever NX turbo and hybrid from Lexus.” Which implies that other automakers have already released their own NX turbos and hybrids. What? D

Loctite, “Positive Feelings” – I’ve used Loctite for years – their super glues, their thread lockers, etc. Apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong. I was supposed to sniff it. And buy a fanny pack. And then shimmy inappropriately. I’m going to go watch my old BMW Films DVD to wash this out of my brain. Ad folks will get the reference. D+

Mercedes-Benz, “Fable” – This take on “The Tortoise and the Hare” introduces the world (well, those who don’t read car magazines like I do) to the Mercedes-AMG GT, a new coupe meant to compete with the likes of the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type. Love the car. Love the production values. But there’s too little intrigue in the narrative – it’s just too simple and telegraphed by the tortoise’s first look at the Merc dealership (I assume their in Bavaria where all M-B dealers are surrounded by lush forests). And the ending is marred by three lines: “Who’s your turtle?” “Introducing the hair/hare-raising…” and “It’s no fairy tale.” C’mon. You’ve got Don Draper doing the voice over. Respect the man by giving him some good lines.C+

McDonald’s, “Pay with Lovin’” – I can’t really grade this spot as much as the program it’s launching. For some reason, my Cajun-blackened heart likes the idea, although I don’t recommend the brand trying to use a #PayWithLovin hashtag on twitter as that will get supercreepy in about…oops, too late. Anyway, I will gladly do something sweet or silly for a free bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. B

Microsoft, “Braylon O’Neill” and “Estella’s Brilliant Bus” – These are great stories. But that are not great stories well told, as the saying goes. They’re not horribly told, mind you, they just don’t have enough tie to Microsoft. I make an emotional connection with Braylon and Estella, who are both quite inspiring; but Microsoft seems ancillary to their stories, not integral. And if you’re going to run two spots, don’t use snippets of the same copy for the voice over. B-

Mophie, “All-Powerless” – The conceit of this ad is nice – God’s cosmos-controlling smartphone runs out of juice, sending the earth into chaos – but if you’re not cutting to Morgan Freeman at the end, your just coming up a bit short. Also, casting someone who looks like avowed atheist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s brother doesn’t help. But a lot of great little moments within the spot elevate it to a decent grade. B

Nationwide, “Invisible Mindy” – Is it possible to dislike Mindy Kaling? Probably. But not in this spot. Especially not when she’s trying to steal a kiss from my doppelganger. That is not a joke. Stop laughing. Now you’re just being rude.A-

Nationwide, “Make Safe Happen” – This 49th playing of the National Football League Championship Game is brought to you in part by Debbie Downer. C-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyc7Marl-Kc

NFL No More Campaign, “Pizza” – Some may say this anti-domestic abuse spot is too little too late from the often look-the-other-way NFL. So what. Every little bit of good helps fend off a little bit of evil. And this spot is long, long way from just being a little good. Subtle, powerful, a minor twist that is all too believable (because it’s too often true). Well done, Grey. A

Newcastle Brown Ale, “Band of Brands” – This spot – which crams Newcastle’s 37 “band of brands” partners into 60 seconds of shilling hilarity – is fun. It’s just not quite as fun as the Aubrey Plaza–starring bits that led up to it. Such is life. The entire campaign gets a resounds A, but this particular execution scores a: B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaKuzt9lN04

Nissan, “#WithDad” – As is my policy, I do not grade or comment upon work done by TWBA\Chiat\Day given my status as @leeclowsbeard (non-affiliated though I may be). If I like it, I’m a sycophant. If I don’t, I’m a fool for saying so. But I will embed it. NA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw

Northrop Grumman, “Hangar” – I love me some supersweet, cutting-edge military tech as much as the next NRA member, but this spot doesn’t quite make the grade. (And I’ll ignore the puzzling strategy behind NG wanting to advertise at all, let alone here.) The four-times-repeated lighting up of the hangar – with no identification of the aircrafts being shown – becomes instantly monotonous instead of inspiring. The copy is clichéd and the tag line lands with a thud as it is read in a way that implies it is the summation of what came before when, in fact, it has little connection at all. How to fix: Slow pans over the edge-lit planes with supers giving their model numbers and dates in service. End with the line “For over 70 years, we’ve built the aircraft that help keep America, America.” Cue Toby Keith and/or Carrie Underwood. Feel free to hire me, defense contractors. You can pay me with lasers. And cash. C

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-vkdUBNOOc

Snickers, “The Brady Bunch” – You know what’s coming, but it doesn’t matter. Such is the strength of this spot. Danny Trejo stars as the out-of-sorts Marsha with a Very Special Guest Star appearance by Steve Buscemi as Jan. Excellent writing, set design and effects. It’s almost as good as “The Chefs.” A

Skechers, “Pete Rose” – The best thing about this one-joke (for the wrong sport) spot is that they only spent 15 seconds on it. I think Pete just set back his Cooperstown hopes another five years. D

Skittles, “Settle It” – As my seven-year-old son asked, “What do tough people have to do with Skittles and rainbows?” A fair question, although I couldn’t quite adequately explain Skittles’ generally absurdist ad humor. Still, this one fell flat for me. Skittles has done such strong work over the years, I expected something more than an easily guessed arm wrestling match that didn’t even end with a Monty Python-esque flesh wound. C+

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDwRN2GBUj8

Sprint, “Super Apology” – I’d make a joke about needing my own super apology from Sprint after watching this, but then I’d have to give all of you a super apology for making such an obvious joke. C-

Squarespace, “DreamingWithJeff.com – Om” – Hmm. Well, I like seeing Jeff Bridges in anything, even something this weird. But unless DreamingWithJeff.com is some super-astounding, can’t-do-the-same-thing-with-WordPress site (hint: it’s not), then I’m not sure what all the hubbub is supposed to be about. And I used Squarespace for four years before migrating back to WordPress for this site a few months ago. C+

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRyT5dU_pLc

T-Mobile, “#KimDataStash” – I doubt I’d ever recommend a brand associate itself with Kim Kardashian; but, if you’re going to get on board that crazy train this is the way to do it. I generally have little patience for the fake PSA genre, but the restraint shown in this spot works to its advantage. Did I just use “restraint” in conjunction with someone married to Kanye West? ’Tis a marketing miracle, verily and indeed. B-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzQ6a2UKlGM

T-Mobile, “One Up with Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler” – There are two ways of doing a spot based on one-upmanship (three if you count not doing one at all). You can stay subtle and let witty banter rule the day, or you can go outlandish. I prefer the former, but the latter can still work when, like most things, it is done correctly. Unfortunately, this spot seems to aim for splitting the difference. There are a couple of decent zingers, but the setups are neither too far out there nor the barbs too barbed to make it rise above a middling grade. B-

Toyota, “How Great I Am” – This spot is fantastic is every way except one: It’s for the Camry. Watching Paralympic athlete Amy Purdy train while a speech from The Greatest of All Time (that’s Muhammad Ali, kids) is a hoot. Great shots, great editing and pace, great story told without, you know, telling. But for the Camry? I’m sorry, Toyota, but you’ve got a long way to go before people consider the Camry bold. If this had been a brand spot and you were introducing a resurrected Supra or MR2, then I’d be on board. Granted, the Camry was the top-selling car in the U.S. last year, so what do I know? I know they might’ve sold even more with a more believable campaign, that’s what. B-

Toyota, “My Bold Dad” – Another great story that isn’t connected to the Camry in any meaningful way. And I say this as a middle-aged dad with three kids and a minivan. I will say, however, if Toyota keeps running work like this it will have an effect. I just think they can have an even greater effect by figuring out the connection between story and product. Because right now, I’d have believed this spot (and the one above) more if it’d been for a truck or even a Subaru. B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aihYeQsoQoQ

TurboTax, “Boston Tea Party” – Maybe it’s the fact that TI just ate too many pancakes (which I hope becomes a Fox household Super Bowl dinner tradition), but I did not get this ad at all. If the Boston Tea Party was thwarted by promises of free tax filing (which, sadly, would probably happen today), the remaining scenes in the spot never would have taken place. C

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTurS5O7B3Y

UCool, “Heroes Charge” – For the $2+ million Ucool spent on this placement, I would’ve gone door-to-door over the next five years selling this game to people. And my witty tweets of sales glory alone would be worth twice that. D

Victoria’s Secret, “Mood for Love” – Ummm, what? I guess I could say that at least Victoria’s Secret is consistent in their advertising in that this spot didn’t look any different than the ones I routinely fast-forward through. Also, my kids are 7, 7 and 5. They don’t need this. Oh, and my wife is way, way hotter than any so-called angel. Way. D-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lZgpaVpKQk

WeatherTech, “America at Work” – I think WeatherTech is a great company. I’ve bought several sets of floor mats from them, along with assorted other car accessories. I’ve been seeing their print ads in car magazines for as long as I can remember reading car magazines. They make their products in America from American-sourced raw materials. Super sweet. I even like the messaging strategy behind this ad: We make awesome car stuff in America. If only I liked the spot itself. It’s shot well, but it just kind of sits there. The montage of factory shots, laser scans and 800 numbers (dude, c’mon) hint at stories, but don’t actually tell stories. Last year’s effort was better. C+

Weight Watchers, “All You Can Eat” – I did not expect this to end with a Weight Watchers message. Which is a good thing. I dug this spot even though it actually made me quite hungry, even with all the processed nastiness on the display. Such is my brain. Well written, well shot, very nice collection of lampooned clichés. Favorite bit: The 1/2-second Guy Fieri knockoff/slam. B+

Wix, “#ItsThatEasy” – This is how you incorporate football in a way that actually applies to your brand. It’s smart in that it assumes the audience has a knowledge of the players being featured. It’s fun. It explains how to say “Favre.” Dialogue isn’t the best, but it’s not filled with brandspeak either, so that’s a plus. B+

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