The Obligatory Super Hole XIV

by Feb 1, 2020

Before we begin, let me just say, “CHIEFS! CHIEFS! CHIEFS! CHIEFS!” I grew up five miles east of Arrowhead Stadium along interstate I-70. I was fortunate enough to attend a few games in the late 90s (thanks, now-defunct vendor!), including a Monday night classic in which Tamarick Vanover ran back a punt return in overtime to defeat the San Diego Chargers.

But in the 50 years since the Chiefs last appeared in the Super Bowl, they had a penchant for choking in the playoffs. And now? Now they are champions again. I had nothing to do with it, of course, but today I am a happy writer. Other writers will understand how momentous an occasion that is.

Now, on with the fourteenth annual Super Hole!

I am happy to report that this year the spots felt much improved over the past several go-arounds. Most of this success lies in many brands eschewing the purpose-driven blather of recent memory to return to humor. Successfully, in most cases. Many of the “socially aware” spots fell flat, even if their hearts were in the right place. And a few spots went straight for the heart with mixed success. Although my pick for the second-best of the year nailed it and then some. Now there’s dust all over the AdHole, and it’s getting in my eyes. My top two were easy to decided upon. Spots five through three could’ve been taken up by a few others – ’twas a tight race.

As usual, the selected spots were shown during the actual game itself, so no pre- or post-game ads. Local/regional ads, TV show promos, and movie trailers are likewise excluded. Also excluding Mike Bloomberg’s and President Trump’s spots – not that they had a shot of making the top five anyway. I mean, seriously. Hal Riney is long dead, sadly.

Let us begin.

No. 5: Snickers, “Fix the World” – Not sure how well this resonated with folks too young to remember Coke’s classic “Hilltop” spot (or at least the “We are the World” / Live Aid era), but I am old enough and I like it. I still don’t like nuts in my candy bars, but Snickers has been on a great advertising roll for several years now. And I doubt if Mars cares that I eat Milky Ways instead. Excellent use of Luis Guzmán, as well.

No. 4: Amazon, “Before Alexa” – This spot posits the question, “What did people do before Alexa?” Which is, to be honest, a bit strange since that was, what, five years ago? Have we really forgotten life before Alexa, Siri, et al., when we had to manually type queries into our magic pocket computers? Probably. We are a pathetic species with short memories. Anyway. An iffy premise that is pulled off with aplomb given the wit imbued in the myriad vignettes (my favorites were Midge Maizel’s mom asking a maid to toss a fire log out the window and a cowboy asking for the next jug-based tune) and tidy bookends featuring Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Of course, the massive budget didn’t hurt. But other spots dropped plenty of cash on lame ideas.

No. 3: Hyundai, “Smaht Pahk” – Anything based on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch is iffy at best (see almost every SNL-based movie ever), and basing a spot on a 20-year-old sketch is even iffier. But what should’ve been stupid turned out to be, well, stupid-in-a-good-way. It helps to know who the stars are, but it doesn’t hinge on them. Which is key. Unless you’re doing a Bill Murray spot, of course.

No. 2: Google, “Loretta” – I come to judge this ad, not the company behind it (although doing so did cause it to lose out the in-my-own-mind tie with No. 1). And Sweet Fancy Moses does this spot do a number on anyone not of Vulcan descent. It doesn’t merely show a good side to Google’s near omniscience, it does so artfully. It is simple, yet deep. The little touches – like the piano plinking in time to the cursor to start the spot, or the protagonist calling for his do at the end – elevate beyond melodrama. You don’t have to know that it’s a true story (our hero is the 85-year-old grandfather of a Google employee) to know that the story rings true. And for the life of me, I cannot get the dust out of my eyes.

No. 1: Jeep, “Groundhog Day” – God bless a brand willing to spend some dough on an actual idea and not just fancy production values. Watching Bill Murray do anything is a hoot, and bringing back one of his most iconic characters (behind Dr. Peter Venkman from “Ghostbusters” and Carl from “Caddy Shack”) from the movie “Groundhog Day” on Groundhog Day means someone on the Jeep team was paying attention to real life and not just another deck full of data points. Fun times all around, and it fits perfectly with the Jeep ethos without descending into cliché. So it had that going for it, which is nice.

Honorable mentions include Mtn Dew Zero Sugar with their “Shining” homage, Reese’s Take 5, Walmart’s semi-copy of last year’s spot, Dorito’s excellent use of Sam Elliot’s mustache, and Budweiser’s “Typical American.”

Bud Light Seltzer oddly chose the weaker of two Post Malone-starring spots. If they’d gone with “Posty Bar” they probably would’ve made my top five.

Most of the “purpose-driven” spots fell flat. Not because of the causes they supported (there was little that cold be considered controversial about any of them), but because of the creative surrounding them. The Secret deodorant “Secret Kicker” spot was a particularly spectacular whiff. Someone should’ve just ripped-off Nike’s “If You Let Me Play” work from 25 years and called it good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to rewatch highlights from the game until I pass out.