The Obligatory Super Hole XVIII

by Feb 11, 2024


I am not sorry for celebrating the Chiefs’ third Super Bowl victory in five years. Gather ye Lombardi Trophies while ye may and whatnot. (For those who don’t know, I’m a KC native, having grown up a few miles east of Arrowhead Stadium. Yes, near the Cracker Barrel.)

As this is the 18th annual Super Hole, we should all be familiar with the rules by now. But for the six new readers out there, I only review in-game (no pre- or post-game) spots that aired nationally. I also ignore spots for TV shows, movies, and the NFL.

This year yielded a decent crop of commercials, although the celebrity quotient was a bit on the injudicious side. If the star in your spot isn’t the star of your spot (sorry, Wednesday Jenna Ortega), you probably don’t need said star. This is not the star’s fault – I’d cash that check, too.

The spots that fell flat tended to do so in the ways most commercials do. Either too many messages were crammed in, or no message was readily apparent, or a conceit was mistake for a concept. Even one-joke commercials need a semblance of narrative arc. That’s why State Farm’s Ahh-nold spot worked and Popeye’s Unfrozen Ken Jeong bit didn’t quite cut it.

BetMGM whiffed on a top-five by running a 30-second cut of their Vince Vaughn/Tom Brady spot. The 60-second version released prior to the game was much, much funnier. And not like MGM could foot the bill for a 60.

But enough adnerdspeak. Here are my top, wait for it, seven spots – all remastered to 4K because I’m all about value – from this year’s Super Bowl:

No. 7: Paramount+, “Sir Patrick Stewart Throws a Hail Arnold” – Running any commercial on the Super Bowl takes guts and/or arrogance. Running what amounts to “just another entry” in a long-running campaign on broadcast’s biggest night is a true gamble. But this campaign just keeps on being fun and on-point. And let’s be honest – kooky Patrick Stewart is the best Patrick Stewart. Also a good thing Paramount didn’t get Patrick Mahomes for the spot as he easily would’ve made the throw Tua couldn’t. I’m sorry, that was rude.

No. 6:, “Now That is Worth Celebrating” – Absurb in all the right ways. The Levy genes will not be denied. Best use of Goldblum on the night. Bonus points for the tagline.

No. 5: Doritos Dinamita, “Dina & Mita” – I can only surmise that Jenna Ortega’s presence in the teaser campaign was meant to drum up interest in the final spot. Nothing against Ms. Ortega, but such teaser-based shenanigans were unnecessary. This is fun spot that succeeds on the wizened shoulders (and steely glares) of Dina and Mita. The set pieces are well-executed, and the sight gags blissfully lack the eyeroll-inducing quality one often sees with these types of spots. Fiery end tag is a bit much, but that’s a minor quibble. And the “go ahead, try us” more than overcomes the visual cliché.

Nos. 4: Kawasaki, “Mullets” – In ye olden days, the Chevy El Camino held the vaunted title of Mullet Mobile (sorry, Ford Ranchero – not sorry, Subaru B.R.A.T.). Now that the majority of the driving public is piloting crossovers and mechanized virtue signals, the crown is up for grabs. Not that anyone with a spectacular Kentucky Waterfall for cover it up with a crown, but you get my meaning. Which brings us, finally, to this spot. There is no shortage of this type of vehicle for sale across the fruited plains, and this piece of advertising doesn’t do much to tell the audience how the Ridge differs from the competition. No. Its sole purpose is to sell you on how hard it rocks. You want a John Deere Gator like your dad had? Go nuts, Captain Slow. The Ridge is for folks who’d own a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R if they didn’t live off a 2-mile stretch of gravel road. Heck yeah. I do wish they’d gone with David “Joe Dirt” Spade instead of Stone Cold Steve Austin. We could’ve witnessed the first double-mullet in Super Bowl advertising history.

No. 3: State Farm, “Like a Good Neighbaaa” – Basically a one-joke spot that manages to rise above the trope for few reasons. First, they’re hammering home the tagline. Second, they’ve got 50 years of Arnold’s accent (Is that a type of brand equity? Sure, why not.) to milk. Third, the set pieces, pacing, and editing are all spiffy. That’s right, spiffy. Basically, they executed at a high level. I laughed. Instead of rolling my eyes. DeVito’s dig at the end was superb. Again, with the lack of eye rolling.

No. 2: Google Pixel 8, “Javier In Frame” – Google has a consistent, if short, history of creating Super Bowl spots that make them seem less evil. Almost, dare we say, good. Benevolent even. And while not amount of tear jerking will convince me that the Alphabet Borg are truly on my side, this spot is yet another example of how one can craft a moving narrative around a feature most of us would just think is nifty but not entirely necessary. There’s a lot to like about this spot – the subtle build from solo selfies, to having a dog, to having a partner, to having it all being my favorite – and not much to nick besides, you know, the brand behind it.

No. 1: Etsy, “Try Gift Mode” – The only thing I can knock about this spot is its title. The opening three lines alone merit a place on this list. They sum up what I can only guess what the creative brief’s insight – gift giving is hard, and even more difficult when you feel obligated – without, you know, parroting the brief like 93.27% of modern ads do. Excellent use of the mime, too. I’m sure it was tempting to do more with that character (at least I would’ve been), but subtlety prevailed. Of course, as my wife opined, aren’t most sales on Etsy already gifts? But even if that’s true, it doesn’t detract from the spot. Awww crap, indeed.