Editor’s note: As big as the Super Bowl is, a lot of people look forward to the ads more than the game itself. So here’s your chance to get in the mood by checking out our previously published recap of the best of last year’s crop. Enjoy.
Hey gang, have a good Super Bowl? We spent ours in a rented penthouse on 45th Street pretending to be the pampered clients of film and television editing equipment salesmen, while downing the catering as if the sterno had gone cold (long story, great wings).
Heckuva broadcast too. We are referring, of course, to Katy Perry riding a giant animatronic lion and the ads, where 30 seconds of air time went for a record-setting $4.5 million. That’s half a million more than the past two years.
For the first time, we also saw 15-second spots, which were mostly garbage. Car makers pulled back for once and first timers (Skittles, Always and, uh, Avocados as a concept) pulled ahead. The last few spots sold only 4 days before the event. Here are 10 of our faves.
Microsoft, Empowering Us All, Estella: Once a year or so, Microsoft takes a page from the Google playbook (not available on Google Play). And they remind us that maybe 90 percent of forms, budgets and contracts are written on Microsoft Software that will never look cool, be cool or make the world a better place or anything. Oh, but if you wanna have the feel-goods and also purchase software (what? why?), you should get some Microsoft.
BMW, New Fangled Idea: Every few years television takes us back to when we were young and naive and trying to figure it out. But we made it through. This, a most-shared VHS tape that haunted The Today Show when it first hit YouTube is now a real-life Web Redemption. Bravo, team. This puts them in the “Good Sport” category. A value that seems a bit, um, deflated this year.
Verizon, Giving Up: Idea: pretty good. Execution: Meh. Verizon’s entire raison d’être is that the affordable networks with dynamic apps and decent customer service just let you down. They trade on the annoyance of dropped calls and waiting 3 seconds for your maps app to load when you’re lost. It’s a bit like being told in your anti-depressant ad that side effects include depression.
Mercedes, Tortoise and the Hare: You know in Mad Men where megatalented people from the past show up at the office just for the money? Here’s an ad directed by three-time Oscar-winner for visual effects (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Avatar and Alice in Wonderland) Robert Stromberg. Oh, and a voiceover by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
SNL, 40th Anniversary: This was a winner at every party. No creativity. Just marvel for one moment at how the old SNL logos look in HD while they employ more catch-phrasery than a ’90s sitcom. You can’t help but smile and remember how many of your Saturday nights were spent indoors on a couch, laughing uncontrollably at this unbelievably long-running staple that spawned not only jokes but the Lorne Michaels universe, from Murray and Murphy to Ferrell and Fey, and many more to come…
Lexus, Make Some Noise: 30 seconds by the book. From music video director Dave Meyers and Walton Isaacson agency (making their Super Bowl debut). This percussive, simple ad is the kind that still makes an impression when you glance over at the TV while everyone is talking and getting refills. Oh, right, like a Lexus.
Skittles, The Usual Way: Hard to believe this is Skittles’ first Bowl. This WTF ad set in the modern day Sparta-of-arm-wrestling honestly must have been a joy to make.
Dove, Calls for Dad: “OK, so sports, they um, well, dads like them. Then you play them. Then your dad might even show up. That’s a good dad thing. Showing up. Moms? Nah, not moms. It’s all about dads.” —Every ad agency this year. And we’re not even disagreeing. Good move. Also, text your dad at halftime. Dude’s watching.
Budweiser, Bond of Clydesdale and Pup: True story: At the last minute GoDaddy.com had to pull a similar ad because when the puppy gets home the heartless old woman exclaims that she just sold “Buddy” from the puppy-mill website that she built all on her own. The whole debacle is like a great free ad for SquareSpace. Also, this ad gives me the kind of feelings that only a Budweiser can help me choke back down.
Toyota Camry, How Great I Am: This team is allowed to make and perform advertising for any product ballsy enough to put this one out there. Great words from Muhammed Ali. Sage advice. The kind of video you would play for your first son when he asks why he needs to go to soccer practice. Meet Amy Purdy. Lost both legs to bacterial meningitis at 19. Bronze medal snowboarder, Dancing with Stars contestant. Now go forth, recall thy New Year’s Resolutions, stop making excuses, take inspiration from a day spent eating the worst parts of chicken and American beer and head to greatness.
Most of these ads we’ll never see again. But every year there’s one we will welcome into our lives. It will pop up on YouTube and after 5 seconds it will say “Skip Ad?” And we won’t have the heart to do so. Because after the clip we will lace up the sneakers and hit the park and when no one’s looking we might throw a few shadow punches.
An ad is, after all, just a big game of Show and Tell. But the first rule of great writing is “Show don’t tell.” And Muhammed Ali—the world’s greatest teller—always reminded you that the second he steps into the ring: “I am going to show you how great I am.”