Since Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, the big game has become synonymous with great advertising, as well as some not so great advertising that still gets attention because of its debut date.
This year was no different, yet expectations may have been tempered in 2021, after coming off a year like no other. Would the themes reflect on the seriousness of the current global pandemic— or deflect to provide us all with some comic relief? The answer is all of the above.
Without further ado, here’s how some of our team members ranked their favs and not-so-favs. Settle in, this one got long! Advertising people have opinions on this stuff.
Erin Foley, Digital Marketing Specialist
Yay: I’m a sucker for funny ads, so the Uber Eats/Eat Local commercial with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey representing Wayne and Garth, and with special guest Cardi B was my favorite. Cardi B seemed almost too out of place, but it made it that much funnier to me! The sarcasm was on point throughout the whole commercial, saying they would never manipulate the viewers to support a cause by doing things like jumping on the latest trends, shamelessly relying on a celebrity cameo, and then doing it all anyways. Loved it!
Nay: I don’t think I’m alone in saying the Oatly commercial was my least favorite, and it made me sort of uncomfortable. You would think if they could afford commercial time during the Super Bowl, they could at least hire a professional singer/songwriter?
Kevin Northway, Senior Art Director
Yays but with nays. Generally speaking, I wasn’t wowed by any of the spots. I realize that, as an ad guy, I evaluate commercials differently than the general public. With that in mind, one that I felt did the best job was Rocket Mortgage with both of their “pretty sure vs certain” spots (Rocket Mortgage #1 and #2 ), using humor to illustrate product benefits in an entertaining way.
The Toyota adoption/Paralympic swimmer spot checks the emotion/inspiration box but I think took too long to unfold.
The Jeep spot stopped me in my tracks. It was visually and sonically captivating, but it made me feel more uncomfortable than inspired. Maybe it was the fact that a spot about coming together had only one person (and why was he driving around in the winter with the top down?). The topic seems to be a misfit for a car company—or maybe it’s just too soon.
Patty Kisner, Media Buyer
Yays, mostly nays. My favorite ad wasn’t even broadcast—it was on social media for T Mobile with Gronk and Brady.
I guess there wasn’t much I really liked.
Dave Morton, Co-Owner and President of Marketing Services
Yays and regretful nays. When you make the decision to advertise on the single largest TV advertising audience of the “typical” year, you’ve now changed your game. You not only need to sell something, but you have to do so in an entertaining way. The other big boys will be bringing an A-game, and just selling isn’t quite enough to stand out in the crowd, not to mention, leveraging all the buzz that surrounds the game commercials.
Good rule: entertain – either make them laugh or make them feel heartfelt. With that in mind, my faves:
GM. They paid for celebrities and it was worth it. Pretty funny. Plus it had a 90-second adventure story tucked in there amidst the goofiness.
Jeep. OK – disclaimer – I drive a Jeep. But aside from that, I just think it was a nice piece of Americana. Could be a little risky – some might view it as political, but I’ll disagree. Tied Jeep to “America” in a subtle way. Maybe because it was aspirational.
Not worth it: ( I hate to do this to someone. We’ve been to the Super Bowl stage and it’s harder than it sounds, but it’s part of the game.)
Klarna. I hadn’t heard of you before, and I still didn’t get what you do? (Plus you paid for a celebrity and wasted it.)
Fiverr. I know what you do, and in fact am a customer. Attention-getting spot, but my living room crowd said, “What are they?”
Jeff Westrom, Co-Owner and President of Creative Services
Yays only. While I love Super Bowl commercial humor like what we saw in the Rocket Mortgage and Amazon Alexa spots, I was drawn to two of the most serious spots of the night – both by auto manufacturers – Toyota and Jeep. The beauty of these two ads is the brand, in each case, reaches so far beyond the manufacturing and selling of cars.
I would like to think Jeep’s “The Middle” spot was one of my favorites based on its merits, not the fact that I’ve been faithful to the brand for the last 22 years. While there is much to be talked about in this spot one of the things no one seems to be pointing out is the old Jeep Springsteen is driving in the ad looks like the new Jeeps sitting on the lot. Pretty much the only vehicle in existence that hasn’t changed how it looks in eight decades, It was a fitting icon for the message reflecting on part of the way we find our way forward is by looking back.
My number one pick was Toyota’s “Upstream” ad telling the story of an orphan child in Siberia that despite needing to have both of her legs amputated was adopted by loving parents and brought to the United States. Jessica Long’s journey to becoming a 13-time Paralympic gold medalist is masterfully captured in just 60 seconds. The story in-and-of itself is a wonderful glimpse into profound human achievement and would have been a great ad even if it had been portrayed in a typical documentary style. But the video immersion of hospital and kitchen scenes into the very water that would allow Jessica to overcome all the odds was wonderfully creative and intriguing. It’s an ad you can watch over and over and each time it takes you a little deeper. Great spot, great message.
Lisa Kirchhoff, Copywriter
On the lighter side, I loved the T-Mobile spot with the crew from The Voice. It was a great version of the classic Telephone Game playing out in the digital age—and with consequences.
Nays: There were quite a few this year that seemed less than impressive. I was most disappointed by those that had big potential but either didn’t keep my attention (Huggies) or have a clear message (Klarna).
Kris Sullens, Art Director
Two yays. The Reddit spot was my favorite. You could argue that it was more of a statement than an ad, but there were a lot of brands making statements. It was true to its roots, focused on their differentiator, and made me want more. It was unique and disruptive without running anyone else down.
The Seinfeld fan in me had to love the Jason Alexander hoodie Tide spot, mostly because it featured the inspiration music for George’s answering machine. I don’t think stunt casting should take the place of good creative, but this one was funny, relatable, and pandered to my sense of nostalgia.