It’s no secret that I hate writing this annual feature. Don’t believe me? Check out last year’s post on this very topic.
Told you so. For some reason, the keepers of this blog continually ask me to do it, and, for some reason, I keep agreeing to torture myself with Super Bowl spots. Year. After. Year. After year. I suppose, for as long as people believe the Super Bowl still has good ads, I’ll keep agreeing to do the thing that’s about as much fun as performing a wisdom tooth extraction on myself without anesthesia.
That said, who’s excited to watch and read about some Super Bowl spots?! Here are my picks for the top 5 spots and the one spot I consider the biggest flop of the night.
- Joust – Bud Light/HBO
A lot of viewers picked this as the number one spot of the night, and there is a lot to like about it. Grand production value, lots of clever product placements and funny one-liners, but, of course, the thing that makes it really stand out is the surprise twist that reveals it as a coop effort between two very unexpected partners. Not only is this a stroke of genius from a creative perspective, but it also allowed Bud Light and HBO to split costs on production and media placement.
- Food Porn Addiction – Devour
I gave this spot high marks not for the version that aired on broadcast television – that was really pedestrian – but for the uncensored, online version, which is a total riot. Knowing its concept was too risqué for the NFL, Devour produced a 30-second, TV-safe version for the game and a one-minute version strictly for online audiences. It’s a pretty clever move since viewership is so high after the game. In fact, within just two days, the online version had more than 15 million views.
- Democracy Dies in Darkness – The Washington Post
A newspaper advertising on television? And the Super Bowl no less?! On one hand, this is a strange and surprising move, but, on the other, The Washington Post (along with The New York Times) has really elevated its profile during the Trump presidency. According to the Post, circulation of its print edition was up 6 percent in 2018 while paid online subscribers increased 5 percent. Additionally, the newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes in 2018, and the gruesome murder and disappearance of one the paper’s contributors have kept the paper itself in the headlines. Meanwhile, Trump’s criticism of the paper, and news outlets in general, has only emboldened the Post. In this spot, the newspaper advocates for all reporting, regardless of media type, reminding us of the currency of journalism through the lens of our nation’s biggest moments. And the Tom Hanks VO ain’t bad either.
- Not Everything Makes the Cut – Amazon Alexa
In case you missed it, Amazon is everywhere, or at least ALMOST everywhere according to this spot. Using its trademark, self-deprecating humor, Amazon takes viewers through a series of fictional product flops, in which its Alexa AI technology was anything but helpful. This spot has almost every element of a good Super Bowl spot. It has star power, a big idea, a dog, sharp dialog, terrific acting, multiple sets, production value out the wazoo, an expensive cut of music from the cool-again band Queen and even a subtle nod to Amazon’s side business in aerospace. I even love how they synced the Amazon smile with Freddie Mercury’s payoff line. Minus the stupid water cannon hot tub stunt, this one hits on all cylinders.
- 100 Billion Words – Google Translate
The Google brand has always been about simplicity first, and this spot is pitch-perfect on that front. No technology company has ingrained itself into our individual lives more than Google, and no company better showcases its utility in more heart-warming ways. In this spot, Google touches briefly and honestly on the ugliness around us but balances that with its focus on the simple human connections that Google helps facilitate every day, all around the world. This spot conspicuously and purposefully lacks the star power, special effects, rock music and almost every element that typically makes a great Super Bowl spot and replaces all that with snapshots of touching, personal stories. And like almost everything Google makes, it just works.
Flop of the Night:
Wizard – Toyota Supra
Don’t get me wrong. There were worse spots in the Super Bowl. I’m looking at you, Weather Tech. And don’t think I forgot about you, Avocados from Mexico. You sucked, too. But the Toyota Supra commercial was bad on a different level. You see, the Toyota Supra was once a legendary automobile. One of the only true sports cars that Toyota has ever manufactured for sale in the United States, the fourth generation of the car was available with a twin-turbo engine that made it a legitimate supercar for its day. And the racing lore of the Supra has only grown since the car was discontinued in 2002. So, years ago, when word leaked out that Toyota would re-introduce the Supra, auto enthusiasts were all tingly. That is, until the car was formally introduced at the 2019 North American International Auto Show. Turns out the new Supra is barely a Toyota at all. It has an engine made by BMW. The interior? Again, BMW. And its $50,000 base price would lead you to believe it would blow the doors off the $30,000 Nissan 370Z, another resurrected legend car. Guess what? It’s barely faster.
All this to say the car is rather meh for its category. Much like this spot. Meh for the Super Bowl. A lot of noise and flash and not really any substance there. In that regard, maybe this is the perfect spot for this product.
Meh for meh.