The 6 Best Super Bowl Ads

by Gabriel Valdez

Let’s get this out of the way first: that was a heart-pounding game. John Legend won the Super Bowl before it even started. Katy Perry gave an average performance and a superb show. If halftime is about excess and tweet-worthy visuals and celebrity, she excelled. Let’s face it – only one performer was ever able to deliver a musical performance instead of an ostentatious show at the Super Bowl, and that was Prince.

One more thing: Always had the best Super Bowl ad. Hands down. Its “Like a Girl” campaign is one of the only advertising campaigns I would ever call crucial. Ads are meant to take away, to make you feel like you need something in your life that you don’t have, to make you feel lesser for not having it. The “Like a Girl” campaign is one of the only ones that makes you feel better, as if you don’t need something more in your life, and that acknowledges its product as completely secondary to a real social message.

I’ll post the full version of the commercial here:

That was the best Super Bowl commercial. End of story. It’s been around for months, though, so let’s talk about the best original Super Bowl commercials, ones which made their TV premier right before or during the game.

5. “First Draft Ever”

My biggest problem with modern advertising is that we tend to focus on setup so much that we forget to deliver the punch-line. In a Super Bowl that tended toward more serious ads, this was the funniest of the night, featuring Doug Flutie, Jerry Rice, a caveman, and the first draft ever. It’s nothing but punch-lines. The 30-second version works a little better, but good luck finding it. The minute-version is still pretty good.

4. “Make It Happy”

Coca Cola is a horrible company with a horrible history of foreign abuses that make a horrible product. But they do make good commercials. This year’s was cheesy and painted in broad strokes, but it stood out for its positive messaging.

It also stood out for its editing – in an evening when Darren Aronofsky-style hip-hop editing dominated the night (it’s named for its philosophy, not for being used much in hip-hop), Coke kept to their traditional David Fincher-style of 90s music video editing. It made the commercial’s rhythm stand out from the hundreds of car commercials that want to make their new car seem like a Requiem for a Dream addiction.

3. “Be More Human”

There was a sudden and decided focus this year to feature women in commercials as more than just trophies. “Be More Human” ran right before the Super Bowl and featured both women and men performing fanatical workouts. But it also showed a woman carrying a man on her shoulders and women doing workouts side-by-side with and just as tough as the men. Some commercials this year did a great job of addressing issues that effect women – domestic abuse and double standards. That’s important, but the other half of the equation is to offer visuals of women as heroes and icons. That’s what this did.

2. “Lost Dog”

This hit me square in the Incredible Journey place in my heart. Budweiser owns the Super Bowl when it comes to delivering commercials that make the eyes water. If only they made beer that didn’t.

1. “Invisible”

Nationwide wins on delivering an ad that’s ostensibly about treating all their customers well, but that’s really about how women and minorities are so often treated as second-class citizens in our society. This was a theme during the Super Bowl this year and while these are all still ads, they really do reflect the changing values in our society. Ads hook onto the most relevant and talked-about messages already present. To be advertised something in a new way isn’t a victory, but to have women finally valued in ads in a way they weren’t before does speak to how the conversation about feminism has changed over the last few years.

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