It was a dark and snowy night when four Buffalonians and two miniature poodle mixes huddled around the television to watch the big game. Five San Francisco fans and one Kansas City hold-out came ready to duke it out over the tough competition for most competitive commercial of the night. We didn’t see any big commercial trends or themes this year, but the usual funny, sentimental and off-beat boxes were effectively checked.
The Biggest Laughs
The laughs seemed to win the biggest this year, with Jason Momoa for Rocket Mortgage and Bill Murray for Jeep taking the cake. Post Malone for Bud Light Seltzer was a welcome addition; I’ve always wondered what goes on behind that tattooed visage. The ads on this list will all give you a sincere chuckle.
- Jeep, featuring Bill Murray
- Rocket Mortgage, featuring Jason Momoa
- Genesis, featuring John Legend and Chrissy Teigen
- Bud Light Seltzer, featuring Post Malone
- Hyundai Sonata, featuring John Krasinski
- T-Mobile, featuring Anthony Anderson and his mother
- Little Caesars, featuring Rainn Wilson
- P&G, featuring Sofia Vergara
- Mountain Dew Zero Sugar, featuring Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross
- Cheetos, featuring MC Hammer
These ads may not have been the most hilarious, controversial or sentimental, but they’re damn well done.
This parody of Coca-Cola’s classic “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” campaign with a millennial twist was one of my favorites because it hit several marks. It’s funny, it’s referential, and it supports the product.
This spot featuring Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi pokes fun at how silly we potentially all feel — and rightfully so — when we talk to our devices. The first time I talked to Alexa it was like an awkward first date, and now I yell at her to turn her volume down or to shut the lights off like an Italian grandmother shouting at a pack of kids who need to get inside and eat dinner. The ad ultimately hits the Ellen persona on the nose, as it’s full of the exact kind of goofy humor we associate with her.
The Most Sentimental: Google and WeatherTech
These ads in particular seem to make it obvious that during an event that reaches as many demographics as the finale of the American football season does, we should expect the full gamut of messaging and tone. How these softer ads fit into the high-energy landscape of a world-class sporting event is interesting to watch. It seems like they might have the most impact pre and postgame, but some of the most memorable ads that ran included:
Google hit home with the most sentimental ad of the evening along with WeatherTech who ran an ad on behalf of the University Wisconsin Veterinary School featuring the WeatherTech CEO’s real-life dog who was saved by the veterinary hospital.
The most interesting aspects of Donald Trump’s and Michael Bloomberg’s political ads seemed to be that they were there at all and that we have two candidates running for president who each have $10 million to throw down on a single television spot.
Donald Trump featured a woman who spent 21 years in prison for a nonviolent drug offense before Trump commuted her sentence, focusing his spot on the First Step Act of 2019, which pushed through criminal justice reforms. Michael Bloomberg similarly featured a woman who lost her son to gun violence and promised the nation that he would address gun control head-on should he be elected to office. Notably, Donald Trump’s branding takes on an all-caps typographic approach, while Michael “mike” Bloomberg has gone all lowercase for maximum approachability.
Audi took a step into the surreal, putting Maisie Williams in their new electric model and having her lead a chorus of “Let It Go” from the first Frozen movie. Singing mechanics and a fully animated cityscape support her on her journey out of traffic and into the freedom of the open road. Let it go indeed, Maisie. Maybe the visceral response was due to the pure tenacity with which “Let It Go” has accosted us all, or maybe we just didn’t get it, Audi.
I appreciate that we’re talking about 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers with this commercial, but it fell a little flat for me. This was an easy get for Microsoft, and it seemed like the story could have pulled a stronger ending for Sowers.
Doritos was a winner for me with Sam Elliott and Lil Nas X. The spot was funny, and if there is any confusion about Elliott being a real contender in a dance contest, it’s put to bed by his CGI mustache move at the beginning of the dance-off. This ad knows enough to make fun of itself, and putting these two vastly different celebrities in the same world says we can all coexist without making it over-complicated. Just eat a Dorito and enjoy the game.
Overall, we give this year’s crop of ads for the big game 3.5/5 stars. There was plenty to appreciate, and no brands stepped in anything too controversial or appeared to lack thoughtfulness. However, it seems like in these times of divided attitudes and audiences, brands can’t lean into any one message or type of thinking strongly enough to both please everyone and make the kind of culturally dominant impact that we’ll all be talking about for years to come.
If you can’t get enough of our commercial critiques, check out our roundup of the best holiday ads from this past season.