It’s not just the Patriots and the Rams that are competing for supremacy on Super Bowl night; sponsors are also putting their best foot forward in the advertising competition.
To check out our rundown of the most notable, memorable, heartwarming, humorous or ridiculously lame commercials from Super Bowl LIII, scroll through our gallery.
Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer: “The Pitch”
Mermaid entrepreneurs with heads for business, and tail fins for navigating a real-life “Shark Tank,” star in this cute commercial for spiked seltzer that is kept afloat by good visual effects and sound design. Agency: Bullish.
Pepsi: “Acting Lessons”
Not “great”? Not “delicious”? Just “OK”? Fine. Pepsi might be OK with selling its beverage as “OK,” repeatedly, but with such enthusiastic pitchmen and -women as Steve Carrell, Lil Jon and Cardi B, we almost believe that it’s a greater compliment than it sounds. Carrell’s buoyant energy carries the commercial and lifts it, like a shooting star. Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Bubly: “Michael Bublé vs Bubly”
Pepsi’s sparking water, Bubly, has an almost-namesake for its brand spokesperson in singer Michael Bublé (eh, close enough). Points to the sound person who got the sharpie’s squeaks just right, but if you’re going to hire a singer for a commercial, could it have hurt you to have him sing? Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
M&Ms: “Bad Passengers”
M&Ms candy, which had one of last year’s worst ads (Danny De Vito as a human M&M demanding that people eat him), this year brings us a more palatable one, with Christina Applegate as a harried driver threatening her backseat passengers. Anyone with kids has been there, done that. Agency: BBDO New York.
Doritos: “Chance the Rapper x Backstreet Boys”
Of course, Doritos’ Flamin’ Hot Nacho flavor chips would be so hot they’d produce a fever dream for Chance the Rapper, resulting in Technicolor flop sweats and a dance-off with a ’90s boy band. Not much happens of note, but we see some cool hot rods, and a hot jet, along with a remix of a song that will at the very least rack up some royalties for the songwriters of “I Want It That Way.” Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Pringles: “Sad Device”
It’s a common theme in commercials tonight – robots or artificial intelligence undergoing existential crises because they lack the senses that humans have, like tasting beer or chips. And while we may not experience a Skynet apocalypse, we carbon-based units do have to confront what the sad robots’ attitude portends. It must be said that the stars of this Pringles commercial do what many humans do when faced with an uncomfortable situation: Change the subject, and crank up Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown.”
Avocados From Mexico: “Top Dog”
Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth plays the celebrity commentator at a dog show with a difference. Yeah, we might roll over and beg for guacamole, too, but that’d be as silly as this ad. Agency: Energy BBDO.
Planters: “Mr. Peanut is Always There in Crunch Time”
Mr. Peanut drives like a maniac, but for a higher purpose: saving baseball’s Alex Rodriguez from having to ingest kale (!), because friends don’t let friends eat kale. Charlie Sheen pops up, too, assuring us he is of more sober composure than the giant peanut pushing the pedal to the metal accompanied by the metal of Mötley Crüe.
Planters has even announced a Twitter contest in which one lucky winner can be driven around by Mr. Peanut behind the wheel in the Nutmobile. Uhm, after seeing him drive here, we’ll take a pass. Agency: VaynerMedia.
Bumble: “The Ball Is In Her Court”
“Don’t wait to be given power,” is the message of this ad from Bumble, a dating and social networking app, promoting the idea that women can and should be willing to make the first move. And who better to spread that message than Serena Williams, who stars in her own life story as an example of a woman whose pursuits made her a champion on the court. “If I’d waited to be invited in, I never would have stood out,” she says.
And for everyone who makes a first move on Monday (Bumble has declared February 4th “First Move Day”), donations will be made to the charity Yetunde Price Resource Center. Agencies: FlyteVu and VMLY&R.
Google: “100 Hundred Billion Words”
A touching commercial that is ostensibly about the use of technology to translate language, both spoken and visual, to better understand their meanings, but which is really about the purpose of communication: to unite and to share.
Hyundai: “The Elevator”
Jason Bateman (“Ozark”) plays an elevator operator helping passengers get to their destinations, no matter how grueling or off-putting. Luckily, one couple uses Hyundai’s Shoppers Assurance, and so get off on the right floor. Hilarious, and time to dig into that beet loaf! Agency: Innocean USA.
Audi brought terrific commercials to the Super Bowl in 2016 (“Commander”) and 2017 (“Daughter”), but sat out last year’s game. Now they’re back touting their electric vehicles with a very winning take on what it means to have died and gone to heaven. Anyone hoping for a fun Super Bowl ad will have the same experience here, without requiring the Heimlich maneuver. Agency: Venables Bell & Partners.
Mercedes-Benz: “Say the Word”
Mercedes Benz’s 2019 A-Class listens to your commands. If only life were like that. Cameos by the singer Ludacris and Wile E. Coyote bring some fun to the proceedings. Agency: Merkley & Partners.
Toyota Rav4: “Toni”
An inspiring commercial featuring college free safety Antoinette “Toni” Harris, who aspires to break through gender barriers on the gridiron. She’s certainly the first female football player to appear in a Super Bowl ad, and her confidence assures us she’ll continue to shatter assumptions. Oh, she’s also driving a boss hybrid car. Agency: Burrell Communications.
Weather Tech: “Scout”
Weather Tech ads have usually been meat-and-potatoes affairs – they make floor mats for your car, that’s what they’re about, and they make no bones about it. But now they’ve added animals to their commercials, promoting their Pet Comfort products. Welcome to warm and fuzzy Super Bowl ads, Weather Tech! Agency: Pinnacle.
Stella Artois: “Change Up the Usual”
Change is good, even for movie and TV characters that we’ve grown comfortable with over the years. But can we accept change when we see Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City” (Sarah Jessica Parker) and The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” (Jeff Bridges) turn down their beverages of choice for a Stella Artois? The slapstick is dumb, but it’s reassuring to know that The Dude still abides. Agency: Mother New York.
Bud Light: “Corn Syrup”
A clever way to underscore how your beer contains no corn syrup is to play up how your competitors’ does, by ostensibly doing them a kind favor! Take that, Miller and Coors!
Expensify: “2 Chainz x Adam Scott”
Rapper 2 Chainz and actor Adam Scott star in the first TV spot by the receipt-tracking app. Chances are, if you saw the 3:51 music video version released online, you would have thought this but a crude interruption. Agency: JohnXHannes New York.
Geez, what heartless people, to insult little RoboChild by telling him he doesn’t measure up, emotionally, to a human TurboTax tax specialist! When the Skynet apocalypse comes, our new Robot Overlords will point to this as an example of how we had it coming.
Several trailers aired during the broadcast, with a teaser for “Avenger: Endgame” airing before kickoff. But the trailers burst out of the gate in the first commercial break with Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale.”
Hulu: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Season 3)
Sure, it looks and sounds like a Reagan-era “Morning in America” Super Bowl ad, with gauzy photography and the narrator intoning the advances of women (“More are working than ever before!”), but it soon descends into the dystopian territory of the Margaret Atwood tale.
Disney/Marvel: “Captain Marvel”
Oh, snap! Footage of the new Marvel superhero adventure starring Brie Larson, set before “Infinity War” wiped out half of the actors on Disney’s payroll.
Bud Light: “Joust”
What a wonderful head fake: Just when we think we’re watching yet another goof-ball Bud Light medieval era commercial set at a jousting tournament, it turns into a wonderfully brutal teaser for the final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Give the people behind this ad a cold one!
Turkish Airlines: “The Journey”
OK, our ears perked up when we heard that Sir Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”) directed a six-minute commercial for Turkish Airlines, shot in Istanbul, and starring Sylvia Hoeks (“The Girl in the Spider’s Web”). A 30-second version is what was shown during the Game (would you pay for six minutes of Super Bowl airtime, which runs about $5 million per 30 seconds?), so it’s frankly a teaser of a much more sumptuous film. There is no story per se, at least not one worth figuring out, but when there are drone shots over the Blue Mosque, you don’t much care.
Norwegian Cruise Lines: “Good to Be Free”
“Free” is the operative word in this ad for the travel company, not just about the free stuff you get when you buy a ticket, but freedom from the drudgery of a cruise – like stepping off the boat to actually walk on a beach, surf, or paddle a kayak. You’re also free to do stuff you might not think you can do on a boat, like race go karts. Agency: BBDO Atlanta.
Mint Mobile: “Chunky Style Milk”
It’s expected for companies to diss their competitors in their ads, but to liken them to past-expiration-date dairy products is really pushing this advertising game, and our stomachs, to the extreme. Fun, and maybe especially appealing to phone users who are lactose intolerant. Agency: In-house/Ruffian.
Sprint: “Best of Both Worlds”
Robots may be cool, but they don’t guarantee a cool commercial. Even if you throw a mermaid, a flying horse, and sports legend Bo Jackson into the mix, you still get a lame ad that doesn’t make you want to check out Sprint’s LTE Advanced Network. Agency: Droga5.
T-Mobile: “We’ll Keep This Brief”
T-Mobile brought a couple of witty ads that spoke to one of modern life’s travails: texting. The better one featured that dreaded, lengthy text message that would break many data plans just to scroll through.
Olay: “Killer Skin”
Sarah Michelle Gellar, the scream queen of such films as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Scream 2” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” stars in this well-shot ad which centers on the very last thing that young people chased by a maniac with a knife would care about: the condition of their skin (assuming it hasn’t been punctured). The commercial could have worked just as well for smartphone security apps, too. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi.
Simplisafe: “Fear is Everywhere”
A terrific and humorous distillation of modern-day life – an existence filled with terrible news, fear, dread, conspiracy theories, high-tech surveillance, and, natch, robots – that can be protected thanks to, ironically, a home security system that watches over you.
From the Archives
For the best (and worst) commercials of previous Super Bowl broadcasts check out these rundowns:
The making of a Super Bowl commercial (“Sunday Morning”)