Once a year occurs a giant advertising orgasm you may have heard of, called the Super Bowl. Technically it also involves football, though this year it did not involve Tom Brady’s balls. It also didn’t include an orgasm of advertising, unless you’re satisfied with disappointment, much like Brady’s balls experienced this year.
It did, though, include Helen Mirren, myriad cars, a bunch of brands, avocados, and an all-too-brief appearance by Megan Fox, all praise be upon her.
While the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers by a score of 24-10 in an all-too-typical Super Bowl game, we were treated to various and sundry commercials. Much like the game, they were terrible, but also like the game, they happened. So without further adieu, let’s take a stroll across the sprawling field of near hits, misses, genetic abominations, and alcohol.
Heinz: Dinner Rush
Dachshunds in their natural habitat, running and jumping across the prairie, are pretty cute, so many liked this commercial. I have a different take. Putting dachshunds in hot-dog costumes is a little too on the nose. Add in that what really happened is some marketer dressed up man’s best friends as a meal then had them leap into the arms of the condiments that will smother them just before they meet their demise, and the result is bad Heinz. Bad, bad Heinz. Where’s the remote for my shock collar?
Mountain Dew: Dr. Mountain Dew’s Monster
Remember that time you stepped on an alien and took off running before you realized it was probably just a rock and also that the LSD had been particularly strong that night? Everyone had a good laugh, and you moved on with your life. Not so with the abomination that is #puppymonkeybaby.
Mountain Dew, perhaps after ingesting some of its own products, decided it would be fun to symbolize their new beverage, which mixes three things, with a fantastical mixture of three other things. The end result was creepier than that dancing baby from “Ally McBeal” and “Trainspotting,” and way more nightmare-inducing. At least, I suppose, it was memorable.
Budweiser: Watch Helen Mirren Chastise People Who Can’t Afford A Personal Driver
We live in an age when businesses often have to spend marketing dollars to pretend they’re against themselves. While Anheuser-Busch definitely doesn’t want its customers getting hosed and taking the car out to tear some shit up, it also doesn’t care about moderation. That’s why it sells 30-packs and can afford to hire Helen Mirren to push hashtagtivism.
twee#GiveADamn? Don’t mind if I do. By drinking beer with more flavor, unless I just mowed the yard in the hot summer sun, in which case ice-cold alcoholic water is perfect. But don’t worry, Helen, I wait to crack one open ‘til after I’m finished with the motorized blade.
Budweiser: For People Who DRINK
What was I just saying about Budweiser?
Bud Light: Also for People Who Drink
Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen attempt to unify the country around Bud Light and an Iowa caucus joke that has only been made like 40,000,000 times by this point, though in fairness they recorded the commercial before the joke went flaccid. Still, it’s Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen for Bud Light. That was a recipe for failure, much like Bud Light.
Death Wish Coffee: Like “Game of Thrones’ Is Throwing a Party in Your Mouth
Good on QuickBooks for sponsoring a small business with 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time. Bad on QuickBooks for not providing them with an agency that had the wherewithal to say, “Maybe you don’t want people imagining they’ve got Vikings in their mouth.”
Axe: Real Beauty
This ad covers every bit of ground except for the fact that if you use Axe, you will smell like Axe. That won’t necessarily prevent you from having sex, as depicted toward the end, but it definitely won’t help. Since men do most things with sex in mind, be your own man and just say no to Axe. Given the anodyne blandness of these ads, Axe gets some credit for that one risqué scene. It is still Axe, though.
Kia: Why Is Christopher Walken In My Closet?
Wild and colorful socks are a way to stand out, to devour your competition, so Kia’s commercial with Christopher Walken expounding on that topic was accurate on the metrics. It was also ridiculously frightening, because few people have hearts strong enough to retain verticality upon finding Christopher Walken lurking in their closet, waiting to chastise them.
Beyond this, any car make is the beige sock of the automotive world, it is Kia. That’s fine; it’s what Kia is good at, and the world needs beige socks at times. But to pretend that Kia is a fierce and bold vehicle is to ignore the fact that Aston Martin exists. To turn a blind eye to the Bugatti Veyron. To forget about Maserati. They, and vehicles like them, are the apex predators of autos. They are the colorful socks sitting on high-performance shoes waiting to demolish the Kias of the world without compunction.
Audi: Moon Launch
This is what colorful socks look like, Kia.
Acura: Runnin’ with the Devil
Van Halen, the real Van Halen and not that Sammy Hagar nonsense, means this Acura commercial for the NSX was on-point and colorful, like a nice pair of man-leggings or a bunch of scarves. Diamond Dave don’t play. On the other hand, it’s 2016 and maybe a throwback to David Lee Roth isn’t the most cutting-edge tactic available.
Drake: Contract-Fine-Print Bling
Drake, the Celine Dion of rap, reworks “Hotline Bling” for T-Mobile. The end result is no different than the original song, but props to Drake for getting paid for doing basically no work whatsoever. Also, props for highlighting just how nontroversial this year’s ads were. Caillou brings more heat than these wastes of money delivered.
Amazon: Don’t Make Me Cut a Siri
Confession: I have an Echo, and think it’s a fine product, though I am a tad nervous that Alexa is going to use my Prime account to order herself some arms and legs so she can take revenge on my children for tormenting her so.
Shock Top: Diss Battle
Legitimately funny. Both delivered devastating blows, but the tap wins with the line about the turtle. Alas, that was cut from the Super Bowl. Way to go, CBS.
Sean Penn Interviews El Chapo About His Favorite Guacamole Recipe
Points awarded for featuring Scott Baio, but this commercial was a huge miss because of who was missing. If the agency that created this was really worth its pesos, it would’ve contracted Neil DeGrasse Tyson and had him pester the alien for the entire commercial.
The NFL: Football Is Fooling Around
The NFL itself didn’t skip the advertising tsunami, or basement flood as it were. That was Super Bowl 50, with its “Football Is Family” campaign. The premise? Nine months after a Super Bowl win, the victorious city experiences a mini baby boom. Because nothing says amore like, “Hey, baby, I just ate a ton of food and drank too much. Wanna bone?”
PayPal: History is, Like, Really Old
Before we get to the two relatively bright spots, we have to plumb the depths. We have to explore just how silly things are. For that, we have PayPal. Granted, it’s a subtle stupidity. Watch it and see if you catch it.
Yes, that’s right. The Founding Fathers are boring old money. Too bad they didn’t create the system that allowed new money to grow its slice of the pie. Wait, they did? Unpossible. I saw it on TV.
Ryan Reynolds, featuring Hyundai—Hey, Is That Ryan Reynolds?
We’ve reached the three mildly bright spots in the horror that was Super Bowl 50, though their shine may be by comparison rather than on their own merits. For the first bright spot, Hyundai brought out Ryan Reynolds to highlight its auto-braking technology. I thought it was an entertaining-enough commercial, mainly because Salt ‘N Pepa, and I’m not the target demographic. Alas, I’ve since learned it was problematic, very problematic.
Another miss for @Hyundai – In their world, women are bad drivers who get distracted by the mere sight of a man. #NotBuyingIt #SB50
— NARAL (@NARAL) February 8, 2016
But what do the ladies think? Here, I’m going to turn things over to a liberal feminist friend of mine: “*Fans self* When he did that little ‘sup’ head nod? I may have gasped out loud. WHO IS THAT HOT?” So, score, Hyundai, for transcending all but the most partisan of partisans and uniting America around Ryan Reynolds. Things could be worse than being united around Ryan Reynolds. We could be arguing about a reality TV star. That brings us to the winner.
Pantene: The Dad Do
Now for bright spot the second. Guess what? Fathers aren’t bumbling idiots. In fact, to get into the weeds, there are even men out there who are quite adept at doing their daughter’s hair. I am not one of them. In fact, I’m probably a horrible father, but I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard. I even I have my moments when it comes to hair. Generally, though, it’s more this.
Daughter starts daycare today. Not brushing her hair because I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations.
— Rich Cromwell (@rcromwell4) January 25, 2016
So Pantene gets points for honesty. It also gets points for encouraging fathers to spend time with their kids, though I’m reminded of the old Chris Rock routine when he chastises those who brag about doing things that shouldn’t be considered extraordinary. But it is sweet, and fathers do matter, even if Pantene is overrated, smells a little funky, and only wishes it were Aveda.
Doritos: I Knew You In the Womb
This ad, one of the first of the evening, was another that united normal people of all stripes while getting the crazies all up in arms. Maybe because it depicted arms, I don’t know. In any case, Doritos are horrible. They are also delicious, and if babies knew how delicious they are, inductions would be unnecessary. We’d just reenact the commercial and nacho cheese our way to a speedy delivery.
Factor in the aforementioned pointless rage, and we have a double-edged sword. Doritos, in a weak field that mirrored the game itself, swung that sword and won. Granted, it wasn’t an exciting victory, but neither was the game.
The Super Bowl, advertising cornucopia that it is, probably doesn’t deserve its status as bastion of good advertisements. It’s more about quantity than quality, though the numbers game usually delivers some surprises.
Not this year, though. No, this year, the commercials were worse than expected, worse even than the game. It was all whimper, no bang. Maybe that’s what we should have expected in 2016. For as we enter this, the stupidest of years, there is nothing left to say, but…