Monday Morning Ad Quarterback: The Best Ads of Super Bowl 50

February 7, 2016

super bowl ads

The Super Bowl gives us a chance to see the season’s two best teams go head to head as we enjoy the company of friends and family while indulging in some of our favorite eats (spicing it up this year by combining buffalo chicken and chili!). However, many fans flock to the game to watch the other spectacle — the Super Bowl ads and the increasingly digital conversations they spark. With a price tag of $5 million for just 30 seconds of time, the “big game” takes on new meaning for marketers. 2016 was no exception.

The Best Super Bowl Ads of 2016

It’s been a long standing tradition here to do a Monday Morning Ad Quarterback post, recapping the winners and losers in marketing’s main event. As things move even faster in the digital age, “Monday morning” has become Sunday night! As two of the central topics on this blog are branding and social media, we’ve selected our favorite ads around this criteria. This year we’ll have selections from our team as well as our extended community of bloggers. I’ll be joined by Dean Westergaard, Meghann Foster, Angie CottrellKary Delaria, and Maddy Osman.

Those are the rules and players. Now let’s get started. Ready? BREAK!

Nick Westergaard: Toyota Prius

nick_headshot_2014-01Drumroll please … My favorite ad was Mt Dew’s “Puppy Monkey Baby”! Kidding aside (because that awful creature is a crime against nature who has spawned a hilarious Twitter account BTW), my favorite spot was the Toyota Prius ad. Clocking in at over 90 seconds, they had plenty of time to tell a story. They used this to confound brand expectations such as the idea that the quirky hybrid is far from a cool ride. They did so by putting the Prius at the heart of “cool car” territory – an elaborate heist movie car chase. While making their escape, a carload of bumbling bank robbers showcase the Prius’s features in an entertaining yet educational way.

From Buick to MINI, confounding brand expectations was big in car ads this year. However, I give points to MINI who made a bigger, more informative statement of what they are. My runner up would be the Jungle Book movie. While I’m excited for many spring flicks (did you see the Civil War trailer?), Jungle Book wasn’t on my radar until their fun teaser ad that had the action leaping outside of the letterboxing. The big win came when they responded to my tweet within minutes with more exclusive content in the form of a bigger trailer. Thanks for listening, Jungle Book.

Dean Westergaard: Dorito’s

color-deanIn a year that was somewhat devoid of big punchlines, this year’s Super Bowl winner, I believe, was the Doritos “Ultrasound” spot. It made the most of the old adage — make ‘em laugh or make ‘em cry and you’ll make ‘em remember. It was just straightforward situation comedy with well-cast physical acting.  The product was central to the spot, without getting bogged down in attributes. But you can’t remember the spot without remembering the product.

Meghann Foster: MINI

color-meghann-100x100Overall I was pleased to see fewer ads that objectify women and/or portray them in a negative light. It’s almost as if we’ve finally realized that women watch football too! Although there’s still a lot of work to do, there were some great spots featuring funny, strong women. Surprisingly, the beer ads did the best job of this! We saw women athletes in the Michelob Ultra ad, Amy Schumer as a politician speaking in vague platitudes in the Bud Light ad, and Helen Mirren talking straight about the stupidity of drunk driving in the Budweiser spot.

But I wanted to give a shout out to the “Defy Labels” ad from MINI. Several car ads attempted to flip the expectations of their brand tonight but I felt the MINI ad did the best job of this with their inspiring spot.  

Angie Cottrell: Hyundai

color-angieIn a room full of chaos and being distracted it was one of the few commercial I really watched — after the fourth Ryan Reynolds sighting I really started to pay attention. Then the commercial ended up about distractions and it seemed fitting. As a mom with two girls I also really liked the Kevin Hart commercial. Didn’t even put two and two together that they were the same car like so Hyundai really won it for me. I didn’t think I needed much technology in my car and they proved me wrong twice!

Kary Delaria: T-Mobile

kary delaria bigIt’s been fun to watch the back and forth between these phone carriers. T-Mobile just nailed it with Steve Harvey. It was so well played. Recently Harvey had an unfortunate public blunder by mistakingly misreading results on live telecast of the Miss Universe pageant. They used this to humorously out him in the spot again by reading the wrong results — but this time, it was Verizon’s mistake, not his. Plus the corresponding #Ballogize conversation. Harvey is redeeming himself and T-Mobile gave him the platform to do so at the expense of their competitor. Snap!

These brands are using humor and humanized brand voice to continue the banter and stay in the game. Looking forward to seeing if the others can top it!

Maddy Osman: Pokémon

maddy.001I loved the Pokémon ad! It’s interesting that they’re doing a spot this year but also timely — it’s the 20th anniversary of the franchise.

They’ve managed to keep a dedicated following for 20 years now! I wonder how much longer they can keep it up?

What Do You Think?

Those are our picks. What’s your ruling on this year’s ads? What insights have you heard around the water cooler? What’s the social buzz? Remember, you can view all of this year’s Super Bowl ads on the official AdBlitz YouTube channel.

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.