Welcome to the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl LI is done, the Patriots are again Super Bowl champions, Tom Brady has added a new layer of bland to his legend and it's now time to reveal our judging panel's (me and Office Dog) favorites from this year's crop of Super Bowl ads.
Note that, while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, our honors may stray wildly from the standard Super Bowl advertising award fare. Our goal is to recognize the Super Bowl ads that stuck, the ads that sucked, and the ads resonated with the guy or gal who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the entire show (from the viewpoint of an advertising guy who worked Super Bowl promotions in bars for 15 years). So, without further non-poetry…
The A For Execution But... Award
Snickers produced a first for Super Bowl ads; an actual live spot for Super Bowl LI and migod was it underwhelming. Starring Adam Driver and making reference to the game's halftime score (so that, you know, we'd know it was live), the Snickers spot essentially depicted a commercial shoot gone bad. Closing with the self-referential tagline "You ruin live Super Bowl commercials when you're hungry" the spot simply failed to connect and, for those that actually knew the spot was being done live, it failed miserably in living up to the hype.
The Office Dog Honors Award
This award honors the best use of animals (preferably monkeys) in Super Bowl ads. Monkeys seem to be passé in Super Bowl advertising these days, so Office Dog, being a yellow Lab, liked the only ad that featured a dog. That was the Bud Light ad which brought us the ghost of Spuds McKenzie, the brand's controversial 1980's-era mascot. With a lame rekindling of the three ghosts from A Christmas Carol, this ad actually sucked and I'm only mentioning it here so Office Dog will leave me alone and let me finish this. Instead I'd rather highlight the Yellowtail spot, which actually wasn't a Super Bowl spot and featured the closest thing we got to an entertaining live animal this year; an animatronic kangaroo…
Best Schizophrenic Super Bowl Advertiser Award
T-Mobile gave us Justin Bieber being just as annoying as a pitchman as he is a "performer." The ad also featured an appearance by Rob Gronkowski (which was its only redeeming element) as well as a superfluous appearance by former NFLer Terrell Owens to push the concept of "unlimited moves." From there, the brand pivoted to two cloyingly frothy, oooohletsbedirty ads parodying phone sex and 50 Shades of Grey and threw in a new spot with Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg for good measure. At roughly $5 million per :30 seconds of air time, T-Mobile pissed away a lot of money on multiple concepts that could have been better spent hammering home their message in a more united, cohesive series of spots.
The WTF Award
Memorable for all the wrong reasons, TurboTax's ad featuring a stitched-up Humpty Dumpty in a hospital bed, oozing yolk from his wounds as he spars with his bumbling King's Men was just too weird. It was simply a long way to go to imply that, with TurboTax, you can do your taxes anywhere, even a wall! Throw in a surly, stitched up egg in a hospital bed acting as your spokesperson and you get an ad that was forgotten in less time than it took to actually air.
The Please, For The Love Of God, Go Away Award
This year, T-Mobile gets the Go Away nod for not one, but two tawdry, lame and brazen attempts to create a Super Bowl buzzed spot. The ads, which gave us tawdry phone sex, 50 Shades of Grey and lame attempts at viral tagline ("#NSFWireless" and "#Punished" edgy, huh?) were weak and, given the other T-Mobile spots, will be quickly forgotten. That they just weren't all that good, spent too much time taking shots at the competition and simply didn't make enough connection to the brand until the last :10 seconds, ultimately made them more annoying than effective.
Best Pointless Use Of A Pointless Celebrity Award
Oh look, T-Mobile scores another honor for its Unlimited Moves spot featuring Justin Bieber, Rob Gronkowski and, for some reason, Terrell Owens. Framing the Biebs as a "Celebration Expert" commenting on various celebrations, the spot could have made the exact same impact without Bieber and Terrell Owens. Had they just built the ad around Gronkowski it would have been far more amusing and memorable. Further, they could have used only Bieber and Gronkowski, and foregone Owens, who was an ass while an active player and who's been out of the NFL and the public eye for six years. That would have saved T-Mobile plenty of money and made the same impact.
The Water Cooler Winner
There were plenty of candidates for the top spot in a year that offered, in my opinion, a fairly lukewarm crop of ads. Though it initially looked like another lame FoxSports in-game promotion ad, Tide's spot featuring Terry Bradshaw, a viral stain, Rob Gronkowski (again!) and an unexpected but wonderfully droll appearance by Jeffrey Tambor was pretty amusing if a bit too long. That the brand reinforced it late in the 4th quarter, with an equally well-done follow-up :15 spot, scored some extra points for brand reinforcement. I liked the Squarespace ad with John Malkovich, though the :60 that ran online was far more effective than the :30 that actually aired during the game. Bai Brands' spot with Christopher Walken speaking the lyrics to Justin Timberlake's "Bye Bye Bye" while Timberlake watches from the other side of the couch was good for a laugh early in the game. 84 Lumber and AirBnB went political and grabbed attention with spots that, while gripping, were also a bit heavy handed.
But the spot that I think will be talked about the most around the watercolor on Monday was the It's A 10 Hair Care spot featuring a soft political jab, humor and just enough weirdness to make it memorable beyond the equally memorable game.
So, there ya' go...my take on the Super Bowl ads for 2017. Some good, some bad, some creative, some cliché. Feel free to leave your thoughts, picks, pans, favorites and failures in the comments. And, until then, when does the 2017 football season start?