Welcome to the 2021 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl LV is history and the Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions! COVID sucks! We're all in this together! It takes all of us! Every brand is "here for you!" And it's time to reveal our judging panel's (me and Office Dog) top honors for this year's Super Bowl Ad Awards.
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 Super Bowl Ad Awards may stray wildly from the standard accolades for Super Bowl ads. Our goal is to recognize the Super Bowl ads that stuck, the ones that sucked, and the ads resonated with the person 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…
Best Use Of Identical Stock Footage
A new category for my Super Bowl Ad Awards! Congratulations to Indeed and Guaranteed Rate for showing America that brands and agencies can cheap out, even for their biggest ad spend of the year. Both first-time Super Bowl advertisers not only used stock footage in their spots, they both used the same piece of stock footage! For those curious, look for the Dad carrying a kid on his back. Granted, in the age of COVID, using stock footage certainly makes good sense. But the fact that neither advertiser opted to change their spot even after the duplication came to light just screams "lazy" and "cheap." Fortunately, with Indeed's spot running in the first half and the Guaranteed Rate spot running late when the game was essentially over, it's likely not many people actually noticed, but…
The A For Execution But... Award
The Bud Light "Legends" spot generated lots of pre-game buzz by bringing back many of its more famous Super Bowl ad characters from years past. Given that, it could have been really great. But instead, it came across as somewhat contrived and actually served to illustrate just how so-so the brand's ads have been in recent years.
The Office Dog Honors Award
This award honors the best use of animals (preferably monkeys) in Super Bowl ads. However, monkeys seem to be passé in Super Bowl advertising these days. In fact, animals of any kind were barely featured in this year's crop of Super Bowl ads. One that did have a good cameo role of a dog was Tide's spot featuring Jason Alexander's ever changing face on a hoodie that's being put through a daily wringer of use. That the spot was pretty funny, ran just before halftime, and earned consideration for the Water Cooler Winner award was an added bonus.
The WTF? Award
We've got a tie for the top prize in the WTF? category between Shift4Shop and Klarna. The Shift4Shop spot gave us weird, futuristic, and tired shots of a a space suit while encouraging viewers to go to another website to win a chance to go to space. Shift4Shop is apparently the e-commerce arm of that website, but the ad did nothing to tell us what Shift4Shop actually is or does. Klarna, (which is a financial service, an app, or something) went kooky in their ad starring with consistently unfunny Maya Rudolph. Problem is, I've watched the ad three times and I'm still not sure what Klarna is or how it works.
The Please Just Go Away Award
Taking The Please Just Go Away Award again (take a shameful bow PuppyBabyMonkey), Mountain Dew gave us a trippy, multi-colored, cloyingly over-the-top spot featuring John Cena and some other, random guy to highlight their new Major Melon flavor. In a cheap ploy for additional views, the brand also offered a contest to see who could count how many bottles of their product appeared in the shot for chance to win a million dollars. While the ad said the flavor was life changing, the spot had me wanting to change the channel.
Pringles ran an ad showing us just how fascinating the ability to stack their chips is. T-Mobile ran two spots (including one featuring Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, and Adam Lambert) to highlight the reliability of their network. Vroom ran an annoying, screechy nightmare scenario to demonstrate how easy they make car buying. The Hellmann's Mayonaise spot featured Amy Schumer as the Fairy Godmayo to highlight how mayonnaise can transform leftover foods. While they're all worthy of Just Go Away Super Bowl Ad Awards, each of those spots was a waste of $5.5 million.
Best Pointless Use Of A Celebrity Award
Scotts Miracle-Gro's ad with Martha Stewart, Carl Weathers, a generic Nascar driver, a guy from "The Office", some exercise lady, and John Travolta dancing with his daughter (but without his toupee), tried to be wacky and humorous. As it also featured Travolta dancing with his daughter, just months after his wife, across Kelli Preston, passed away, it also tried for "touching." It failed on all accounts. Throw in a tagline inviting viewers to text a phone number to enter a contest … or something, and the celebs, and the spot, were forgettable.
Best Trying Too Hard To Make A Statement Award
Jeep shot Bruce Springsteen in a Jeep with no top, in the middle of Kansas, in the dead of winter to emphasize the importance unity and meeting in the middle. It also tried very hard to position Jeep as the preferred vehicle of the "Re-United States of America." In a normal year, this kind of spot would have made Super Bowl parties go silent as everyone absorbed the gravitas of the message. With COVID-19 (hopefully) limiting Super Bowl parties and a divided nation coming off an ugly (unrigged) election, Jeep's attempt to be earnest just fell flat and came across as too preachy.
The Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic Water Cooler Winner
This was a tough one this year. I loved the State Farm spot that continued the theme they'd used all year with Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Jake from State Farm. Plus any spot with Paul Rudd will be a winner. Rocket Mortgage ran two similar and equally funny spots with Tracy Morgan that provided a nice one-two punch. The Doritos 3D spot featuring a one-dimensional, flat Matthew McConaughey was incredibly creative, well-written, and terribly funny. Ultimately, however, GM's ad featuring a typically manic Will Ferrell taking on Norway over their electric vehicle production is the one that likely stood out the most to tonight's Super Bowl viewers. And that's the one that will be the most talked about around the water cooler tomorrow!
So, there ya' go... my Super Bowl Ad Awards for 2021. 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 2021 football season start?