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The best and worst ads of Super Bowl 50

The Super Bowl is a big gamble. Sure, viewers willingly sit through, and even look forward to, the ads. But it’s difficult to create something truly memorable, something entertaining, and also a message that will actually sell your product – and justify that mammoth price tag for the airtime.

So who did well, and who blew it? Here’s our roundup:

Worst

Anthony Hopkins for TurboTax


“I would never tarnish my name by selling you something,” the revered actor says before taking a sip of tea from a cup decorated with the TurboTax logo. Putting a spotlight on how depressing it is to watch celebrities we love half-heartedly pitch product, is probably not the best way to kick off a commercial. The script tries to justify this strategy, claiming that the actor is not selling out since the tax-filing service is free and “there’s nothing to sell.” Of course, this is disingenuous: the free filing service often imposes extra charges. It’s a money-making service after all. So not only do you have to watch Sir Anthony cuddle a dog that he’s apparently named TurboTax.com (poor pup), you also have to listen to him lie about selling out. At least Christopher Walken fully commits to playing with a sock puppet, mocking his own persona, and shilling for Kia.

Puppymonkeybaby


Mountain Dew went for total off-the-wall surrealism in a bid to be remembered. (Is the phrase “Puppymonkeybaby” in your head yet?) And in a way, the ad could be seen as a sly mockery of advertisers’ limited imaginations when it comes to Super Bowl tropes – weird animals, adorable puppies, and babies are all well-worn characters in big game spots. But the commercial, which claimed that the new Mountain Dew’s combination of the soda, juice and caffeine is a wonderful trifecta, somewhat like its weird character, was in the end mostly just inscrutable and annoying.

Peyton Manning for Budweiser


After a legendary career, an aging quarterback (probably) heads into retirement on the ultimate high note: a Super Bowl victory. And he chose that moment to outline his priorities: “I wanna go kiss my wife and my kids, I wanna go hug my family, I’m gonna drink a lotta Budweiser tonight.” Wait, what? The Super Bowl is an advertising spectacular, and viewers are willing to sit through a lot of commercial pitches – but a post-game interview seems like a weird time to plug a product. (Manning dropped this sponsored content into a second interview as well.) According to the brand’s head of marketing communications, Budweiser did not pay the QB for the mention. As Beer Business Daily has reported, though, Manning does own a stake in two Anheuser-Busch distributors. The Super Bowl is a giant, churning commercial machine. The NFL profits. Advertisers blow their budgets in search of profits. Manning is just hopping on the bandwagon. But the man also just secured a $2-million (U.S.) bonus for winning the Super Bowl, on top of his $15-million salary this year, so viewers might be forgiven for rolling their eyes and wishing he’d give it a rest.

Constipation


Going to town on some nachos? What a wonderful time to hear about opioid-induced constipation.

Best

Snickers


It’s a long-running campaign with a simple premise: “hanger” or hunger-induced anger, is a thing. The slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry” is illustrated over and over with celebrities embodying the hungry alter-egos of otherwise functional adults, who are cured with a bite of candy. Is the health message on point? Not a chance. But the concept somehow continues to work. This time it’s poor Marilyn Monroe, stuck on a sewer grate with her skirt blowing above her head, filming that famous scene from The Seven Year Itch. To illustrate how out of sorts she is, they dressed up Willem Defoe instead, and used some digital trickery to have the late star say she’s “much better” after her snack. Using the visages of dead celebrities to sell products is a pretty common, and not entirely tasteful, strategy. But the concept of the Snickers campaign still holds some charm.

Mini


BMW’s Mini Cooper looks very different from other cars, and its design has meant that over the years it’s become labelled in various ways. The ad smartly takes on some of the stereotypes that have been applied to it, such as, “this is a chick car,” “this is a gay car,” “this is a short man’s car,” and “this car has no street cred.” By tackling these messages head on, the commercial manages to make a rather effective argument that they’re essentially meaningless. The ad was accompanied by an extra series of online videos, featuring the celebrities who star in the commercial – including Serena Williams, Abby Wambach and T-Pain – talking about the labels that have been applied to them and how they’ve defied them.

Beyoncé


All hail Queen B. Look, it’s not hard to steal the show when you’re up against Coldplay, but not only did Beyoncé do just that, she also executed a perfectly-timed marketing coup. Just one day before the big game, the world’s ruling pop icon released a new video for her instant hit song “Formation” – a politically charged, powerful, and as always, stylish and bumping music video – giving it just enough time to be passed around online before she performed it on the biggest televised event of the year. Then, just after halftime finished, she put her face right back on the screen to announce her world tour beginning in April. She slays.

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