I don’t know if it was just me, but this year’s big game seemed to go by really fast. There were no massive movie surprises (you won’t see Tomorrowland or Furious 7 on this list, because I need more than those spots gave), but there were some genuinely clever spots, some very strange themes, a good few nerd-out moments and some things that were just so wrong and counterproductive they achieved awesomely awful status.
I have not included commercials we already posted prior to the game, like the Minions and Snickers ads (the Minions one was slightly censored, anyway), and as always, there is some degree of local variation in what gets show in which parts of the country. The following 17+ spots, however, sum up the overall weirdness, greatness and compelling fails that made up our nation’s biggest annual TV watching event.
1. Clash of Clans – “AngryNeeson52.”
I cannot remember the last time I adjusted so quickly from “Fuck this stupid ad” to “Yeah, this is the highlight of the night.” Every anonymous online commenter to ever leave a threatening remark imagines themselves to be a Liam Neeson type, and this spot imagines, for just a moment, that such a thing could actually happen. I am very Taken with this ad.
2. BMW I-3 – Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel Wonder What the Internet Is.
Via a skillful use of repurposed vintage footage, and two TV personalities with a healthy sense of humor about themselves, the essential ad messaging (“Here’s an nenvironmental car”) may have gotten lost, but the marketing scheme (“old people are lame and don’t get stuff”) lingers on.
3. NFL Needs Nerds – “#SuperBowlRally.”
There was a time when I would have been outraged to see an NFL commercial utilizing the signature characters of my entertainment to promote sports, but then again, I come from a time and place where college basketball would regularly preempt network shows and there’d be no way to see those missed episodes again.
Today, I look at an NFL ad, recognize characters in it from My Little Pony and The Lego Movie, and think, “We are winning.”
4. He Ejaculate-TED.
Let us segue perfectly from My Little Pony, a toy line that makes crazy pervs masturbate into jars for no good reason as an unintended consequence of its universal appeal, to Ted 2, a movie by Universal that hopes to appeal to dudes by showing a sentient toy trying to masturbate another dude.
Yes, the event where people had a hissy fit over seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple had no issue whatsoever with running a TV spot in which a teddy bear tries to secretly jerk off Tom Brady. Marky Mark just found some new good vibrations.
5. The Voice Beyond Thunderdome.
The NBC show is taking a chance by aiming at an older demographic than they currently command, though younger viewers may simply think it’s aping a Tupac/Dre video. Cannily cashing in on hype for the new Mad Max movie that’s finally opening this year, it brings Thunderdome nostalgia and a cover of the movie’s theme tune. Christina Aguilera may be no Aunty Entity, but the original movie did feature as a major villain singer Angry Anderson, best known at the time for singing Kylie Minogue’s wedding song.
6. Chevy’s Fake Blackout.
Last year, Time-Warner cable actually did black out at a key moment during the Superbowl. This year, Chevy mocked that moment with a fakeout so effective my wife screamed.
Nice trolling, folks. Though “trolling” isn’t what I look for in a new truck.
7. Squarespace – The Dude Has Had Too Many White Russians.
I assume Squarespace is some sort of domain-name-hosting service, responsible for the weird-ass Jeff Bridges website that I now know is selling an album of sounds designed to help you fall asleep.
If the commercial is meant to convey all that to an average viewer, I think it fails. But as far as getting our attention by having Jeff Bridges make weird sounds with his mouth, it certainly beats the trailers for Seventh Son.
8. Jurassic World – “Indominus Rex.”
The big bad from the new Jurassic Park sequel makes its presence felt even as it has yet to fully reveal itself – Indominus Rex, a genetic hybrid designed to be even scarier and more dangerous than any which actually existed. But it looks like Chris Pratt definitely has some trained raptors to help him bring down the behemoth.
I guess they’ll have to have two Indominuses in the sequel.
9. eSurance – Meth-Head Acting.
Walter White has a prescription for you, and it isn’t more cowbell.
10. Mountain Dew Kickstart – Twerking Dog.
Caffeine and fruit flavors apparently makes you twerk. And makes your dog twerk. And the characters in the video game you’re playing.
But then the commercial gets to the point: “with two new flavors that taste good.” See? That’s the kind of thing I need to know. Because it would not have been my natural assumption that such beverages taste good.
11. Eat24 – Snoop Dogg and Gilbert Gottfried.
Never mind Pixar’s upcoming Inside Out movie – I see my psyche perfectly mirrored in the push-pull between mellow pothead rapper and angry comedian over the frustration of not having all the food you want immediately.
And OF COURSE the lifelong pot-smoker is the dude who knows how to get food delivered.
12. Nationwide’s WTF Dead Kid.
A kid learns to ride a trike, gets kissed by a girl, flies in a jetpack, sails, plays with Transformers toys…then tells us he can’t actually do any of that stuff because HE’S FUCKING DEAD. Oh, and he might have died from drowning, or eating detergent or having a TV fall on him because YOUR HOUSE IS DANGEROUS AS SHIT.
Nationwide Insurance, the product ostensibly being advertised, wouldn’t have made him any less dead, incidentally. It would just have meant his parents could get money as a result.
13. Robot Legs.
After seeing these two commercials for cybernetic parts, I am sold. If I ever lose my legs, I will totally buy these products to compensate.
Wait…these weren’t for metal limbs? Something else was being advertised? The hell you say?
14. Fuck the Internet.
First, Coca-Cola implies that if we just poured Coke on the server, basement-dwelling jerks would apologize for doxxing/threatening and feminists would become very concerned about ethics in video games, or something (it’s usually the reverse: people drink Mountain Dew and act like dicks with anonymous impunity, but whatever).
Then Kim Kardashian implies that it’s great we have the Internet because it can be used to look at her.
It’s a one-two punch that makes me want to completely unplug.
McDonald’s will randomly select people nationwide to get free food if they make a gesture of love to a family member or fellow human being, in a promotion they call “Pay With Lovin’,” which does not mean what they think it means.
Also, the first time they try the “Call your mom!” routine on somebody whose parents just died, their ass is getting sued for pain and suffering, and that’ll be the end of that.
16. Avocados From Mexico.
This ad teaches you stuff. Like, how many kids today know the dodo hailed from Mauritius?
I think most people know avocados come from Mexico, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to call your product “Avocados From Mexico.”
17. Scientology Wastes Money They’ll Need for Lawsuits.
“The predictability of science and the wisdom of religion combine.” So much fail in that sentence alone. This is why it was so easy for Xenu to win the space war way back when.
Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.)
Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist