Two years ago, I ranked the top 10 commercials that aired during the Super Bowl XIII broadcast. I’m back again this year — although this time yet more disappointed after Tom Brady’s seventh championship win. Like two years ago, however, a majority of the ads seem unusually normal. It makes sense that a lot of companies would run more traditional ads — because of the pandemic, creating an out-of-the-box commercial is more difficult.
Nevertheless, I think the field of commercials is still weaker, so I only ranked the top six companies whose commercials stood out to me.
6. General Motors: The commercial features Will Ferrel screaming that we — the United States — are coming for Norway, which has the widest adoption of electric vehicles. For what it’s worth, I think the better path to decarbonization is investing in walkable communities and mass transit, rather than the mass adoption of electric vehicles. Nevertheless, antagonization of the Scandinavian nation that largely minds its own business is creative enough, and makes fun of Americans’ inability to tell countries apart when Ferrel accidentally ends up in Sweden while his commercial co-stars, Keenan Thompson and Awkwafina, end up in Finland.
5. Paramount: The company’s streaming service, Paramount+ was the subject of several ads in the Super Bowl. While none stand out individually, they all feature characters and personalities from Paramount+ trying to climb a snowy mountain. Beavis and Butt-Head cracking jokes and Snooki complaining about the frigid weather make for a top-five commercial in a generally weak field.
4. Reddit: The anonymous social media company’s five-second ad featured a wall of text that I couldn’t finish reading before the next commercial aired. I had to go on the company’s site to find it, and even though the text isn’t anything special (especially to a frequent user of the site), I’m sure it piqued the interest of thousands of other curious people who wanted to see the paragraphs of text, too.
3. Toyota: The car company’s ad featured Jessica Long, the 13-time Paralympic gold medalist swimmer. It starts from the moment her parents choose to adopt her: “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” the actor playing her mother says after learning Long needed both legs amputated at birth. The commercial then shows scenes of her learning to walk and starting to swim competitively. It’s the kind of resilient story that you just can’t hate.
2. Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade: One of the few ads that poke fun about everything the country went through last year, with the metaphor of lemons falling from the sky. Watching a guy get clocked by a falling lemon was fun, as was cutting off the guy saying the old cliche, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Also paying for someone in stands to have that cliche on a sign was pretty creative, too.
1. State Farm: I love when commercials build around a punchline. This time the line was “Drake from State Farm” as a pun on the company’s favorite representative Jake from State Farm. The awkward delivery of Drake and Jake delivering the “like a good neighbor” catchphrase sent a hearty chuckle among my housemates that made this commercial my favorite of the night.
Contact Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu.