So 2020 was a challenging year. For everyone. No explanation needed. And like most industries, the advertising world took a hit. Budgets shrunk, excitement was low and there was an overall mood.
You could see the signs of the times most clearly on Jeep. The brand went from last year’s very funny and cleverly made Groundhog day scenario (our favorite Super Bowl 54 ad) to an impassioned politically charged speech by Bruce Springsteen in the snow about how Americans should all come to the middle.
The Boss’s call for unity was joined by a few brands who went political. Fiverr replicated the Four Seasons Total Landscaping business, mistakenly booked by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a weird press conference, and Budweiser made an ad about not making an ad for Super Bowl 55 as a sign of solidarity (confusing, I know).
However, most advertisers avoided touching politics or the pandemic, and those that did acknowledge it did it subtly, in the background.
There was also a lot of humor this year, with many brands opting for evoking a nostalgic feeling in their audience by reviving beloved characters from the past, like Wayne’s World’s Wayne and Garth, George Constanza and Edward Scissorhands.
So let’s see which commercials stood out to us in the crowded field.
Didn’t make the top 10 were Mountain Dew, whose ad launched a competition that gives away $1 million to the first person who can count precisely how many watermelon bottles are in the ad, with John Cena as the presenter. It was an interesting experiment.
Oatly took home the weird trophy with a 30-second ad that sees their CEO singing (or bellowing) a vegan song about his no-cow milk. It’s very campy and many people hated it, but nobody couldn’t ignore it and it turned out to be one of the most talked-about commercials in this Super Bowl, which, in my book, pretty much means success.
Another sneaky campaign was Reddit‘s 5-second spot showing a Reddit post that alludes to the GameStop operation, which started on their platform.
Now here’s our top 10:
10. Doritos – FlatMatthew
So apparently, Matthew McConaughey is flat, meaning 2 dimensional, and it’s a lifestyle that has some drawbacks. Even his celebrity peers (Mindy Kaling and Kimmy Kimmel) look at him funny. Seeing a Doritos vending machine, he slides in and starts eating the new 3-dimensional Dorito. This transforms him back to his old 3-dimensional self (only stuck in a vending machine).
It’s goofy but also a bit touching, as you feel for FlatMatthew.
9. Paramount+ Expedition
As far as I’m concerned, if you have Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the same ad, you can pretty much do what you want. Paramount+ is a new streaming service like Netflix and HBO+, so it made sense for them to gather as many celebrities as possible ‘as a metaphor for their vast entertainment catalog. And that’s what they do with Young Sheldon star Iain Armitage, late-night hosts James Corden and Trevor Noah, Snooki from Jersey Shore, Tom Selleck, Gayle King, DJ Khaled, to name a few.
And it gets weird as SpongeBob Squarepants starts singing David Glen Eisley’s ‘Sweet Victory,’ and everyone dances like they’re metaphors.
This ad takes the crown in the ‘meta’ category, which last year went to a clever bit by Rick and Morty for Pringles.
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8. Cadillac – ScissorHandsFree
I imagine a brainstorming meeting where the team tries to think who would benefit most from a hands-free electric car.,and someone says half-jokingly, ‘you know, Edward Scissorhands would love driving hands-free.’ And it started the ball rolling.
Starring Timothée Chalamet as Edgar Scissorhands and Winona Rider, reprising her role as Kim Boggs, the ad sees Edgar struggling to adjust to society because of his scissor-hands. That is until he starts driving the Cadillac Lyriq and turns on the system that helps him drive hands-free.
The ad’s full version clocks at 1:30 minutes, showing all the struggles of poor Edgar, from catching a football (why would you even throw it to him) to making a fancy sandwich, it has similar music to the film’s. Touching, clever and captures the spirit of the original 1990 cult film.
7. Tide – The Jason Alexander Hoodie
Probably the most surreal spot this year, Tide’s ad features another nostalgic figure, Jason Alexander, best known as Seinfeld’s neurotic stocky friend George Constanza.
The ad shows a teenager trying to remember if he did something to dirty his hoodie, which features Jason Alexander’s face (yikes). Whether having a dog drool on his face, a piece of leftover lettuce stuck in his tongue or a stinky sock covering his nose, the Jason Alexander hoodie takes a lot of abuse. You feel bad for hoodie Jason, seeing his changing expression on the shirt from disgust to even more disgust, but it’s also hilarious.
The song played in the ad is the theme song from a show called ‘The Greatest American Hero’, called Believe It or Not, which is a nod to George Constanza’s answering machine message where he sings his own version of the song.
6. Samuel Adams – Horses
One of my favorite commercials from last year’s Super Bowl (no. 3 on our list) was Hyundai’s Sonata ad, which cleverly played on the Bostonian accent with the words “Smaht Pahk” (smart park).
This year, there’s another Bostonian. The Boston Beer Company’s flagship brand’s ad starts off with majestic carriage horses but quickly deteriorates into mayhem after ‘your cousin who is from Boston’ releases them by accident, and they start wreaking havoc in the streets. Eh… What you gonna do, right? You go drink some beer, what else? It’s surprising and hilarious.
5. Uber Eats – Eat Local
Wayne and Garth’s broadcast from Wayne’s parents’ basement in Aurora, Illinois.
The dialog adaptation of the show’s catchphrases and humor style to 2021 is very well made, whether it’s them saying “NOT”, their anti-sponsorship speech or theme song. And the shameless Cardi B plug is very on-brand
That Wayne’s World is supposed to be a local access show is a nice touch that makes a natural connection between Wayne and Garth and the ad’s message to eat more locally.
4. Amazon – Alexa’s Body
Last year, Amazon had Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi, and this time they recruited Michael B. Jordan. The Black Panther star and People Magazine’s 2020 Sexiest Man Alive plays in the fantasy of a woman who imagines a “beautiful vessel” for her Alexa body.
Last year, Amazon had Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi, and this time they recruited Michael B. Jordan. The Black Panther star and People Magazine’s 2020 Sexiest Man Alive plays in the fantasy of a woman who imagines a “beautiful vessel” for herAlexa body.
Come to think about it, if this fantasy Alexa feature existed, I wouldn’t recommend it for people in a relationship. Could cause problems. But the ad is very well played and full of sexual tension and awkward situations, making it highly entertaining.
3. M&M’s – Come Together
In This ad, M&M’s is used as a gift that makes an apology complete. Through situations like kicking someone’s airplane seat on purpose, mansplaining or ruining a gender reveal, the ad ends on a dark note when we see Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) promising he won’t eat anymore M&M’s only to see him abducting a red one in his car.
Looking for a woke commercial? You found it, and it still manages to avoid the pandemic or Trump.
2. Huggies – Welcome to the World, Baby
Many commercials about and for babies show them as adults, so Huggies decided to take a different approach, with a guide that welcomes babies to the world and tells them what to expect. This invention could have been useful, actually.
The text captures well real situations and feelings and avoids clichés, which is hard when you’re dealing with such cute creatures (at least on screen).
1. General Motors – Norway
Will Ferrell convinces fellow comedians Keenan Thompson and Awkwafina to go to Norway to “crush those lugers“ and show them that no one outsells America on Electric cars. This tight-knit plan leads him on a freighter that sends him to Sweden while his “partners” drive all the way to Finland.
It’s a well-written comedy of errors with an amped-up Ferrell on a mission to get America back to No. 1 (somehow). Sounds like a pretty good storyline for a feature.