Monday, February 18, 2019
  • Monday, Feb. 4, 2019
Creatives Assess This Year's Crop Of Super Bowl Spots
Vanessa Fortier, executive creative director, MONO

During a time of divisiveness and audience fragmentation, the Super Bowl brings us together for one of those increasingly rare shared experiences. The art and strategy of brands taking advantage of that opportunity are subject to scrutiny and conjecture, which are front and center in SHOOT’s annual tradition of sounding out creatives whose agencies didn’t have spots on this latest Big Game telecast, and thus had no particular axe to grind. 

Vanessa Fortier, executive creative director, MONO, shared, “I could wax nostalgic about the Glorious Before Time when you had to wait 364 days to see Super Bowl commercials in the actual Super Bowl broadcast. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll sideline my rant, embrace this digital age, sit down on my couch and binge-watch all the pre-released spots. A first for me.

“I’m not sure if watching them sober in a room by myself (as opposed to a room full of people who aren’t) affected my judgment, but this year’s offerings fell a little flat. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to add a few to my website, but so far, I haven’t seen any breakouts like ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ from last year, or anything as funny as the historical work from brands like FedEx and E-Trade, or anything as epic as the VW ‘The Force’ spot, which, I might add, got us into this pre-release mess. I won’t even bring up 1984. Oops, too late.

“There was something manufactured and formulaic this year. As if spots were assembled by a creative team bot. Speaking of which, robots were definitely a meme. We’ve seen robots in the past, but they were cute ‘innovation’ characters. This year it’s more like robot-bashing. Maybe the prospect of robots taking over our jobs is beginning to affect our judgment.”

Fortier offered some short takes on the following commercials:

  • Michelob Ultra- "Granted, robots can do amazing things. They can out-spin you at Soul Cycle, and sprint a marathon in 26.2 minutes without breaking a sweat, but as the spot points out, it’s only worth it if you can enjoy a nice cold brew when you’re done."
  • Pringles "Sad Device"- "Another fun joke-on-robot spot. In this case, voice assistant devices will never have taste buds. Or even souls. Very sad indeed."
  • Amazon "Rejected Gadgets" - "In the big tech category, I appreciated the misguided line extensions like the Alexa toothbrush, dog collar hot tub and space station. While I preferred last year’s ‘What if Alexa lost her voice’ offering, this was amusing to watch. I kept waiting for a cameo from Bezos like last year, but something tells me he was edited out last minute."
  • Google "Jobs for Veterans"- "When Google goes to the Super Bowl, they always make an impact by keeping it brilliantly simple. Like their ‘Dear Sophie’ and ‘Parisian Love’ spots. And this year’s effort in support of Veterans was no exception. Our agency has a motto: ‘Simple always wins,’ and this spot scores big without a single pixel of CG or a big name celebrity. Well (under)played, Google."

“Given that half the audience is female, it’s nice to see brands like Toyota and Bumble featuring female athletes,” continued Fortier. “And I can’t wait to watch the bad-ass female-led series ‘Hanna’ from Amazon. Also, a big shout out to Olay for airing its first spot ever on the big stage. I worked on Olay when it was extremely conservative and rarely strayed from the beauty category norms and ‘insert product demo here’ construct. The facial recognition joke was a nice, unexpected tech-y twist to deliver the benefit and Sarah Michelle Geller was a fun celeb to cast and refreshingly age appropriate.

“I’ve long been a fan of Audi advertising and their ‘Cashew’ spot launching the Audi e-tron this year is yet another example of their masterful storytelling. There’s always something amusing about death. If it’s executed right.

“And of course, there were celebrities. Always on trend for the Super Bowl. Harrison Ford. Cardi B. Jason Bateman. Michael Buble. Bo Jackson. Serena Williams. Forest Whitaker. Phoebe Judge. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Kristin Chenoweth. Christina Applegate. Charlie Sheen. Alex Rodriguez. Tony Romo. Antoinette “Ton”i Harris. Chance the Rapper. Backstreet Boys. 2Chainz. Adam Scott. Lil John. Steve Carell. Jeff Bridges. Sarah Jessica Parker. Luke Wilson. And even Bob Dylan singing for Budweiser. Budweiser- There’s something reassuring about those Clydesdales. All’s right with the world, and America in particular, when I see those horse-shaped peace signs. And what could be cuter than the flapping of Dalmatian ears to convey Budweiser’s commitment to wind power.

“Oh, and I definitely laughed when the Hyundai commercial elevator took us on a Jason Bateman bellhop’s descent into consumer hell. Not bad.

“In the end, the most exciting work attached to the Super Bowl are the initiatives not actually in the Super Bowl. Work that hijacks the event in some clever way without splurging on the media buy. Like Skittles ‘Most Exclusive Super Bowl Ad Ever’ last year, and the Volvo Twitter ‘Interception’ and Newcastle Brown Ale campaigns before that. I’d argue that those initiatives got just as much PR, and just as much activity on social as the biggest spots on the game itself. Skittles is on track to score big again this year with ‘Skittles: The Broadway Musical.’ The whole platform of poking fun at advertising is genius and from what I’ve heard already, damn well produced. I’m definitely going to download the playlist on Spotify.”

Fortier concluded by offering a post-game note: “I was hoping that a few brands were holding back something mind-blowing, but that wasn’t the case. Only one did. Burger King’s Andy Warhol spot. Killer. That said, there were some notables that didn’t pre-release: KIA, Bud Light, Washington Post, and #NFL100. Enough said. Game was pretty great. Cheers to Super Bowl 2020!”

Jason Apaliski
Jason Apaliski, ECD, Pereira O’Dell, cited his favorite spots in this year’s Super Bowl as both coming from Bud Light:

  • "The one spot that really stood out for me was the HBO x Bud Light mash up. 'Joust' was big, bold and completely unexpected. The twist halfway through shocked in the best way possible and delivered one of the most memorable spots of the game. RIP Bud Knight.
  • "Honorable mention to Bud Light’s Special Delivery. A simple proposition executed in pitch perfect fashion. And tip of that hat to Burger King’s gutsy and attention grabbing use of Andy Warhol."

As for work that missed the mark, Apaliski cited: "Chunky style milk. Just the thought makes me sick. Plus I can’t even remember the brand." 

In terms of trends, Apaliski said “the shift away from political statements was refreshing as was the desire to entertain, but in an effort not to be too controversial the trend overall seemed to be one of play it safe.”

Apaliski concluded, “In A Super Bowl where the ads were as entertaining as the game, I would grade the overall crop as mostly forgettable with a few big highlights and the promise of ‘there’s always next year.’” 

Mike Baron
For Mike Baron, SVP, group creative director, Partners + Napier, the ads meriting a thumbs up were: 

  • Hyundai “The Elevator” – “From the Ozarks to the elevator,” said Baron, “Jason Bateman pushes all the right buttons. No one could have delivered this dry, witty, analogy-filled script better. Didn’t miss seeing those obligatory driving shots one bit either.
  • Verizon “The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” – “Director Peter Berg’s spot for the NFL’s 100th anniversary earlier in the evening was action packed and star studded. But his recount of Anthony Lynn’s traumatic accident proves that true stories are the best stories. Using the soundtrack from Lone Survivor was a nice touch, too.”
  • Budweiser “Wind Never Felt Better” – “For me, puppies and Clydesdales aren’t usually enough, but this spot struck a chord with my environmentally conscious side. Copy was spot on, too. Not to mention the Bob Dylan track.”  
  • Bud Light “Special Delivery” – “‘Dilly, dilly’” just got out done. I love that this concept is a unique selling proposition executed extremely well—not just a catch phrase.”
  • Burger King “#eatlikeandy” – “Did a simple one-shot that’s 37 years old just steal the show? Yes, it did. (That is, if you know who Andy Warhol was.) I give Burger King a lot of credit for this. It’s a risky proposition. And that’s before you know the backstory, that Warhol actually asked for a McDonald’s hamburger.”

Regarding ads that missed the mark, Baron observed, “I think any spot that included a robot. Except maybe, Michelob Ultra—which was saved by a good copy line. TurboTax’s ‘RoboChild’ made me feel bad for the little robot, and like I was watching Ex Machina—all at once. As for the Sprint spot, Bo should know, he’s the one calling the shots, not the robots. Other spots that were guilty of under delivering with a concept—especially given their powerhouse casting—were M&Ms, Colgate, Olay, and Planters. I mean, as a Yankees fan, I’m not sure A-Rod ever even “delivered in a crunch. Mint Mobile’s “That’s not right” gets the look-away-moment of the game award with chunky milk. Just writing that makes me feel queasy. #gaggame”
 
Baron affirmed, “Empowerment was a powerful theme throughout the night. Whether it was Bumble putting relationships and business in the hands of women, Microsoft enabling young gamers with limited mobility to take back control, or Google helping veterans who served transition back to civilian life. 
 
“The big game isn’t just for the boys anymore,” continued Baron. “Brands are reaching female viewers with bolder messaging than ever before—and they’re doing it through strong female personalities, like Serena, Toni, SJP, and Zoe.
 
“Brands are giving consumers some credit for choosing products based on strong differentiators. Bud Light is ‘not made with corn syrup.’ Olay can give you ‘killer skin in just 28 days.’ And ‘this Bud is for a better tomorrow’—Budweiser is brewing beer in an environmentally conscious way. 
 
“Agency planners rejoice! Insights are alive and well. Who hasn’t purposely messed with Michael Buble’s name and/or heard ‘Is Pepsi OK?’ a million times before?”

Asked to grade this year’s lineup of Super Bowl commercials, Baron related, “Ads: 1, Game: 0. But just barely. As someone who works in advertising, there were a couple big plays when it came to advertisers touching real emotions, and touting brand truths versus catchy phrases. But there were a lot more missed tackles and dropped passes. Ideas that didn’t live up to casting (Olay) and generational mash-ups (Doritos) left me confused. I also think your average consumer has become conditioned to brands picking up on the societal issues of today, like politics and gender equality. Nothing like that really stood out this year. Empowerment was certainly a theme, and women were the star of many spots, but there wasn’t one thing everyone was rallying behind for the evening like in years past.”

Paul Caiozzo
Paul Caiozzo, founder and chief creative officer of Interesting Development, pointed to three ads as his favorite this year:

  • Bud Light / Game of Thrones - Surprising and fun. Everything a Super Bowl ad should be.
  • Bubly. Classic old school Super Bowl writing and craft. 
  • Burger King and Andy Warhol, memorable. 

Regarding the work that fell short, Caiozzo simply identified, “The brands that just served up their normal ads felt really out of place.” 

Relative to a theme or trend that marked this year’s Super Bowl ads, Caiozzo said, “Robots and technology. We seem worried.”

The ads, he continued, “felt safe. It’s a tough climate out there for taking a stand, but I think the sales and brand evidence speaks to the value of doing that. Gillette and Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad will be the only ads people remember this year, including the Super Bowl.”

Erica Fite
Erica Fite, co-founder and co-chief creative officer of Fancy, said, “Since I usually love a good laugh in a Super Bowl ad, it’s funny that this year I was drawn to those with a more serious tone. The Bumble ad with Serena Williams was spot on for the brand and for women in general. The idea that women have the power to step in and make their own decisions without following some old protocol of waiting both in love and in business is such a strong message. The fact  that there is a brand like Bumble reminding women they have this power is wonderful. And, of course, Serena Williams is a true hero we can all learn from. I also thought the art direction in the spot was really well done and liked that it was colorful and pretty, attributes that need not be separated from female power.

“My other favorite spot was the Budweiser wind power ad. It was simple and so well done needing nothing more than beautiful footage, a great song and a couple of supers. And finding out that Budweiser uses wind power might actually convince me to drink it. Testament to research that says people want the brands they use to do good things.”

On the other side of the ledger, moving over to work that missed the mark, Fite noted, “Honestly, my mind was boggled by the WeatherTech spot. Was it for car protectors or pet bowls? Was it a strange way of getting two ads  for one in the Super Bowl? Was it supposed to be funny when the dog entered the world of pet bowls? Not sure how the two brands fit together besides being owned by the same company. Perhaps if they told me cars and dogs are everyone’s best friends, and WeatherTech keeps them both safe, it might make sense. But, it certainly would be a challenge to make this ad not feel disjointed.

“The M&M’s spot with Christina Applegate was well done, however ,I was bothered by the stereotypical portrayal of the grumpy stressed-out mom driving. How many times do moms have to get this bad rap? Granted, we still need more women in the Super Bowl spots but, in this one case, I wish they’d given the lead to a man.

In terms of themes, Fite observed, “Many of the ads were filled with AI. And in quite a few, it seemed we were being told to feel sorry for the robots. The poor device in the Pringles spot and the sad robot in the Michelob Ultra spot, wanted so badly to be a part of our human world and us humans were shown to be so callus toward them. Not sure why the trend toward showing humans as unfeeling and projecting human feelings onto robots is so popular? Perhaps it’s a way for us to overcome our fear of AI takeover. I do get a little pang in my stomach when people are rude to poor Siri or Alexa.” 

Fite assessed, “As a whole, the ads felt very safe and bro-centric. I’m holding out for the day when women, almost one-half of the Super Bowl audience, are well represented.”

Mica Gallino
Mica Gallino, associate creative director at Joan, said, “2018 had set the bar high for this year’s Super Bowl commercials lineup. Arresting humor with it’s a Tide Ad and Dundee or heartwarming messages like Good Odds by Toyota were just a few of all the great content that was peppered in between Patriots vs Eagles plays last year. Unfortunately, 2019’s content didn’t live up to the expectations. Ads fell more on the safe side, flat structures, dull jokes, and already seen devices. All that said, there were quite a few that nailed it.”

On the “nailed it” score, Gallino related, “I am a big fan of ads that shine a light on rich cultural content, that’s why I feel Burger King’s ‘Eat Like Andy,’ has hit the mark. This clip from “66 Scenes from America” is an authentic, beautifully raw celebrity endorsement, and sometimes being real is all you need.”

Gallino continued, “Microsoft ¨We All Win¨ was not only very inspiring and heartwarming, but well connected to the product which is something that many times is missing on Super Bowl ads where products usually feel disconnected from the stories and are barely mentioned until the end of the spots.

“I can’t deny that ‘Game of Thrones X Bud Light,’ got me by surprise. Last year The Bud Knight had generated some polarizing feelings, but this year’s combination has it leaning towards the positive end of the spectrum. Either way, we are all waiting for Game of Thrones.”  

As for what work missed the mark, Gallino generally observed, “It’s hard to please everyone with a Super Bowl commercial, but any ad that plays it safe, repeats old gimmicks and misemploys celebrities not only misses the mark, but also loses a whole lot of money (millions) that could be spent on better content to engage more effectively with their audience.”

Galen Graham
Galen Graham, chief creative officer, Pitch, identified his favorite ads on this years Super Bowl as:
 

  • Audi - “Audi traditionally dials it in for the Super Bowl and I thought this was another good showing. The spot was visually-driven and easy to follow for the many of us who couldn’t hear the TV during the game. Audi used a classic rug pull delivery to share the news about their future E-Tron lineup in a memorable way. What can I say, I like my Super Bowl with jokes.”
  • T-Mobile - “I liked the simplicity of the T-Mobile campaign. It was smartly designed for the context: funny, easy to follow, and didn’t require audio. T-Mobile maintained a lighthearted dialog with the viewers and stood out in the sea of celebrities.”
  • Washington Post - “This was one of the better serious spots. Now more than ever it’s important for people to think critically, to compare and question sources and seek out first-hand accounts—the kind that journalists provide. I liked seeing this message about the importance of knowledge and reporting (beyond my own Facebook newsfeed). A subtle detail I appreciated was using the Oklahoma City bombing to illustrate domestic threats instead of, say, border-crossing fear mongering, since most violent attacks in America originate within America.”
  • Hulu “The Handmaid’s Tale” - “Nice to see a concept-driving promo for a show. This one was the right tone for the Super Bowl and elevated The Handmaid’s Tale above the other movies and shows that were teased.”
  • Skittles - “I didn’t make it out to New York for the musical but I salute the non-traditional approach. The self-aware tone is spot-on and the commitment to the idea makes it bigger than the splash they might have made with a conventional spot—at least I hope the subsequent PR and social conversation bear that out.  Also deploying a beyond the game approach, I hope to see Burger King’s #EatLikeAndy create some buzz this week.” 
     

As for Super Bowl work that missed the mark:

  • ADT - “I found the ADT ad underwhelming. My takeaway was, “All that cool new stuff your neighbors bought to keep their home safe, you can buy it from ADT, too.” The SimpliSafe ad felt more in tune with culture, which perhaps explains the threat to ADT.”
  • TurboTax - “The ad combined a relevant message with a memorable execution—usually a solid formula. But I was left thinking TurboTax would love to employ robot CPAs, if only the technology was ready.” 
  • WeatherTech “CupFone” - “An ad as cheap as the product. It’s just disappointing to see ads like this on such a big stage when an entertaining one could have really stood out. Plus, my phone already fits in my cupholder so why do I need a CupFone?”

On the trends/themes front, Graham related, “Not sure if was any more than usual but I noticed a number of partnerships this year: Bud Light and Game of Thrones, T-Mobile and both Lyft and Taco Bell, Stella Artois and Water.org. Oh, and a lot of ads prepping us for life with robots and AI.”

Graham gave this year’s Super Bowl ad lineup an overall grade of a B+, reasoning, “After reviewing all the ads I could find online, I have to say the level was pretty high across the board. This is a really solid body of work. Most years there are more duds. I was hoping for a few more big laughs but then I’m also a stingy grader.”

Mae Karwowski
Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of Obviously, was most favorably impressed by the T-Mobile ads, sharing, “They were clear, simple, effective and funny. They didn’t rely on a cast of recognizable stars and over the top effects to make an impact.” 

On the flip side, she assessed, “Kia was terrible. Avocados from Mexico was bizarre. M&Ms was lazy.” 

Trends that struck her were, “So much AI! From robot babies, to SimpliSafe and Alexa, we got an earful on how much robots are part of our lives now. Also, the reliance on big name star power was significant this year. Cardi B, Jason Bateman, Steve Carell, Ludacris, Two Chainz, Adam Scott, the Dude and Sarah Jessica Parker...I could go on and on with the list of cameos.” 

In the big picture, she said of this year’s Super Bowl ads, “For the most part the good ones relied on star studded celeb talent, or pulling at our heartstrings in pretty formulaic ways. They seemed slightly better because the game and the halftime show was way more uneventful than usual.”

Gavin Lester
Gavin Lester, partner, CCO, Zambezi, said, “A few ads stood out to me this year, starting with Pepsi’s ‘More Than OK’ spot. There’s a truth to people being apologetic about offering Pepsi alone, and the brand took this issue head on in a fun and spirited way. The casting is perfect to boot, and it was great to see Pepsi elevate its advertising game this year and reclaim itself as a standout advertiser in the Super Bowl.

“Burger King’s arresting ad of Andy Warhol was another showstopper for me. Being a conceptual artist myself, I couldn’t help but see this ‘Eat Like Andy’ spot as a piece of performance art in a sea of straightforward advertising this year.  

“Doritos’ “Now It’s Hot” was also a very entertaining spot. A simple idea executed with a fun and creative metaphor, Chance the Rapper and the Backstreet Boys nailed it. I also thought the Game of Thrones/Bud Light mash-up was a strong contender. 

“The most exciting thing to happen outside of the Super Bowl was the Skittles Broadway Musical. I love the way they owned the Super Bowl without being at the Super Bowl—and they clearly accomplished their goal of creating a conversation before the game.  

Conversely, continued Lester, “There were a good number of misses this year, most notably, the WeatherTech ‘Scout’ spot. By delivering a straightforward product message, the brand missed the opportunity in utilizing this unique platform. Using a Super Bowl buy to capture a massive audience isn’t enough. You have to deliver a compelling piece of creative work that captivates and entertains viewers in order to succeed. This felt more like a daytime TV spot to me—certainly not one worthy of advertising’s biggest stage—but the animals were, of course, cute. The Michelob ‘Robots’ commercial also made my head scratch. I’m really not sure what this spot is about or what they were trying to achieve.” 

In terms of trends, Lester related, “Celebrity appearances have long been a cornerstone of Super Bowl advertising, but this year’s work seemed to embrace celebs more than ever before. From Zoë Kravitz to Sarah Jessica Parker to Michael Bublé to Two Chainz to Owen Wilson, it seemed every other spot featured a star. I also think that Stella Artois’ ‘Change Up the Usual’ used SJP, Jeff Bridges and their famous cocktails perfectly.” 

Lester concluded, “Overall, it wasn’t a great showing of Super Bowl spots this year, though it was nice to see a few standouts.”

Jason Rappaport
Jason Rappaport, group creative director at 180LA, shared the ads which were among his favorite this time around. “The NFL 100 year ad had more action in it than the actual game which was nice. Bud Light did a great job firing back at MillerCoors in typical Bud Light fashion, using humor to deliver the news that they don’t use corn syrup. I enjoyed seeing the Most Interesting Man in the World make a cameo in the Stella Artois spot. Nice touch and a nice lil dig at Dos Equis. I also appreciated the Budweiser ‘Wind never felt better’ spot, because who doesn’t like watching a dog riding through a field of barley set to Bob Dylan delivering a message of sustainability.”

Work that fell short, according to Rappaport included: “The T-Mobile text message ads came off as a brand trying too hard to be young. Michelob Ultra’s ad with Zoe Kravitz also fell flat, I’m not sure why brands keep trying to leverage ASMR for commercials.”

The 180LA creative also cited the robotic trend. “Apparently the robots are taking over, given how many spots featured them in one way or another?” 

He assessed, “Overall there was a nice balance of funny spots, and heart warming spots and nothing too controversial, which is something we could all use a break from.”  

Driscoll Reid
Driscoll Reid, executive creative director, Sid Lee, gave a rundown of his qualified “favorites,” noting “I found a few ads entertaining and a few provocative, but there weren’t any specific ones that were clear winners.” Still, he shared his top three:

  • Washington Post - “Knowing”: “This one hit home for me as the son of two Associated Press journalists. It gave me pause. Also, with Tom Hanks’ VO, the seriousness of the film was evident. We are living in a time when something as important as the free press is under constant attack by our own government, and if you care about democracy you should care about supporting and protecting the news industry—an industry that’s about as far from fake as you can get.”
  • NFL - “100 years”: “A classic 72andSunny jam. Not sure why the NFL 100-year celebration looks like a mediocre wedding reception, but it was entertaining and full of insider NFL moments. Loved the ’72 Dolphins blazers. The two-minute version online is great.” 
  • Expensify - “2 Chainz x Adam Scott”: “Again, be sure and check out the 4-minute online version of this film—it’s beautifully shot and just plain old weird. The animation sequence is amazing (bong smoking reindeer!). I’m a sucker for weird that takes it to another level. Not just weird for weird sake, but weird that becomes conceptual art. Did I mention it’s weird?”

Missing the mark were "oh boy, too many" ads, including these that jumped out at Reid:

  • Mint Mobile - “Chunky Milk”: “I don’t even know. What is mint mobile? Why are people drinking spoiled milk? Wow.”
  • Olay - “Killer skin”: “I know it’s slasher film star Sarah Michelle Gellar, but a masked murderer breaking into a house and hunting down a couple in their bedroom probably doesn’t seem like the right concept for cosmetics—but that’s just me.”
  • Avocados from Mexico - “This one was weird, but not good weird. I’m not sure if the people are dogs, or if the dogs are watching them? It’s also totally missing any connection to avocados. I’m going to go back to eating my guacamole.”

Reid observed, “Super Bowl spots are pretty formulaic these days and usually feature either celebrity, humor, shock or all three. There was plenty of those types of ads this year, but there were also quite a few that featured robots or ubiquitous AI technology. Maybe our robotic overlords are just around the corner? There were plenty of trailers, and it seemed like all of the wireless providers were begging for our attention.” 

Reid’s big-picture assessment of the Super Bowl was “usually either the game is great or the commercials are great, and sometimes they’re both great. This year the commercials reflected the game and not in a good way. It seemed like the whole thing was off...and I’m a Patriots fan.”

Jay Suhr
Jay Suhr, chief creative officer, T3, shared, “I consciously opted out of watching any commercials released before the Super Bowl or reading the steady stream of buzz in the media and social media. I wanted to be as surprised and unbiased as possible. That said, we are in a uniquely unsettled, divisive and fragile moment in time—culturally, politically and economically. In years past, the mood of the country was different and the battle for attention and post-game buzz led to more expansive and more playful forms of disruption. I was interested in seeing how brands and agencies would play things in 2019. The answer: they played it safe.”

Suhr’s favorite ad action came during the first two quarters. He assessed, “Unlike the game, the big scores all came in the first half led buy the Bud Light/HBO Game of Thrones integration. Set up by an earlier Bud Light saga in the first quarter, this commercial lured you in until the Bud Knight was felled in a joust with the victor crushing his skull. Dragon enter the royal grand stand is set ablaze before the HBO Game of Thrones hits you with a closing twist. Unexpectedly brilliant.

“Just after the two-minute warning,” continued Suhr, “Stella Artois brought back Carrie Bradshaw, The Dude and The Most Interesting Man in the World, substituting a Stella for their signature Cosmopolitan, White Russian and Dos Equis. Unlike other celebrity spots, these characters were perfectly integrated into the concept with breathing room for dialogue and each of their vignettes. Small quibble is that the underlying strategy of trying something different once in a while is identical to Dos Equis ‘I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis.’

“On a serious note, the NFL/Verizon First Responder series stood out for the life-saving work that these heroes do. Microsoft’s adaptive controller featuring gamer kids with unique abilities was quietly powerful in a documentary form.”

On the flip side, Suhr cited: “Mint Mobile’s ‘chunky milk’ spot took the gross out award. Pointless. Overall, there was a lot of ‘meh,’ often with overly ambitious concepts that crammed too much into spots with weak endings (Olay ‘Killer Skin’, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Audi e-tron, Hyundai Shopper Assurance, Amazon’s star-filled Alexa ‘fails’). Outside of the Game of Thrones integration, Bud Light fell short in attempting to make corn syrup as some form of evil used by their competitors. Corn syrup evil in light beer? Who knew? Who cares? Silly silly.

In terms of themes and/or trends, Suhr identified, “In the robot world, we saw everything from a creepy ‘child bot’ for TurboTax to robot athletes for Michelob Ultra to Sprint’s collection of robos with Bo Jackson. ‘Bo knows’ was one of many in-jokes buried in this year’s Super Bowl spots. Stella paid homage to Dos Equis, Charlie Sheen made fun of himself in Mr. Peanut’s action adventure for Planters and ‘Free Willy’ was a one-liner for Mercedes-Benz.

“Another trend is that few brands attempted to make a connection with more human or serious themes. Google, Kia and The Washington Post did go that route, but the spots didn’t have the stopping power compared to work from previous years.”

Credits:

Client Anheuser-Busch/Bud Light, HBO Agency for HBO Droga5 NY David Droga, creative chairman; Neil Heymann, chief creative officer; Andrew Ferguson, group creative director; Dustin Tomes, Jono Paull, creative directors; Adrian Chan, Lauren Ferreira, associate creative directors; Tobias Lindborg, art director; Felix Karlsson, copywriter; Sally-Ann Dale, chief creation officer; Jesse Brihn, director of film production; Liliana Vega, sr. producer; Jonny Bauer, chief strategy officer. Agency for Bud Light W+K Colleen DeCourcy, co-president/CCO; Karl Lieberman, executive creative director; Brandon Henderson, John Parker, creative directors; Kevin Kaminishi, art director; Jessica Ghersi, copywriter; Nick Setounski, head of content production; Temma Shoaf, executive producer; Alexey Novikov, producer. Production O Positive David Nutter, Spencer Riviera, directors; Jonathan Freeman, DP; Ralph Laucella, Ken Licata, executive producers. Editorial  Arcade Paul Martinez, Katie Weiland, editors; Thomas Bergerstock, assistant editor; Sila Soyer, exec producer; Fanny Cruz, producer. VFX The Mill Tony Robins, shoot supervisor; John McIntosh, 2D lead artist; Yoon-Sun Bae, Heather Kennedy, Vi Nguyen, Matthew DeFranco, Ant Walsham, Neeraj Rajput, Samarendra Lenka, Inturi Chandra Sekharm, Bharath Ediga, Prasanna Bhat, Madhana Gopala, Venkatesh Srinvivasan, Badarinath Chinimilli, Ramanjaneyulu Thota, Nehal Desai, 2D artists. Tom Bardwell, 3D lead; Lauren Shields, Tim Kim,Hassan Taimur, James Mulholland, Todd Akita, Paul Liaw, Sandor Toledo, Ayush Bajoria, Leela Shanker, Spandana Battula, Raj Kumar, 3D artists. Sue Jang, matte painting; Andrew Sommerville, exec producer; Clariellen Wallin, Michael Brown, Payal Thakkar, producers; Christina Chung, coordinator. VFX Pixomondo Derek Spears, VFX supervisor; Chelsea Miller, VFX producer; Andrew Zeko, VFX coordinator; Daniel Knight, Fei Chen, Shawn Sahara, VFX artists; William Appleby, VFX editor. Sound Design Jafbox Sound Joseph Fraioli, sound designer. Sound Design Eargasm Inc. Paula Greenfield, sound designer. Music Walker Music Sara Matarazzo, Stephanie Pigott, exec producers; Danielle Soury, music coordinator. Music David Klotz, music editor. Audio Post Sound Lounge Tom Juacarone, mixer; Rob Difondi, co-sound engineer; Lauren Mullen, producer. Telecine Company 3 Tim Masick, colorist; Kevin Breheny, producer.

Credits:

Client Audi Agency Venables Bell & Partners Paul Venables, founder, chairman; Will McGinness, executive creative director; Matt Keats, Matt Miller creative directors; Avery Oldfield, Adam Wolinsky, associate creative directors; Hilary Coate, director of integrated production; Matt Flaker, executive producer; Mike Ronkoske, strategy director; Mike Riley, strategy director. Production Rattling Stick Ringan Ledwidge, director; Joe Biggins, Jeff Shupe, exec producers; Richard McIntosh, head of production; Joey Zadwarny, line producer; Adam Arkapaw, DP. Editorial Work Editorial Rich Orrick, editor; Leah Turner, assistant editor; Marlo Baird, exec producer; Brandee Probasco, producer. Sound Design LSD Rohan Young, sound designer; Susie Boyajan, exec producer. Audio Post Lime Studios Rohan Young, audio mixer; Jeremy Nichols, audio assistant; Susie Boyajan, exec producer. VFX/Finishing The Mill Phil Crowe, chief creative officer; John Shirley, creative director/shoot supervisor; Anastasia von Rahl, exec producer; Dan Love, sr. producer; Vanessa Yee, associate producer. Telecine Company 3 Tom Poole, colorist; Alexandra Lubrano, color producer; Jenny Montgomery, color assist. 

Credits:

Client Hyundai Motor America Agency Innocean USA Barney Goldberg, VP, executive creative director; Jeff Bossin, VP, group creative director; Ryan Scott, creative director; Brook Boley, associate creative director, art; Carrie Talick, associate creative director, copy; Nicolette Spencer, VP, head of content production; Melissa Moore, sr. producer; Devondra Dominguez, content producer. Production O Positive Jim Jenkins, director; Marc Grill, exec producer; Devon Clark, head of production; Sameet Patadia, production supervisor; Trent Opaloch, DP. Casting Envision Studios Editorial Arcade Edit Geoff Hounsell, editor; Damian Stevens, managing partner; Crissy DeSimone, exec producer; Kirsten Thon-Webb, head of production; Adrienne Tararin, sr. producer; Josh Miller, assistant editor. Color Company 3 Dave Hussey, sr. colorist; Gabriel Wakeman, producer. Online/VFX JAMM Visual Brian Hajek, VFX supervisor/lead compositor; Jake Montgomery, Miles Essmiller, Mark Holden, Flame artists; Fred Hopp, CG artist; Asher Edwards, exec producer; Ashley Greyson, producer. Mix/Record Studio Lime Studios Mark Meyuhas, sr. mix engineer; Peter Lapinski, assistant sound engineer; Susie Boyajan, exec producer. Sound Design LSD Michael Anastasi, Kai Paquin, sound designers; Susie Boyajan, exec producer. Music Massive Music Scott Cymbala, managing director; Ben Einziger, Tim Adams, creative directors; Kiki McDaniel, producer.

Credits:

Client Microsoft Agency m:united//McCann New York Sean Bryan, chief creative officer, Shayne Millington, David Banta, EVPs, executive creative directors; Martha West, Will Montgomery, associate creative directors; Julie Koong, sr. art director; David Cappolino, sr. copywriter; Alicia Foor, creative technologist; Carolyn Johnson, SVP, head of integrated production; Rebecca Magner, producer. Eric David Johnson, SVP, executive music producer; Dan Gross, music producer. Production Hungry Man Bryan Buckley, director; Alex Gorosh, 2nd unit director; Mino Jarjoura, Caleb Dewart, Kevin Byrne, Dan Duffy, exec producers; Matt Lefebvre, producer; Peter Bunstein, associate producer; Pierre Cailliarec, assistant director; Scott Henriksen, DP. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors, NY Damion Clayton, editor; Alexandra Debricon, assistant editor; Eve Kornblum, managing director; Lisa Barnable, producer.  Post/VFX Rock Paper Scissors, NY Barbara Kontarovich, Flame producer; Edward Reina, Flame artist; Sydney Botie, Flame assistant. Color Company 3 Sofie Borup, sr. colorist. Music JSM Music Joel Simon, chief creative officer/co-composer; Jason Krebs, co-composer; Jeff Fiorello, exec producer. Audio/Post Sonic Union Michael Marinelli, sound designer/mix engineer; Justine Cortale, producer.

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