Super Bowl ads: Five best and worst

Super Bowl XLIV is in the books, and while New Orleans’ come-from-behind triumph over Indianapolis was a thriller, Kim Kardashian’s team of choice was not the only winner on the evening. Indeed, the Super Bowl telecast featured more than 50 national advertisements — and at CBS’ premium prices for a 30-second spot, the need to get positive attention was more pronounced than you’d see in a week-long marathon of SuperNanny episodes. Some ads succeeded, some floundered, and some made us feel the burn of bile in our throats (combined with the distinctive flavor or cream-cheese-n-chili dip)…so without further ado, my picks for the five best and worst ads of the night.

BEST
1) Betty White for Snickers: I had to rewind my DVR four times before I could finally stop howling over the sight of the erstwhile Golden Girls star getting sacked hard — and landing with a thud in a puddle of mud — while facing off against twentysomething dudes in a brutal game of football. A second wave of laughter soon followed, though, when a taunt from White’s teammate (“You’re playing like Betty White out there!”) resulted in her saucy retort: “That’s not what your girlfriend says!” Sure, the underlying premise — sans Snickers, even a young buck will wind up resembling an elderly lady out on the field — was ridiculous, but it was also unforgettable. Bonus Abe Vigoda makes this one my favorite of the night! (p.s. SNL is totally gonna get Betty White to host before the season is out, yes?)

2) Google’s Paris Romance: Not sure how much — or rather, how little — the ubiquitous search engine spent on this spot, but like a wildflower popping through a sidewalk crack, its simple charms stood out against its colder, bigger-budget competitors. As we followed one Google user’s search history through the course of a cross-Atlantic courtship (with a simple piano + “life sounds” soundtrack), I have to admit I felt a tiny, single tear try to force its way from my eye. Google squeezed more romance out of a handful of simple terms –“study abroad Paris France”; “cafes near the louve [sic]“; “how to impress a French girl”; “long distance relationship advice”; “jobs in Paris”; “churches in Paris”; etc — than most modern rom-coms do in an entire screenplay.

3) Denny’s Frantic Chickens: I’m a sucker for anthropomorphic ads, and while Monster.com’s “Beaver Violinist” slayed me, I give the slight edge to Denny’s one-two-three punch of spastic chickens reacting to warnings about Denny’s “free Grand Slam Breakfast” promotion this coming Tuesday. Biggest laughs courtesy of the pool-playing hen in the first spot, and the silent scream of the chicken in outer space in ad No. 2. Somebody make me a gif of the latter, pronto!

4) Kia Sorento’s Toy “Hangover”: Yo Gabba Gabba’s Muno, a Sock Monkey, and their toy buddies taking out the Sorento for a wild night on the town. I know I should’ve seen that “twist” ending coming, but I was so caught up in the nightclubbing, the hot-tubbing, and the funniest tattooing of all time, I didn’t have time to think that they’d be returned to hand-held size and laying on the back seat in the a.m. Genius!

5) Dodge Charger’s “Man’s Last Stand”: Yeah, yeah, I know this one wasn’t p.c., and as a gay man whose XLIV experienced peaked with Carrie Underwood’s National Anthem, I’m not even the ad’s target audience. But on a night where “fight against emasculation!” seemed to be a very popular theme, this litany of straight-dude anthems — “I will clean the sink after I shave.”; “I will watch your vampire TV shows with you.”; “I will take off my socks before getting into bed.” — was all at once sweet, grouchy, and empowering. And that final shot of the Charger zooming down the highway made the Dodge brand seem kinda hip, no?

WORST
1) Charles Barkley for Taco Bell: What possessed the fast-food chain to hire a former basketball star, pour him into a mess of a suit (sloppy fit, un-pressed shoulders), and have him exhaustedly recite grim rhymes about a “five-buck box”? Way to give me the mean heartburns without a single bite of Gordita.

2) GoDaddy.com: Okay, I saw two ads for this site — one featuring a masseuse ripping open her shirt, the other featuring a female reporter ripping open her shirt while interviewing Danica Patrick — and I have absolutely no idea what in heaven’s name GoDaddy.com is. Worse news for the company? I have no desire to find out.

3) The Simpsons for Coca-Cola: Sixty seconds of Mr. Burns losing everything, but finding happiness in a bottle of Coke, and not a single genuine laugh? Tell me again why this spot wouldn’t have been any more/less effective using anonymous actors? I’ll tell you this, it certainly would’ve been less hyped, and less disappointing.

4) Kiss for Cherry Dr. Pepper: You can almost imagine the pitch for this spot: “So what we’ll do for this one is an extended gag on Gene Simmons saying this soft drink has a ‘little kiss’ of cherry flavor.” Only problem was that the creative team focused on the word “gag,” and thought the best way to get there would be to have little people dressed like Kiss, rocking out alongside the band. “‘Little kiss’? Get it? Huh? You get it? Right?” Yes, and still not funny!

5) U.S. Census (I think?): How weird to hire all those funny character actors, then accidentally air an unfinished version of a commercial that left us all wondering what the frak we  just watched!

There you have it! My five best and five worst ads of Super Bowl XLIV? Did I miss any of your most/least loved? Did I (blasphemy!) put something on the wrong list? Sound off in the comments below, PopWatchers! And don’t miss EW’s related Super Bowl coverage:

The inside scoop on the Letterman-Leno-Oprah ad…in the words of Dave’s Late Show producer!
Ken Tucker’s take on that controversial Tim Tebow ad
Our Music Mix blog’s reviews of Carrie Underwood’s National Anthem and the Who’s halftime show

Comments (420 total) Add your comment
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  • Chris

    Mini-Kiss is a real band:

    http://ghostshorty.com/minikiss/

    Also, the best “ad” was Oprah, Jay and Dave on the couch together!

  • Kathryn

    I liked one of the first Doritos Ads, with the little boy slapping his mom’s date and sharing his “rules” for dating his mom. HILARIOUS!

    • MJPowell

      Thought the Doritos ads(the little boy and the dog) were hysterical. I totally roared. My total favorite was the NCIS about the headslap.

      • Terri

        All the Doritos’ ads were HI-larious, especially that one with the little boy slapping that man and getting in his face with his little “1 and 2″ fingers!! The whole room at my superbowl party fell out!

      • KT

        I thought the NCIS spot with the headslap was hilarious – definitely one of the best of the night!

      • Marie

        the Doritos commerical with the little boy was by far the best of the night…..i wonder why it wasn’t included on this list???

      • Mo

        The Dorito commericial where the man was in the casket was kinda creepy, but in the end when his friend stood up and did the “ahhhh” miracle sound made it kinda funny.

      • jordan

        keep yo hands off my mama, keep yo hands off my doritos!

      • dru

        The crowd I was with reacted best with the Doritos dog ad-by far-then the Doritos kid ad and Betty White. They weren’t thrilled with the pantless men. Generally the ads weren’t very good IMO.

      • raven

        I liked all the Doritos ads. But the one with the kid was definitely the funniest.

      • April C

        I thought the best Dorito ad was the one with the guy wearing Dorito armor! I loved it when he shot the Dorito into the guy’s neck!!

    • Joe

      all the commercials this year absolutely sucked. Didn’t even utter a minor chuckle. So disappointed I’m almost depressed. Why these companies would spend many millions on ads and not make them funny, when the superbowl is known for funny ads….

      • RickAfterDark

        I agree with Joe 100 percent. I’m literally shocked out how unfunny this batch was. Just the weakest Super Bowl fare I can recall in at least 20 years. Good game, terrible commercials.

      • blondie

        AGREED!

      • PaperMoon

        Yeah it does seem like this batch of superbowl commercial are the weakest I’ve seen! Some of these were cute but wow most of the superbowl commercials in the past have been the whole batch really funny and more enteretaining. Now there’s just a couple that are pretty good the rest blah.

      • MG

        maybe the companies had to lay-off all their “creative” directors for these ads…result= NOT FUNNY.

      • Meredith

        Every year without fail, there’s always someone that thinks this year’s ads weren’t funny at all. Certainly they’re not all hits, as this article so clearly indicates, but, c’mon, not a single upturn of the mouth from you people??

    • Lohanfan

      The Emerald Nuts one was the best HANDS DOWN. The rest were lackluster. Disappointed that Lohan didnt make it into the super bowl this year, but she did get a reference in this “freckle butt” video.

      • Lohanfan2

        Yes we all love when you post your lame cheap weak attempt at a SNL digital short. Way to go looser!

    • CS

      By far, the best commercial of the night!

    • Jenn

      YES!!! That one was my favorite!

    • Lynny

      yes- best of the night

    • Jenene

      Funniest commercial of the night! We laughed about that one all night.

    • Kate

      We all thought the Doritos commercial was the funniest commercial of the night. Hysterical!!!

    • DIANE

      That was my favorite one of the night along with the e-trade “milkaholic”.

      • Val

        hee hee Milkawhaaat?

      • Louise

        That was my favorite.

      • Karen

        I think talking babies are creepy…ewww.

      • OMG

        I loved that one too. ANd the Kia one is AWESOME – who knew “Sock Monkey” was so cool???

      • Kmann

        The ETRADE commercials tried way to hard to be funny, imo. The first baby commercial was good, because it was a little unexpected. The second was cool too, because it was like, okay, two babies talking to each other is pretty sweet and plus, they sing. At this point though, why do we want to see more of this stuff? What else is there to do involving talking babies? “Hey, let’s pretend the babies are sleeping around and one of them is parodying alcoholics!” … okay …

    • Lucy

      I liked the Dorito commerical, but I LOVED the LOST centric commercial! woot!!

      • Meli

        I loved the Bud Light ‘Lost’ commercial, but you have to have watched ‘Lost’ to really get how funny that was. I was picking out Kate, Hurley, etc. in that crowd. They cast it very well.

    • tati

      hahaha YES loved the little boy slapping the guy.. AND I loved the new E*Trade commercial.. ha

    • Ember

      Actually, my friends and I thought the sight of the little boy slapping a grown man was terrible. They could’ve gotten the same point across w/o the slapping. When I see a kid hitting an adult, it makes me wonder what adult has been hitting the kid.

      • Anon

        You can’t be serious. Wow.

      • Sherri

        Are you serious? There’s always one that feels that way.

      • Samantha

        Really?? It was seriously JUST a commercial, and you obviously have no sense of humor if you got child abuse from that hilarious commercial.

      • dandradee

        i agree ember. and then watching this 5 year old kid watch a man ogle his mom…ew.
        the kid was cute, but the ad wasn’t

    • Melissa

      The first doritos commercial was sooo funny! I couldnt stop laughting…my favorite!

    • Cathy in NY

      YES! That Doritos ad was hilarious!

    • Keith

      That Dorito’s spot was my favourite as well.

    • Ells

      Oh the little boy in the Doritos ad was easily the best of the night for me! He was so adorable and loved how he got in his mom’s date’s face the way he did. Priceless! Close second was Betty White.

  • Dave

    Loved all or your favorites, Slezak! But I’m disappointed you included the Simpsons/Coke ad in your 5 worst, I liked that one! I also loved the Doritos commercials too. Those were funny!

    • James

      The Simpsons ad didn’t work for me, mainly because that’s not how Mr. Burns would have acted. After receiving the Coke, he would have smiled, and done something heinous to Apu and the other Springfielders.

      • Troy

        I was expecting Mr. Burns to figure out how to but the local Coke franchise and start charging double because the product was so good.

      • julia

        ya my husband was so disapointed mr burns didnt do something evil.

  • Bob Frapples

    The Super Bowl Shuffle ad by Boost Mobile was so bad it managed to strip Ditka’s mustache of a small percentage of its supernatural powers.

    • Michelle

      But it was worth it to see McMahon again <3

      • gary

        not nice seeing McMahon look like he had one foot in the grave! (perhaps this is just a reaction from a cranky middle aged man)

  • CandyMaize

    I have to agree that the Simpsons Coca Cola commercial did nothing for me. But I did like the ‘Sleepwalker’ Coca Cola commercial (yes, I’m addicted to my Coca Cola LOL).

    • Sarah

      I agree. Petting the hyena at the end was the perfect touch.

    • Ralph

      The sleepwalking coke commercial missed a chance to joke about “the gods must be crazy” – why didn’t they show the guy dropping the coke bottle off the mountain after drinking it? That would have been funnier than the ‘nature’ bit.

  • jbird7171

    The biggest problem with the Simpsons Coke ad was that there were no voices. The premise wasn’t unfunny on its surface, but the characters without their voices are not enough.

    Side not, i was disappointed te dorito ad with the kid and the green police are not on your list, especially over the kia and denny’s commercials

    • Psac

      Why not end that Simpsons commercial with Burns drinking the coke, getting the evil gleam back in eye, and uttering… “Eeeexcellent”? Much better than what we got.

    • dave

      Yep, they went bargain basement and didn’t shell out for any voices. Bad move.

      • Jeff

        Milhouse spoke at the end, but one voice wasn’t enough.

    • gary

      no voices: probably because the commercial wasnt run on Fox – i’m surprised no one mentioned that.

  • LOL

    Worst collection of Super Bowl commercials in memory. The Letterman/Leno/Oprah promo was the only thing worth mentioning.

    • Iggy

      I agree! So much money wasted on a bunch of crap!

    • Joe

      100% agree, commercials were absolutely horrible. The fact that people found them humorous shows how low their standards of humor is. So pathetic…

  • Jacob

    Loved the chicken screaming in outer space, hated the Dodge ad. I guess I was the “target audience” of most the ads, being a young straight white male, but I got really sick really fast of all the “funny” soap, beer, car ect. ads focused solely on what is supposably “masculine.” Overall they were basically the same stale ideas.

    • M

      completely agree. i thought the dodge ad was tasteless and so many of the ads were so far from clever.

      • ks

        As a woman that owns a “real” 1971 charger, I took so much offence to the dodge ad.

    • Michael

      doubt you were the target audience. If you were married, or in a serious relationship, then you’d get it. as a married man, I totally totally totally identified. The only time you get to yourself is in the car.

      • Ames

        Poop men! Having to conform their tiny neanderthal brains to social norms. Who created such a world? Oh wait…

      • Just a Girl

        You know, if you hate it so much, you can just get the frack out. I loathed this commercial.

      • Silv

        Relax, everyone. I found hit hilarious, my husband, not so much. Guess it’s because he hasn’t given in as much & after 23 years, we’ve learned to compromise.

      • colin

        Michael, I’m a married man exactly BECAUSE I get to be myself with my wife. Sorry you chose so poorly.

      • Wife of a cave dweller

        Sorry you have no “man cave” Michael. I told my hubby he could have one…and he literally got one! He found an old cave facade in the trash (outside a Science Center that had used it in a display) and put it up in our backyard! It’s horrible to my decorating senses, but it makes him happy…by the way, we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary soon.

      • Meryl

        “EVERYTHING WOMEN DO AND LIKE IS HORRIBLE, BORING, AND EMASCULATING! BUY OUR PRODUCT!”

      • M

        Funny how women could have an equally long list of stuff they have to put up with, but yet they don’t rate expensive car alone time. Anyone who buys into this blatant “you are not manly unless you believe this and BUY THIS RIGHT NOW,” is, frankly, pathetic.

      • Stacey

        Meryl’s comment pretty much sums my thought on the general theme of last night’s advertising. It’s as though the idiots who created these commercials don’t realize that women like to watch football, too.

      • erin

        glad I’m not married to you.
        The major premise of most of those commericials seemed to be that all women are nothing but nagging harpies. That may have been funny to married men 40 years ago, but we don’t live in the dark ages anymore.

      • Machunny

        It’s even more insulting when you’re missing ‘Emma’ to sit through the football game and commercials keep hitting you with this tripe. Don’t they realize it’s rude to talk about women like we’re demanding toy poodles? Moreover, don’t advertisers realize most women have equal say in household purchases? The ad agencies need to take a hard look at their audiences and realize this isn’t Saudi Arabia.

      • Melinda

        Wow. Didn’t realize there’d be such a harsh reaction to this commercial. I loved it – totally struck a chord. And yes, I’m happily married – 30 years. Lighten up, Ladies – it’s okay to laugh at yourselves a little.

      • M

        To Melinda above – exactly what part of the commercial were women supposed to laugh at themselves? It was in no way trying to be funny (unlike the wife/life ad), but rather its intent was serious. Unless you really think that women are like that and should be all “Ha ha ha, yeah, I’m a b*tch. You got me! :)”

      • Melinda

        Well, I can tell you the parts that I laughed at: “I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast. I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave…I will put the seat down….I will carry your lip balm. I will watch your vampire TV shows with you. I will take my socks off before getting into bed. I will put my underwear in the basket.” And the reason I found all of these funny is because they are all things that I have asked of my dear, incredibly loving husband. And he obliges, without complaint. I just think that the commercial highlights that these guys try real hard to please their women. Wouldn’t it be great if they could do something nice for themselves? I don’t think that it’s about women being bit ches.

      • Michael’s Wife

        What are you doing wasting time on this message board when you’re supposed to be taking out the trash??!!!! And don’t you dare tell me you’ve already done it….

      • Christina

        Melinda- The Dodge ad was completely insulting to women. It was simply playing on the stereotype that women all nag and don’t let men have anything fun. In a healthy relationship, each partner has equal say in all things, and both have their own ways of having alone time. Some of the examples were so stupid too. How is eating fruit with breakfast bad? Or cleaning the sink after shaving, since it was the shaving that got it messy in the first place? The commercial was sexist drivel that further claimed that women are nagging b-tches and the only thing a man has is his car. Again, in a healthy relationship, the partners are equal.

      • Jackson

        Sounds to me like the women who are finding this commercial so insulting are probably nagging b-tches.

    • stbham

      The Dodge ad was absolutely great. It was moving and touched my heart like no other advertisement in the history of television. It’s only flaw was it should have had the Challenger instead. The Charger is a weak attempt at a sports car. No sports car has 4 doors. I still totally understood the concept.

      • erin

        Yeah, only gay dudes drive 4-door sports cars.

      • ks

        Thank you! the challenger would have been better-I own a “real” charger 71. I hate 2 door cars. But, I did not like the comercial anyway-my husband of many years drives a chev. He took exception to the fact it was not a chevy TRUCK hehe :)

      • dandradee

        i HATED the dodge commercial. it epitomized this whole streak of misogyny so many superbowl ads had this year. i am sorry these men are so put-upon by their horrible wives, this disgusting WOMEN that make them put the toilet seat down and carry lipgloss and watch those awful vampire shows? WTF? If they all hate marriage so much, why not just get divorced and live by yourself? There are way less mean-spirited ways to advertise cars.

  • tr1gun

    the house made out of beer was too funny, “there’s Bud Light in the fridge made of Bud Light”.

    • Linda L

      I like that one, too.

    • Ember

      There is a real beer can house in Houston, TX…but not made of full beers.

  • tiana

    missed my pepsi commericals but i liked the harry potter park the best

    • shannon

      me too me too!

    • Kisha

      Pepsi didn’t buy any ad time this year.

      • Castiella

        Instead (for those who haven’t heard), they donated the money they would have spent on commercials to Haiti earthquake relief. MUCH better advertising for their company, if you ask me.

      • dave

        Apparently not, considering I hadn’t heard about it until just now.

  • wino

    Google ad was by far the most original…very cute and unexpected (for a superbowl crowd). j’adore :)-

    • Terri

      Moi aussi!

    • ricegf

      Completely agree. Beautifully simple concept, subtle touches, clear branding, easy to follow and empathize with – it was unexpected only because it was truly good *advertising*.

    • Jess

      completely agree…the Google ad was completely endearing and so different from the rest! loved it!

      • Gabe

        If you mean boring and long, yes endearing.

    • WayBeyondSoccerMom

      By the time the Google ad aired, I was in another room watching “Emma” on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic. My husband actually paused the TV with the DVR, and walked into another room to convince me to watch the Google commercial. Now, that’s a powerful ad!

    • PaperMoon

      Oh yes I absolutely love that google commercial! So simple and yet so touching! :D

    • A

      The Google ad was so cute, but I was the only one in the house who noticed it because it didn’t have any voices. The last line was the best- “How to assemble a crib.” Awwww!

    • Stacy

      that commercial was so cute, my sister and I loved it. My dad… not so much.

      • Slick

        I can’t figure out why Google bought an ad in the first place. Talk about overexposure. It’s like making an ad about breathing air. AND…the ad was predictable from about search #2.

      • Scott

        Probably had something to do with all the bing commercials on.

  • Roderick

    Audi Green Police advertisement was the best. Snickers was great with Abe Vigoda getting sacked.

  • burb22

    What were you all watching. These were the worst commercials every in a superbowl game. Lame, Lame CBS. They should have just let the gay ad in. I was so disappointed. And what was that half time show all about? Good thing it was a good game. HORRIBLE

    • swthompson

      The Who. Next question?

    • Steve

      obvious troll is obvious

  • Alex

    I haven’t really watched the Simpsons in years. I saw the animation and it looks like it was drawon on Adobe Illustrator. It’s all pixely in the lines and way too colorful even for a cartoon.

    What’s with the Lesbo Danica Patrick commmercials. When it comes down to it, Guys like girls who like guys. Trust me.

    I miss the old flavor of Dr. Pepper. It didn’t need 21 of anything but what it had.

    • dave

      The godaddy commercials are all lame. Plus if you go online and watch their “too hot for TV” ads they are in fact not too hot for TV.

    • elanore

      wow seriously? the simpsons are genuis.

    • Kmann

      Completely agree with Alex. Dr. Pepper DIDN’T need 21 of anything!

      That’s why it has *23* flavors. And is delicious.

  • Adam from PDX

    I watched the game in a room with four women, and when the Google commercial got to the last search input, each of them, at the same time, went, “Awwwww!”
    I sort of wanted to do that too.
    That was the best commercial of the night.

    • Castiella

      This comment wins. :-)

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