Super Bowl Commercials 2014: Grading Best and Most Memorable Ads
The Super Bowl is usually the most watched television event in the U.S. each year, with over 100 million people tuning into the broadcast annually.
Some people are in it for the football, while others are just along for the ride. Which is what the massively hyped up halftime show and the ridiculously expensive and elaborate commercials are all about—assuring there’s something for everyone.
Anytime you’ve got 200 million eyeballs glued to the television, advertisers are obviously going to take notice. Each year companies trip over themselves for the privilege of dropping $4 million on a single 30 second spot.
Of course, some do better than others making the most of their money.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the why’d they even bother Super Bowl spots of 2014. Check back throughout the game for updates on commercials as they air.
*Find me on Twitter and let me know your favorite spots! @blamberr
Audi: 'Doberhuahua' [B-]
At one point in Audi’s Doberhuahua, two dog show commentators say of the titular character, “I don’t know what to make of it, Frank...It’s unsettling...It’s disturbing to look at it directly.”
That sums up the commercial overall, but just because it’s unsettling doesn’t mean it’s bad. The dome-heavy dog stumbling over while rocking every dog’s worst enemy—the dreaded cone—is hilarious.
The best part of the spot is the appearance of singer Sarah McLachlan, which is a much-needed counterbalance to all those tearjerker ASPCA commercials she did. Those are just haunting.
Toyota: 'The Muppets' [A]
You really can’t go wrong with The Muppets.
They’re great. The trailer is great. Terry Crewes is great. So Toyota is probably great too.
Or, at the very least, not too bad.
Squarespace: 'A Better Web Awaits' [D+]
Considering Squarespace is a company a lot of people will be hearing about for the first time during the Super Bowl, it probably isn’t a good thing that its function serves as an afterthought to a not particularly clever or interesting commercial.
The seedy human personification of the Internet coming at you all at once isn’t a bad idea, but something about this spot, or the company that paid big bucks for it, just didn’t connect.
Jaguar: 'British Villains' [A]
Jaguar isn’t usually one of the car companies in the Super Bowl commercial fray, which is unfortunate given how inspired “British Villains” is. Built on the (accurate) assertion that movie villains are, quite often, British.
Spinning the typical villain role into something more positive, Jaguar notes they’re often “more focused, more precise, “ “always one step ahead,” “with a certain style, an eye for detail” “and obsessed by power.”
A stiff upper lip is key. Well…that and driving a Jaguar.
Volkswagen: 'Wings' [C]
“Every time a Volkswagen hits 100,000 miles a German engineer gets his wings.” That’s the story dad tells his teenage daughter to help her understand the important automotive milestone.
The 30 seconds of engineers literally sprouting wings isn’t particularly riveting, but it’s saved by the teenager’s sarcastic reply about rainbows shooting out of their butts when a VW hit’s 200,000.
The sarcastic reply in conjunction with a literal demonstration.
NFL Network: “Jerry Ricecake” [A]
Following up on the “Leon Sandcastle” spot starring Deion Sanders in 2013, the NFL Network brings us “Jerry Ricecake,” starring none other than Jerry Rice in 2014.
Ricecake is the new kid on the block and everyone is clamoring for a piece of him. Which, as you can imagine, doesn’t go over terribly well with Sandcastle.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s spot and wondering who might get thrown into the mix next. This premise is solid enough to make it an ongoing story.
Cheerios: 'Gracie' [B-]
There’s nothing to hate on in Cheerios' adorable commercial about a father talking to his little girl about the new baby on the way. It’s very sweet, and you gotta respect Gracie’s negotiating skills in making her puppy dreams come true.
That being said, it really doesn’t feel like a Super Bowl commercial. Which I’m honestly not sure is a bad thing; it just seems like there’s a good chance it could get lost in the fray. At least it’ll have a longer shelf life than all the gimmicky spots
Bank of America: 'There Is No Them, Only Us' [F]
Bank of America + U2 = BoNO!
If this was the best venue U2 could think of to debut their new song “Invisible,” well then, that’s a sad state of affairs. Suppose everyone’s got a corporate sponsor these days.
Honda: '#hugfest' [B]
Honda manages to make safety fun with this comical public service announcement starring Bruce Willis and former Saturday Night Live star Fred Armisen.
Initially it looks like it’s just going to be Willis delivering the message, until the camera pans away to reveal Armisen’s vice grip around his waist.
Chobani: 'Bear Game Day Commercial' [B]
I’m not going to lie—I really wanted to hate this Chobani commercial. Mostly because I don’t particularly care for yogurt and it annoys me that a lot of yogurt advertising features unstable women desperately vying for the stuff.
This spot didn’t stray from that formula, but replacing the unstable women with a massive angry bear was a welcome change. Bears wreaking havoc in predominately human settings is a comic well that will never run dry.
Oh! And the bear politely ringing the bell to pay for the Chobani after totally trashing the store? Perfection.
M&M’s: 'Delivery' [D]
The thing about airing a teaser commercial in the days leading up to the Super Bowl is that the real commercial has to deliver. In the last week, M&M’s delivered a pretty entertaining teaser featuring a twerking peanut that was kidnapped and dragged off screen at the end.
I’m not going to lie—I became oddly invested in the well-being of that piece of candy after a few viewings. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the M&M being kidnapped by a Russian super villain who’s intent on making him part of a sundae, it was just unsatisfying.
That nasty brown M&M is a much better villain anyway.
Turbo Tax: “Love Hurts” [A]
Turbo Tax really captured the often unspoken feeling that the vast majority of the Super Bowl viewing audience contends with in any given year.
The feeling of being excited for the big game, which is completely undercut by the fact that your team has already cleaned out their lockers—some more than a month ago.
T Mobile: '#nocontract' [B+]
Honestly, if someone had asked me if there was a way to do a Tim Tebow commercial for the Super Bowl and make it anything but insanely annoying, I would’ve said absolutely not. And I would’ve been wrong…well…sorta wrong.
Tebow is still a little annoying in the T-Mobile spot, but it’s more residual than anything related to the commercial. The premise of “#nocontract” is that Tebow may be looking for an NFL contract, but he’s been keeping pretty dang busy without one.
GoDaddy: 'Bodybuilder' [C-]
GoDaddy commercials featuring NASCAR driver Danica Patrick have been a staple of Super Bowl advertising for years now. This year marks a massive shift in tone from the uncreative sleazy stuff they used to build their brand to a much more palatable offering.
Patrick was smart to finally take a stand with her most visible corporate sponsors. This year there is no promise of a dirtier “guess what happens next!” version of their ad online. “Bodybuilder” isn’t particularly funny, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Maybe next year...
Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt: “The Spill” [C+]
Like Chobani, Oikos was able to make a yogurt commercial that didn’t offend my womanly sensibilities. It starts off pretty ridiculously, but the presence of John Stamos would elevate almost anything.
When it really gets good is when Stamos’ Full House co-stars Bob Saget and Dave Coulier show up unannounced to help clean up a spill. A spill that really isn’t a three-man cleanup job, which makes it even better.
Chevrolet: 'Romance' [A-]
“Romance” is definitely keeping with Chevy’s recent man-heavy advertising—“man-heavy” in that they say the word “man” an awful lot. Like…so much that it’s actually starting to sound weird to me.
This one changes up the formula a bit, though. At first, it looks like it’s going to be another manly man doing manly things in or in the vicinity of his pickup, but then it takes a turn for the amusing.
The shift in focus to the bull he’s hauling to a farm, along with the change in tone and soundtrack, are just what this commercial needed to make it Super Bowl-worthy.
Bud Light: 'Ian Up for Whatever' [B+]
Ian Rappaport is not an actor and is, apparently, up for whatever. And that’s exactly what he gets in this Bud Light short film chronicling one hell of an interesting night out on the town.
Joining Ian at different points are Reggie Watt in a limo filled with bachelorettes, Minka Kelly, Don Cheadle walking an agitated llama, Arnold Schwarzenegger in a terrible wig playing table tennis and OneRepublic.
This spot is pretty much all over the place, but that’s pretty much the point. It’s a solid offering and deserves props for getting creative.
Wonderful Pistachios: 'Stephen Colbert' [B]
Considering the wide array of disposable celebrities that have pitched for Wonderful Pistachios in recent years, Stephen Colbert was a very welcome change. Who else could sit in a room decorated with painted portraits of himself while accompanied by a bald eagle wearing a matching suit and tie?
The commercial was actually broken into two separate parts—the first time they do it Colbert’s way, the second time they make it more about the pistachios…a lot more about pistachios.
SodaStream: “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi” [C-]
The SodaStream commercial starring actress Scarlett Johansson was one of the most buzzed about Super Bowl spots prior to the game this year. That’s because the original version took a very tame “swipe” at Coke and Pepsi.
Coke and Pepsi are two of the game’s biggest advertisers each year, so Fox decided they’d rather be safe than sorry and decided to censor the ad. The whole thing was ridiculous and gave an otherwise uninspired commercial a much bigger audience.
The commercial isn’t that bad, but it really disappoints given the hype. Maybe that was Coke and Pepsi’s evil plan all along.
Coca-Cola: “Going All the Way”
Coca-Cola’s “Going All The Way” takes us back in time to look in at the childhood of superstar running back Adrian Peterson. He didn’t have the size back then, but apparently he had the motor of Forrest Gump, who we all know could haul it.
Although it was one of the better commercials in a somewhat disappointing year (which is fitting, given the quality of the game), the big disappointment was that Peterson didn’t even have a last second cameo.
Beats: 'Ellen' [C]
Beats has been on a roll with their recent commercials—the ones featuring Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman were particularly timely and impressive.
That’s why the Super Bowl spot starring Ellen Degeneres in a Goldilocks spoof was so disappointing. It’s not that it was bad or anything, but the other ones were just that much better.
Seems like an odd time to stray from a winning formula.
Carmax: 'Slow Clap' [B+]
Carmax has been pretty solid the last year or two with their reliably funny/outlandish commercials, and “Slow Clap” definitely keeps the streak alive. I had some concerns about the spot when it first started because the slow clap is a comedy bit that is a bit overplayed, but they managed to elevated it.
After buying a car, the Carmax customer is greeted by a chorus of slow claps from everyone he sees, with each scene getting a bit more ridiculous than the last. The definitive highlights are the dad dropping his kid on the bike, the park ranger and brown bear, the beekeeper and, of course, an appearance by Rudy.
You’re probably thinking, “You had me at Rudy…you had me at Rudy.” Which is why I probably should’ve started with him, but everything after would’ve seemed so insignificant.
Carmax: 'Slow Clap—Puppy Version' [A+]
You gotta give Carmax credit for realizing that everything is better—much better—with puppies.
Taking a lead from the Puppy Bowl, they recreated their entire Super Bowl spot with puppies. And for that, we thank them.
Heinz Ketchup: 'Hum' [C+]
H.J. Heinz Co. got into the Super Bowl ad action this year with a playful (and childish) twist on the children’s song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”
The instrumental version of the song is generated by the hums and grunts of people trying to get ketchup out of those frustrating glass bottles.
And then, like any good commercial, it ends with a fart joke.
Radio Shack: 'The Phone Call' [B+]
Radio Shack used their Super Bowl spot to announce a long overdue redesign of their stores. “The Phone Call” refers to the joke that kicks off the commercial, “The 80s called, they want their store back.”
The only possible way to capitalize on that in a good way is going all in on the 80s nostalgia, which is exactly what Radio Shack did.
Hulk Hogan, Alf, Cliff Claven, Mary Lou Retton, Kid ‘n Play, Dee Snider, Chucky and the California Raisins are just a few of the beloved 80s characters (some real, some fictional) that show up to help with the renovation.
Kia: “Matrix” [D]
I’ll concede that my opinion here may not reflect that of the majority, but it might—I’m just not sure.
My thought is that The Matrix is 14 years old and all the sequels were terrible. And people haven’t exactly been clamoring to revisit it.
Considering how creative their ads have been the last few years, why would Kia even want to recycle this? It seems lazy.
Chrysler: 'America’s Import' [A]
Chrysler’s two-minute long “American Import” features legendary musician Bob Dylan, who narrates the commercial and provides “Things Have Changed” to serve as the soundtrack.
The spot is a celebration of Detroit, the auto industry, factory workers and basically all things America. Much like the Super Bowl itself, making it the perfect viewing audience.
Axe: 'Make Love, Not War' [F]
Who knows what Axe body spray is trying to do with “Make Love, Not War?" I certainly don’t.
On one hand, at least they’re branching out and attempting to do something different. Considering the array of garbage they’ve produced in the past, any change is welcome.
On the other hand, this commercial is just awful. The combating notions of war and peace are something people all over the world struggle with on a daily basis. Stinking like the cheap body spray aisle at a drugstore is not.
It’s hard to say if this spot is that offensive or if it’s just the stink of every other commercial they’ve ever made combining to make it all the more pungent. Either way, it stinks.
Budweiser: 'Puppy Love' [A+]
Listen. I don’t know who Budweiser hired to create last year’s Super Bowl spot “The Brotherhood” and this year’s “Puppy Love,” but I do know they deserve a raise.
Maybe it was residual from last year, but my eyes started to well up the moment the commercial started. Which is ridiculous because a puppy adoption should be happy and a little less dramatic.
That being said, every animal lover in the country would probably agree that Budweiser reigns supreme for the second straight year.
Ford Fusion: 'Nearly Double' [C]
Ford’s “Nearly Double” features comedian Rob Riggle in an extremely modest spot, which is then amped up and nearly doubled—see what they did there?—in a second spot starring actor James Franco.
Actually, saying it was nearly doubled is quite the understatement. Although the premise is funny enough, Franco’s “jack of all trades, master of none” shtick is more than a little tired.
H&M: '#Covered or #Uncovered?' A]
Sorry fellas, but I have to give it up to H&M for routinely representing the ladies and delivering a scantily clad David Beckham for our enjoymnet.
In an earlier spot, they asked if Beckham should be delivered #Covered or #Uncovered. As if that was question even worth asking.
Doritos: 'Time Machine': [B]
This is one of the winners of Doritos' annual fan submission contest, which were some of the funniest and most creative spots in 2013. Thankfully, this year is no different.
“Time Machine” is the story of a crafty kid and his stupid neighbor, who is way too eager to believe time travel in a cardboard box is possible. Even an elaborately outfitted cardboard box is still at cardboard box.
Then again, it all works out for the best. The kid snags the snacks and the dopey neighbor gets something to believe in, if only for a brief moment. The next scene would probably be that old man smacking his mouth.
Budweiser: 'A Hero’s Welcome' [A++]
Budweiser strikes gold once again with “A Hero’s Welcome,” which chronicles one soldier’s raucous return home from serving overseas. The soundtrack is perfect and the scene is emotional.
The spot concludes with the tagline, “Every soldier deserves a hero’s welcome.” One of the few things most everyone can agree on in this politically contentious climate.