Television commercials are an annoyance every day of the year, except for Super Bowl Sunday. Because of the game’s diverse and massive audience, the Super Bowl presents a unique opportunity for PR firms to put their most creative ideas on display.
Normally you’d have to wait until game day to watch the best ads of the year but since we’re in the digital age, most of this year’s offerings have been released online.
You can watch full ads, or teasers for the full ads, right now so that on Sunday you can actually get a bathroom break or help yourself to another serving of Uncle Phil’s award-winning chili without missing the commercials.
Here are my picks for the best, worst and weirdest ads that will air during this year’s Super Bowl.
“Loretta” (Google) — This tear-jerker begins with an elderly man using Google to view pictures of himself and his wife when they were younger. Solemn music plays while we see photos of the two on vacation, at an anniversary party and with their children. It’s implied that the man’s wife has died, so you’re sure to be bawling at the end of this 90-second commercial.
“Wassup Again” (Budweiser) — Like a lot people back in 1999, I found the Budweiser “Wassup?” ads pretty humorous. The phrase even became a short-lived pop culture phenomenon. In its new Super Bowl ad, Budweiser brings back the famous saying, but this time its spoken by a number of smart devices, including a toilet, while the homeowner is away. It’s a silly reference to the past and will likely make you try to command Siri or Alexa to say, “Wassup?”
“Monologue” (Doritos) — The funniest ad comes from Doritos. Actor Sam Elliott, dressed in full cowboy regalia, walks into a saloon and steps up to the bar. Elliot starts speaking lines from the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. It’s odd to hear Elliott say, “You can whip my Porsche” but also incredibly amusing.
“MC Hammer — Where it All Began” (Cheetos) — This teaser shows rapper MC Hammer sitting in front of a piano in 1989 in his home in Oakland, Calif. He’s working on a song while eating a bag of Cheetos.
As he goes to play the piano, he looks at his fingers covered in Cheeto dust and says, “Wait, I can’t touch this.” And now we all now know the genesis of his hit song.
“Typical American” (Budweiser) — At first this one- minute spot looks to be parodying U.S. stereotypes. Many people view Americans as competitive, loud and having a fascination with strength. This ad shows Americans having all those traits but in a positive way.
“Pringles Flavor Stacking” (Pringles) — The animated series “Rick and Morty” is one of the smartest shows on television, so it’s no surprise their commercial is self-referential as well as humorous. In this ad, Rick realizes that he and his granddaughter Summer are stuck in a Pringles commercial filled with robot Mortys. Witty and with inside jokes for series fans, it does a good job highlighting the Pringles brand.
“Smaht Pahk featuring Chris Evans, John Krasinski and Rachel Dratch” (Hyundai) — This ad shows off Hyundai’s new remote parking feature. It also gives New England natives Evans, Krasinski and Dratch a lame excuse to do their worst Boston accents, something viewers everywhere outside the region can live without. There’s no escaping New England, even though the Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl.
“The Message” (Bud Light Seltzer) — In this commercial, set in the real town of Seltzer, Pa., a fake mayor is campaigning for Bud Light Seltzer. Unfortunately for him and the product, the ad is repetitive and corny.
“All People Are Tax People” (TurboTax) — Guess what? Your taxes are due in a couple of months! TurboTax would like to remind you of that while showing people doing anything but their taxes in this commercial. But hey, since you do simple things like chainsaw sculpting and disco dancing at work, doing taxes with TurboTax should be a breeze. This ad should be be audited.
“As Good as the Original” (Mountain Dew Zero Sugar) — In this re-creation of “The Shining,” Bryan Cranston takes on the role of Jack Torrance, chasing after Tracee Ellis Ross as Wendy. She locks herself in a room while Jack tries to convince her to try Mountain Dew’s new beverage. Stanley Kubrick’s classic film and Mountain Dew are a strange combination. And seeing Cranston dressed as the Grady twins at the end just adds to the bizarre vibe.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association.