Super Bowl XLIX had everything you could ask for – unbelievable plays, a ridiculous fight, a finish for the ages and a spectacular halftime performance. There was even a robot lion! Nothing could have possibly brought your Super Bowl party down.
Nothing except the commercials.
What was up with the ads featured during this year’s Super Bowl? I know big corporations rely on our blood to remain youthful, but do they really need our tears, too? This year’s batch of commercials gave us lost puppies, emotional fathers and children dying for no reason – and that was just in the first half alone. It’s like the sponsors were trying to capture the gnawing guilt most reasonable human beings feel when they tune in to watch four hours of subconcussive brain traumas.
While the constant barrage of emotional content tried to kill our Super Bowl buzz, there were some moments that managed to cut through the unnecessary sadness (that’s a 15-yard penalty, BTW), including Danny Trejo taking a turn as Marcia Brady, Liam Neeson brooding over a video game and Walter White getting back to business.
Here are my picks for the best and worst commercials of Super Bowl XLIX.
Popular on Rolling Stone
Best: BMW, ‘Newfangled Idea‘
This fantastic spot from BMW opens in 1994 with real footage from The Today Show featuring Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric discussing this new thing called the Internet. “Can you explain what Internet is?” a phrase that’s all the more incredible 21 years after it was first uttered. The ad then leaps to the present, where Gumbel and Couric are still discussing their confusion with modern technology, only this time in the form of a BMW i3. Bonus points for neither of them aging a day in two decades.
Worst: Jublia, ‘Tackle It‘
This Jublia commercial about a human toe in a football helmet is the trippiest thing I’ve seen since Katy Perry’s robot lion. I have so many questions. What on earth made Jublia think this would be a good Super Bowl commercial? Not only does it look like it cost $15 to make, but it’s kind of like a commercial for the emergency room: If I had toenail fungus, I’d just take care of it – I don’t think it would take an ad during the Big Game to spur me into action. Also, WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE IN THAT STADIUM TO WATCH A TOE PLAY FOOTBALL?
Best: Snickers, ‘The Brady Bunch’
Now this is how you spend $4.5 million! Snickers took my lifelong dream of seeing Danny Trejo play Marcia Brady and made it a reality. What a time to be alive! Trejo slamming his axe in front of Mike and Carol was amazing, but then squeezing in Steve Buscemi at the end to play Jan was enough to make me devote the rest of my candy-eating life to Snickers. Sorry, Skittles.
Worst: Game of War, ‘Who I Am’
Here’s a thought. If you’re going to spend several million dollars on a Super Bowl commercial, try making it slightly different from your 10 other commercials currently clogging the airwaves. At this point, if you’ve seen one jiggling Kate Upton ad, you’ve pretty much seen ’em all. Here’s another thought: What if Game of War stopped outsourcing their ads to roomfuls of horny 13-year-old boys?
Best: Always, ‘#LikeAGirl’
When I was a kid, “Like a girl” was a phrase most of us would have described as a “harmless dig.” But thanks to this powerful spot, the only word that I can use to describe it now is “unnecessary.” Come to think of it, these days I’d take “run like a girl” as a compliment. Did you see that little girl running in place for a few seconds? She’s in better shape than I am.
Worst: T-Mobile, ‘#KimsDataStash’
So close. Sure, I liked how this spot poked fun at important brands trying to imbue their products with a deeper meaning and Kim Kardashian’s narcissism, but I’m pretty sure KK was oblivious to that, and I’m definitely sure Kanye West somehow served as a “creative director” on this shoot. Or at least a stylist.
Best: Esurance, ‘Say My Name‘
Heisenberg lives! In this awesome Esurance commercial, a woman is visiting her pharmacist named Greg, only it’s not Greg. It’s Bryan-freaking-Cranston in a hazmat suit. The spot ends the only way it can, with Walter White telling the woman to say his name. This commercial is one Jesse Pinkman “bitch” away from being the best Super Bowl ad of all time.
Worst: Doritos, ‘Middle Seat’
Hahaha! Ebola jokes! And ageism! And racism! And misogyny! Somehow, the smug, smarmy star of this terrible spot made Doritos seem appealing. So, uh, mission accomplished?
Best: Bud Light, ‘Real Life Pac-Man’
Beer commercials have come a long way since painting the good life as a place where bikini-clad babes appeared out of nowhere via a frozen bullet train. A new day is upon us and Bud Light’s “Real Life Pac-Man” is giving us the good life we’ve always wanted, complete with pumping EDM, flashing neon lights and a lumpy hipster dodging life-sized versions of Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde. This is change we can all get behind.
Worst: McDonald’s, ‘Pay With Lovin’
Add McDonald’s to the list of corporations who are trying to save the world, one bullshit commercial at a time. Here is the premise for this Super Bowl ad: McDonald’s wants to reward your random acts of kindness with a big juicy heart attack. Speaking of acts of kindness, what if McDonald’s stopped stealing their employees’ wages? That would warm my heart more than this stupid spot.
Best: Nationwide, ‘Invisible Mindy’
There were several commercials that featured people we love just being themselves. Take note, 2016 Super Bowl marketing teams. Instead of trying to make us cry, why not have Mindy Kaling attempt to kiss Matt Damon? What’s crazy is “Invisible Mindy” was brought to us by the same people who tragically killed a kid (more on that in a second). Please don’t kill Mindy Kaling, Nationwide. We really like her.
Worst: Nationwide, ‘Make Safe Happen’
Jesus Christ, Nationwide. This is the freaking Super Bowl, not Dancer in the Dark. Pop a Lexapro or something. I get that you’re trying to bring attention to the issue of household safety, but couldn’t you have done that with a sad puppy or horse or something? It’s like you guys sat down and said, “Hey, you know how everyone loved Boyhood? Let’s do that but kill the kid at the end. Yeah!”
Best: Squarespace, ‘Om’
In a year where Super Bowl commercials tried to tell us everything, it was nice to get one with a simple message – “OM.” This mellow ad from Squarespace features Jeff Bridges lulling people to sleep by their bedsides, using only the sounds of his deep, hypnotic voice and a singing bowl. The spot is simple and direct, asking viewers to visit DreamingWithJeff.com, the website dedicated to Bridges’ charity album, Sleeping Tapes. Since Squarespace asked nicely (and didn’t kill a kid), I’ll certainly pay them a visit.
Worst: Coca-Cola, ‘#MakeItHappy’
Good news, everyone: Coca-Cola has ended cyber-bullying forever! All it took was a careless employee (who is so fired) spilling a bottle of Coke into the Internet’s super-motherboard (which definitely exists). Don’t bother putting the onus on the bullies themselves, because all the hate magically vanishes in this fairy tale thanks to our liquid fairy godmother. Better get a two-liter for 4chan.
Best: Clash of Clans, ‘Revenge’
I’m not big on these downloadable games, but this parody of the Taken franchise might be enough to make me start playing. Hearing Liam Neeson growl, “I don’t know you, BigBuffetBoy85, but if you think you can humiliate me, think again” as he stares into his smartphone is the single best thing to happen in 2015. It only gets funnier when the barista mispronounces Neeson’s first name as “LIE-EM.”
Worst: Fiat, ‘Little Blue Pill’
In which a car pops some Viagra and gets a boner. This spot’s slick direction initially had my engine revving, but ultimately, its juvenile concept left me limp. If the impact of this commercial lasts longer than four hours, seek immediate medical attention. You might be fucking crazy.