It’s a group of strange ads that perfectly encapsulate the strange times we find ourselves in. For Super Bowl LVI, everyone from Zendaya to Paul Rudd, the kids from The Sopranos to Doja Cat, and even Kanye West himself popped up to hawk everything from Cryptocurrency, burgers, and hard sodas. From the ones that perhaps made us shed a tear to the spots that made us cry from laughter, here are the best, the worst and the “What the….” ads of 2022.
Best: Coinbase “QR Code”
Much like a Super Bowl party where one of the guests starts drinking the nacho cheese out of the dip bowl, it was the moment everyone had no choice but to stop and turn their heads at what in the world was happening. Yeah, Coinbase really did spend however-much-money on a sixty-second ad that amounted to nothing more than a super-bouncy QR code which, if scanned, linked to their website. While QR codes do remind us of ordering at restaurants during the pandemic (Have you looked at the menu yet?!), it also demonstrated how insidiously simple a good commercial can be: no celebrity cameos, no massive productions. Just one measly QR code set to minimalist music and you can get the whole world talking. Having said that, we still don’t know what the hell Cryptocurrency is.
Worst: Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, “Land of Loud Flavors”
While Guy Fieri seems like a really nice guy and all, this Big Game spot makes us want to flee his mystical, magical, downright bizarre Flavortown. Here, Flavortown takes center stage in this ad dubbed “Land of Loud Flavors,” which seems like a place where headaches are plentiful and danger lurks just below the surface. One can only assume that if there was a sequel, that ad would focus on the atrocities in Flavortown, followed by one that chronicled the harrowing journey of a defector. If Fieri ever approaches you to visit Flavortown, trust me when I say this: “Run.”
Best: Toyota, “Brothers”
If you saw me crying on Super Bowl Sunday, well, you didn’t. You see something just happened to get stuck in my eyes while this touching commercial about two Paraolympian brothers came on and they just randomly started to drip. And trust me when I say that the fact my eyes were tearing had nothing to do with just how gosh darn beautiful this commercial was, which demonstrated the tight bond of brotherhood and the triumph of success no matter the insurmountable obstacles. Listen, just leave me alone, okay! I’m gonna need a second for myself. From whatever got in my eye, I mean.
WTF: McDonalds, “Can I Get Uhhhhhhhhhhhh”
We so wanted to hate this ad for McDonalds with a cameo by none other than Pete Davidson’s sworn enemy Kanye West. But in the end, it is a tongue-in-cheek look at those weird sounds our body makes when we contemplate throwing in the towel for the day (or even on life itself) and say, “Fuck it, I’m eating McDonalds.” It’s a decision that’s followed by the inevitable death rattle of an “Uhhh” as we decide what we wanted to stuff in our fat, stupid faces so we can somehow fill the void that lingers inside us all. Having said that, it’s a funny ad that actually makes us want to see a therapist.
WTF: UberEats, “Uber Don’t Eats”
Wherein Gwyneth Paltrow bites into a vagina-scented candle.
Best: Squarespace, “Sally’s Seashells”
For some people, the real Super Bowl last night was the newest episode of Euphoria airing on HBO. But in case one was flipping back and forth, fans of the series were treated to this bright ad starring series lead Zendaya and directed by Edgar Wright. Here, Zendaya stars as the titular Sally Seashell who, supposedly barring any supply chain issues or labor shortages, has a business selling seashells by the seashore. However, unlike in Euphoria, this ad had scant amounts of horrific drug use, gratuitous violence and nudity. Just the actress-of-the-moment enjoying her time in the sun.
Worst: Taco Bell, “The Grande Escape”
This ad combines two of what could be considered the worst things humanity has to offer: creepy clowns and Taco Bell. While we do hear Doja Cat eventually covering the Hole classic “Celebrity Skin,” the commercial as a whole, more so wants to make us take a shower than eat Taco Bell. The premise is that Doja is at some bizarre school, she drives to Taco Bell and everyone marvels at a packet of one of their shitty hot sauces.
Doja, I am certain that there is better Mexican food within blocks of Taco Bell. Did you search it on Google Maps? In the end, one can only assume Doja and her friends are just super stoned.
Best: Lays, “Golden Memories”
It’s a Seth Rogen-Paul Rudd early 00s-era buddy comedy that never was.
WTF: Chevy, “New Generation”
On one hand, it’s an ad that is now essentially Sopranos canon with the theme song, original locations and two stars in the form of Jamie Lyn Segler and Robert Iler all shot by original crew members of the HBO series and sanctioned by creator David Chase. But on the other hand, it’s all done in service for an electric car commercial, and call me crazy, but Tony Soprano himself never struck me as an environmentalist. Madonna, how far has this family fallen?
Best: Prime Video, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Teaser Trailer
Alert the nerds, wake up the kids, run down the street screaming the happy news: Lord of the Rings is back! And so what if Amazon of all companies is bankrolling the new tale and they spent most of our hard-earned money on all the disparate shit we buy on the site to pay for this massive production. The only bad thing is that we’ll have to wait until September to stream it.
Best: Irish Spring, “Welcome to Irish Spring”
The poet Rumi once said, “’Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” While that was written around 800 years ago, it’s a breezy sentiment that applies to this commercial for Irish Spring. As curious as the prevalence of cabbage and potatoes in Irish cuisine, this ad takes us to the actual Irish spring where everyone is absolutely obsessed with good smells. Cue a bunny in a baritone voice saying, “Cast thy smell away” and a slogan that plainly states “Smell from a nice-smelling place,” it all amount to a cute lil’ shebang that actually made me equate the 13th century poet to a Super Bowl commercial.
WTF: Toyota, “The Joneses”
Tommy Lee Jones and Nick Jonas, together… at last? The premise is simple: it’s keeping up with the Joneses and they got all the famous Joneses, plus a Jonas brother for the kicker. Where are they driving? Why does Nick want to join? Why did they take separate trucks? Is this a race? If it is, why did Tommy Lee Jones tell Nick to keep up? What does it all mean?
Best: FTX, “Don’t Miss Out”
For a Super Bowl spot it was pretty, pretty, pretty good.