In the many breaks during Sunday’s big game, a variety of eye-catching ads kept viewers glued to the screen. Here is a rundown of our “elite eight” — from puppies to puppets, and from Danica to Dannon:
(See all the Super Bowl commercials — and vote on your favorites — at wapo.st/2014superads).
The product: Budweiser
The premise: One farm is for the Budweiser Clydesdales; the other is for puppies. When two of them become pals, fences can’t keep them apart. This continues the story of last year’s Budweiser commercial, which featured an interspecies friendship between a Clydesdale and the trainer who raised him from infancy.
The punch line: When the puppy is adopted, it looks as if it’s all over for these pals — but then the Clydesdales stage a dramatic intervention. Cue the tears in 3 . . . 2 . . .
The verdict: Never underestimate the public’s appetite for a commercial that has a puppy in it. This was the most-watched ad on YouTube, with more than 33 million views, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
The product: Axe Peace
The premise: Leaders in North Korea and Iran are among the troubled nations alluded to in a tense sequence of events — an advancing tank, a military march, a soldier with a machine gun.
The punch line: But just as we’ve begun to think the worst, the soldiers begin to abandon their weapons and embrace the women they love. That military march is a grand tribute to the dictator’s wife. The red button deploys fireworks, not bombs. The message here is peace, as the newest line of Axe is called.
The verdict: This is something new: a heartwarming commercial from Eau de Bro body spray company Axe. In a departure from its usual schlubby-dude-wearing-Axe-attracts-bikini-babe marketing strategy, Axe has shifted its message to something softer. Not only does the ad support a partnership with cease-fire advocates Peace One Day, but it’s also gripping and cinematic, with a great twist.
The product: Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt
The premise: John Stamos, the reigning ladies’ man of lactose for the third straight year, is once again eating yogurt with a woman. He’s having trouble getting the spoon to his mouth, so she helps him out by licking it off of his lips. He senses an opportunity and — oops! — drips it in his lap.
The punch line: But his “Full House” castmates, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, aren’t about to let him score. Needless to say, the cleanliness-obsessed Saget is not the person that Stamos was hoping would utter the phrase, “Take off your pants, Greek boy.”
The verdict: Given the media blitz that the “Full House” castmates undertook in recent days — including a Reddit Q&A and a skit with Jimmy Fallon — Dannon is really getting its money’s worth this year.
The product: GoDaddy Web hosting
The premise: Throngs of hulking bodybuilders are running through a city — and they’re led by GoDaddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick, who’s been considerably beefed up, thanks to some veiny, prosthetic muscles. But why is the siren call attracting all these meatheads?
The punch line: They’re about to stampede a spray-tanning salon, whose owner hosts her Web site on GoDaddy. “It’s ‘go’ time,” she says, spritzing a little orange puff of tanning solution.
The verdict: Last Fall, GoDaddy — maker of the most notoriously provocative commercials — announced that it was dropping its scantily-clad-babe strategy for something a little less sleazy. It’s a decision that has already paid off, as this year’s commercial is one of the funniest of the bunch.
The product: Kia
The premise: Laurence Fishburne returns as Morpheus from “The Matrix,” moonlighting as a valet at a fancy restaurant. When an attractive couple approaches, he presents them with an echo of the movie’s choice: blue key or red key? Red, he says, will make them “never look at luxury the same way again.”
The punch line: They take it, of course, and some weird, Matrix-y things start to happen — flying cars, exploding streetlights. It’s all done to the unexpected tune “Nessun Dorma,” from the opera “Turandot.”
The verdict: One hopes they tipped him well.
The product: Chevy Silverado
The premise: A rugged-looking gentleman takes a bull on a road trip. The ad seems like a typical truck commercial featuring farmland and Americana, until they cue the music: Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing.”
The punch line: The bull is offloaded into a field of cows and . . . hello, ladies. With perfect comedic timing, he licks his lips as he surveys his prospects.
The verdict: It’s nice to see a rancher-and-his-truck commercial that doesn’t take itself so seriously.
The product: Bud Light
The premise: In a two-part ad, a guy named Ian is in for a wild night. He’s approached by a woman who offers him a Bud Light and asks him whether he’s up for whatever happens next.
The punch line: What happens next turns out to be partying with a group of bachelorettes in a limo with Reggie Watts, bumping into Don Cheadle and a llama in a limo, and playing table tennis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The verdict: It’s as if “The Hangover” were a short film, instead. And it might be one of Arnold’s finest performances.
The product: Toyota Highlander
The premise: Terry Crews is driving on a dusty road when he comes upon a broken-down bus. When he stops to offer aid, the Muppets of Electric Mayhem pile into his car and take him on a weird, wonderful trip — through an old ladies’ bingo game, a winery, a parade and more. It’s all to the tune of a new Muppet jingle, “We ain’t got no room for boring.”
The punch line: Boring old Terry Crews starts to loosen up a bit — maybe a bit too much, as his neighbor Kermit finds him shirtless and wild-eyed, with a tie around his head, singing the Muppets’ song.
The verdict: Basically, it’s the kid-friendly version of the Bud Light commercial that takes one man on a surprising, celebrity-packed day of adventures. Except these celebrities are made of felt.