Over here in the Style section, we only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. And this year’s crop had something for everyone: bro humor, celebrity athlete cameos, nostalgia, sentimentality and plenty of cute animals.
Refreshingly, advertisers didn’t lean as heavily on the sexism that has become a trope of Super Bowl commercials over the years (hamburger chain Carl’s Jr., which made a commercial that consisted entirely of a naked lady eating a burger, did not seem to get that memo). Commercials celebrating women and dads made their mark this year, and favorite brands, like the ones below, delivered sure-fire viral hits.
Okay, Budweiser, it’s been a cute little schtick, but at this point, you are the cruel arbiters of flat-out emotional manipulation. This commercial is the same formula as last year’s: puppies + horses + folksy, sentimental music = CUE THE WATERWORKS.
This time, our little yellow Lab friend and his horse pal get separated when the scared pup runs away during a car accident. An epic journey back to the barn ensues. And, like clockwork, Americans everywhere began to wonder whether someone is chopping onions somewhere, because anyone who wasn’t ugly-crying by the end of this commercial might be a robot.
Do these tortilla chips have extra seasoning? They’re salted with your tears.
Dove does away with the popular commercial trope that Moms do all the work and Dads are bumbling idiots. And they only need one word to show it: “Daddy!” It’s the cry from kids of all ages who need their dads, whether it’s to help them off the jungle gym or to dance with them on their wedding day. Between this and another dad-focused ad from Nissan, fathers are finally getting their due from advertisers.
In this chilling PSA, we see a household with broken items and hear a woman’s voice calling 911 to order a pizza — and covertly report her partner’s abuse. It’s taken almost word-for-word from a Reddit thread about 911 operators that went viral earlier this year.
Watching this commercial slowly unfold — the subtle clues scattered in the house, the woman’s calm and steady voice, the sudden realization of the operator — is utterly heartbreaking. It’s also a masterpiece of a PSA, impactful without being over the top (you never hear violence or see bruises) and smart enough to let viewers fill in the blanks for themselves.
Though there’s no NFL branding, NoMore.org is the NFL’s organization to combat domestic violence — a much-needed image booster after a year of criticism for the league’s handling of high-profile cases, most notably that of Ray Rice.
When adults and a little boy are asked to run, fight and throw “like a girl,” they perform these tasks in the wimpiest way possible. When a group of girls are asked to do the same things, they run as fast as they can, and throw and punch with force. Because throwing “like a girl” is the same as throwing like a person, right? On a day that glorifies masculine athleticism, Procter & Gamble is making viewers consider female strength, as well.
Thanks to some digital trickery, we go back to the bucolic suburban home of “The Brady Bunch,” where Marcia is upset that a football has ruined her nose for the big dance. Except Marcia is played by “Sons of Anarchy” actor Danny Trejo, who growls, “An eye for an eye,” and hits the coffee table with an axe.
But when Mrs. Brady hands him a Snickers bar, he’s transformed back into the sweet-talking, silken-haired Marcia, because “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Tell that to Steve Buscemi, er, Jan, who reenacts that famous “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” meltdown.
Newcastle + others
To save money on a pricey ad, Newcastle has split the cost of a commercial with 37 other companies — all of which must be mentioned or displayed by a frantic-looking duo of actors who quickly realize that their time is running out. They struggle so mightily to fit in all of their product placements that the commercial becomes a spastic grab at airtime as they talk over one another and stumble around the house amid their Quilted Northern toilet paper and Rosarita beans.
Making fun of the hype over Super Bowl ads is a niche that Newcastle carved out for itself last year, with its “If We Made It” non-ad starring Anna Kendrick. What this year’s effort lacks in star power it makes up in wit, as a clever sendup of the marketing orgy surrounding the big game. The ad only aired in select markets, but was popular online.
Kim Kardashian, the queen of First World Problems, talks about one of them: the tragedy of unused cellphone data that doesn’t roll over to the following month. All of that lost data is depriving customers of chances to see Kim’s makeup, her outfits, her vacations and once more — for emphasis, this time — her outfits, all of which accentuate her #breaktheinternet assets.
This may give some Kardashian-haters whiplash. Does her ability to make fun of herself make her more likable? Whether you love her or hate her, this commercial caters to you. (Well, unless you think the Kardashians are overexposed and grimace every time you see one of their faces on TV. If so, this commercial is your nightmare.)
A second spot starring comedians Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler was about the duo trying to one-up each other with ridiculous scenarios in which they get clear T-Mobile service, such as Sarah’s hydroponic kale garden, Chelsea’s subterranean petting zoo and Sarah’s sad, empty trophy room and underground delivery room.
“Sorry, it’s a boy,” she deadpans to a new mom.
The insurance company perfects the art of the celebrity cameo in its two spots, built around the tagline, “Sorta you isn’t you.” Lindsay Lohan spoofs her history of car accidents and DUIs and “Breaking Bad” fans get a Bryan-Cranston-as-Walter-White bit when he stands in for a pharmacist. (“We both have a lot of experience with drugs — sorry, pharmaceuticals.”)
America’s favorite lumbersexual, Nick Offerman, makes the pitch for NASCAR, which is a genius casting move: His red-meat-eating, wilderness-loving ways are in lockstep with NASCAR’s typical audience, but he’s beloved by millennial urbanites, who are less likely to be interested in watching cars zoom around a track, unless they’re doing it ironically.
He kicks it off by imploring Americans to do a gut-check: “When our idea of danger is eating gluten, there’s trouble afoot.” Then, Offerman teaches us how to be a True American Patriot in a series of vignettes that would make our Founding Fathers proud: barbecue, keg-erators, hot tubs, double-necked guitars and, most of all, NASCAR.
“Welcome to the place where we speed all day, where we bump and grind in a nonsexual way,” he chants. “Welcome to the place where your beast is free, like the rubber hooves of a tire stampede.” It’s enough to make you want a “Talladega Nights” sequel, starring Offerman.