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30 Seconds to Make Your Mark: Best Commercials from “The Big Game”

posted by:

Michelle Ubben

3 February

For me, the ads are always the best part of watching the Big Game. This year, with no particular favorite team in the game, I left the room for hygiene and chip refill breaks during the game itself – not during the ads.

With ads costing as much as $5.6 million for 30 seconds, brands are betting a lot on their creative teams to come up with the right mix of humor, pathos, and memorability to make it worth the investment.

As usual, many brands banked on celebrities to carry their concept. This year featured Missy Elliott singing a remix of “Paint It Black” for Pepsi Zero Sugar, actress Winona Ryder building a Winona, Minnesota, website for Squarespace, rapper Post Malone sharing a tour of his brain upon encountering Bud Light Seltzer, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon working out for a Michelob Ultra, and Molly Ringwald in a Home Shopping Network spoof for avocados from Mexico – just to name a very few.

After a year of bad press and privacy challenges, Facebook’s upbeat  “Are You Ready to Rock?” spot leveraged cameos from Sylvestor “Rocky” Stallone and Chris Rock to showcase Facebook’s role in creating connection and community.

Normally, I put my money on humor to win the day. I remember the spots that make me laugh til I cry. None of the 2020 lineup did that for me, although I did chuckle at Mountain Dew Zero Sugar’s remake of “The Shining” and the Cheetos popcorn ad “Can’t Touch This” (though I liked the teaser with MC Hammer at the piano even better than the ad.) 

And P&G’s clever crowd-sourced spot worked seven brands – Bounty, Mr. Clean, Febreze, Charmin, Old Spice, Head & Shoulders, and Olay – into one Sofia Vergara house party. It takes the prize for the ad that looked like the most fun to film.

The spots that delivered the punch of pathos this year were the ones that made me tear up for real, starting with the NFL’s 100th anniversary video that followed a young football player running with a football from a field in anywhere America through locations across the country – with football greats along the way urging him to “take it to the house” – and then finally bursting into Hard Rock Stadium in real life to start the big game.

Google’s ad “Loretta” humanized the tech giant in a touching spot that depicts how Google assists an elderly man in remembering his wife, starting with a Google search “how to not forget.” Good luck holding back the tears on that one.

Similarly, Verizon’s tribute to the human spirit and all the things 5G won’t do was a warm touch as it battles for dominance with T-Mobile, the first carrier to roll out a nationwide 5G network. T-Mobile’s answer was a relatable and touching spot featuring comedian Anthony Anderson and his mom.

While the advertisers don’t take home rings from the Big Game, they always deliver a champion-caliber performance – and this year was no exception. 

What were your favorites? Your nominees for the biggest fails?