Detour, Round 2: My Favorite Superbowl Ads of 2019!

Holy shit it’s finally happening! Sorry I’ve been MIA for so many weeks straight, but work and life outside of work have been a LOT recently. Enjoy this week’s post, and here’s to a more consistent posting schedule in the future!

Well, the Advertising Industry Showcase Periodically Interrupted By A Sporting Event has once again graced our television screens, with products galore competing to be the breakout sensation that will have us discussing their brand for weeks to come. Unfortunately, much like the Rams offense, the fabled Super Bowl Ads were something of a dud this year. There were, however, some genuine diamonds among the ruff, and it would do us all some good to enjoy some of those gems. So, without further ado, here are my favorite commercials that aired during Superbowl 53.

(This year I’ve decided to organize them alphabetically by client, so don’t think of this as a ranking!

Bud Light/Game Of Thrones: Joust

To understand what made this ad so utterly delightful, you have to understand the context at which it arrived. Bud light had already run ad or two, and it seemed as this ad got rolling that it was going to be a fun, lightweight affair, probably discussing Bud Light’s lack of high-fructose corn syrup, something the company had been hyping in the first quarter. However, the gauntlet was dropped fast with a savage, sudden tone change and the appearance of Gregor Clegane, who unceremoniously crushed The Bud Knights head like, well, a can of beer. Suddenly we go full Game Of Thrones, dragons and all, as we watch the Bud Light Kingdom absolutely ravaged It’s a brilliant partnership that played into Bud Light’s existing campaign, that worked perfectly to deliver a fun and powerful shock to the audience, and seriously woke up when it felt like the stream of commercials was starting to drag.

Google: “Translate” & “Veterans”

Before I get into why I love this work, watch through this ad all the way to the end and then the next ad that appears after it! They both were broadcast during the Super Bowl, and it honestly felt disingenuous to only talk about one. These ads are, on their own, excellent examples of the form. They’re well made in every way, tell complete and powerful stories, and pack a surprisingly heft emotional punch that really lands shockingly well. What’s most impressive about them, though, is what sets them apart from run-of-the-mill ads, which are largely displays in brand identity and nothing more. This pair of ads, however, were rooted in something more concrete: real, actionable data in the case of the first, and a real, concrete benefit the company was rolling out in the case of the second. That, and the simple craft and impact on display, are why these two ads well deserve their spot on this list.

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2 Trailer

Never underestimate the power of a punch to the face. That’s exactly what this ad is, given that it starts with all the trappings of a generic Superbowl ad, all fluff and pretty images and vague platitudes about a better world. But the tone shifts dramatically and suddenly, smacking us upside the head with the dark, challenging messaging of the series itself. The sheer suddenness of the tonal shift, as well as how fully the ad commits to each half of itself - I genuinely thought it was an Exxon Mobile ad or something at first, and second half of the ad seriously isn’t holding back - are what really set this piece of media apart, and what allowed it to make one hell of an impact on me the first time I saw it.

T-Mobile: Various

T-Mobile put out a LOT of ads during the Superbowl, airing one per quarter (to see them all click through the video above and watch the playlist, but be warned that even those four aren’t the entirety of the campaign, given that I saw one reference Uber during the Big Game), and at first glance there’s not necessarily something remarkable about any of them. However, lingering beneath the standard presentation of these ads is a series of incredibly sharp, utterly hilarious observations about human nature and the ways in which we interact with each other. The one above I found especially hysterical given that I know that experience VERY well, but every one of these ads made me at least chuckle. Even better, the humorous messages (the one displayed above especially) all tied into or references actual benefits T-Mobile was offering its customers.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 Trailer

It would be an easy mistake to make to call this ad unremarkable, though its surreal visual touches make it clear that it was playing around with more visual creativity than most ads can muster. What really sets this ad apart as a triumph, however, is the way it starts: We think we’re being returned safely to the game, before a glitch visual effect rips us out of the into what feels like an actual Twilight Zone, with Jordan Peele sitting in an empty stadium, and the wonderful weirdness of this ads tone takes over. The fake-out is perfectly executed, from the participation of the Super Bowl’s broadcast team to that wonderfully realistic opening shot. That pristine execution, coupled with the way the ad so completely epitomizes the tone of the show it’s advertising (seriously, I’ve never seen an episode of the original Twilight Zone, but now I understand this series PERFECTLY), make it well worth a spot on this list.

Honorable Mention: NFL 100

There’s little to be said about this ad other than that it’s an utter romp, that looks like the amount of effort it must have taken to put together is matched only by the sheer fun everyone seems to be having on screen. It’s not particularly innovative or super compelling of a rewatch, but the sheer fun of watching it for the first time and seeing so many famous faces - as well as some innovative and unexpected appearances - was hard to match, and easily earned it this honorable mention.

Annnnd that’s the list! What were your favorite ads? Let me know in the comments.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex