Our Top 5 Super Bowl spots and the Bottom 5

Super Bowl

For the 25 years or so I was actively in advertising, I want to say I threw maybe 10 to 15 Super Bowl parties in that span. It was always a joyous tribal experience sitting, laughing, eating my badass chili and drinking with other creative directors, copywriters, art directors and producers. We talked and joked during the game and shut the f*ck during the commercials.

Since moving to LA in 2013, I have had three Big Game parties – one with ad peeps and two with – for lack of a better term – normal peeps. That means folks in film, TV, production and hotels, but no ad people. We’ll call them, “Norms.”

Creatives and brands plot out their Super Bowl entry for months. We at Reel write about those spots for a month before the game. But “Norms” for the most part see the spot when it’s meant to be seen – during the game. GASP.

Or do they?

Every advertising person should be forced to sit with “Norms” during a Super Bowl broadcast so they can get a real perspective on what works as communication and what doesn’t. What we as “advertising snobs” deem genius can many times fall flat on the general public.

All one has to do is take a look at USA Today’s Ad Meter. What’s the number one spot? In this case number one and two? Rocket Mortgage with Tracy Morgan. Did we love it? No. Did we like it a lot? Sure. It’s Tracy.

During my (socially distanced) Super Bowl gathering yesterday, guests pretty much ignored what we call superb. They actually (WTF?!) used the game breaks to make bathroom runs and dashes to my kitchen counter for more of my delicious Brown Sugar Air Fryer Drumsticks. And paid attention to the game. The nerve!

But me as the diligent Reel 360 West Coast Editor persevered. I tried to point out to the “advertising uneducated” what were amazing spots. And why. “Hey, look!” My call for attention fell on deaf ears and hollow, bored eyes.

How could they pass on creative efforts that ranged from the emotional to the hilarious. I shook my head. There was something for everyone. Some work addressed 2020 head-on, while others ignored. According to USA Today, 60% of the commercials which aired, for $5.5 million per 30-seconds, featured comedians. COMEDIANS. Who can ignore a comedian?

So, these spots may have been ignored by my guests, but I paid attention because that’s what I do. And here’s what hit home:


“The Middle” Brand: Jeep | Agency: Doner, Detroit

It’s like Groundhog Day all over again. Except there’s no Bill Murray. This time it’s Bruce Springsteen in his first commercial. Last year, Jeep took our top slot with Highdive’s ode to the classic romcom Groundhog Day.

This year, Jeep addressed in an eloquent and stirring way, the partisanship and divide which has taken over the country like a cancer. Through Springsteen, the brand emphasized how American it is to disagree, but we also have to meet in the middle and move forward.

“There’s a chapel in Kansas. Standing on the exact center of the lower forty-eight. It never closes. All are more than welcome. To come meet here, in the middle. It’s no secret …”

Word has it that the spot which is designed to bring us together is of course divisive with Liberals loving it and the Right Wing hating on it.

Rex Huppke, a syndicated humor columnist for the Chicago Tribunetweeted. “You would think Jeep would know that if you drive in the precise middle of the road you will die.” 

“Come Together” Brand: M&M’S | Agency: BBDO, New York

BBDO consistently makes its creative look effortless. The Super Bowl spot from M&M’s featured Emmy award-winning actor Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) as well as three of the brand’s iconic spokescandies – Ms. Green, Ms. Brown and Red – and highlights how fun, humor and a few M&M’S have the power to help bring us closer together.

The work featured a variety of relatable “wow, I really shouldn’t have done that” scenarios and the people in them choosing to make it better with a bag of M&M’S.

Like the person who kicked your airplane seat when you tried to recline, or the friends who botched their gender reveal party, or even the guy who can’t stop mansplaining, no matter how hard he tries.” So simple. So good. And yeah, so funny.

“Upstream” Brand: Toyota | Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Yes, here’s another emotional spot that made our Top 5. Fueled by the power of a family’s love, ‘Upstream’ featured Team Toyota athlete Jessica Long’s incredible journey, which began when she was adopted by an American couple from a Russian orphanage.

The spot, shot by Tarsem, took us on a trip down memory lane of Jessica’s childhood, which, in turn, would help lead her to become the second most decorated Paralympian in U.S. history.“

The emotionally-charged spot features Long swimming through milestone scenes over the course of her life, starting with a depiction of the Russian orphanage from which she was adopted. As a parent it made me tear up. As a human being with empathy, it made me tear up.

“No Way, Norway” Brand: General Motors | Agency: McCann Detroit

Humor made its way back into our Top 5 in an epic way. Starring the always funny  Will Ferrell, GM gave us a ridiculous spot, which even caught the attention of my socially-distanced guests. Here, Ferrell goes feral when he discovers Norway far outpaces the United States in electric vehicle adoption.

Joined by SNL’s Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina, the three set out on a trip using GM EVs. The 60-second aired during the Big Game. The longer version online is even funnier:

“Let’s Grab a Beer” Brand: AB InBev | Agency: Wieden+Kennedy

This meant a lot to me. I have been that guy, in the opening scene, holding the box. And I’ve also been his co-worker, saying “Let’s Grab a Beer.” This spot, while chided by my guests, still makes me believe that meaningful moments – big and small – happen when people come together and how, many times, when we say “Let’s grab a beer.”

Here, the beer ain’t the hero of the ad. Those who drink it are.

Honorable Mentions: Tide “The Jason Alexander Hoodie,” Alexa “Alexa’s Body,” State Farm “Drake from State Farm,” Bud Light “Bud Light Legends,” Cadillac “Scissor Hands Free”

ALSO READ: Complete list of all our Super Bowl coverage. Enjoy!

The Worst

We just mentioned “The Middle” in our Top 5 spots. Now let’s talk The Bottom. Like why did these happen?

WeatherTech “We Never Left”

WeatherTech consistently airs, dull, stiff lifeless ads on the Big Game. So, the Reel 360 Team has only one reply to the title of this spot, “We Never Left.” “Would you leave? Please?” Look, you make amazing car floor mats. As for Super Bowl commercials…

Scientology TV

This caught even my distracted guests off guard. In the 30-second ad, a narrator says, “In the wake of the unimaginable. In the shadow of uncertainty. In the face of fear,” as scenes from the past year play out on screen, including workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic and the stock market crash. The narrator goes on to say, “It’s time. To rediscover. Your hope. Your purpose. Your passion. Your potential. You. Because no matter what we may face. Nothing is stronger than the human spirit.”


Robinhood “Born Investors”

Investing app Robinhood showed us scenes of “Norms” (as opposed to, say, hedge fund managers) “norm” things.

This is the same Robinhood that was at the center of the recent Reddit-driven GameStop stock frenzy. To say this spot was ill-timed is an understatement. Oh and creatively underwhelming. Perhaps invest in some real creatives.

Nominate Someone You know For The Reel Black List OR Reel Women

All in all, we were disappointed that the Chiefs were blown out. But we were happy to be blown away by some commercials. However, I gotta admit by the end of the game when the Martin Agency’s Geico spot, “Tag Team Helps Make Dessert” aired for the umpteenth time, we all stopped to enjoy.

Clearly it was the best spot on Super Bowl Sunday. At least to my socially distanced guests. Agree? Disagree? Want to know the recipe for Brown Sugar Air Fryer Drumsticks? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1