Note: Thanks to all who’ve been checking in for the Super Bowl ads. The list of great ads is now complete. 

Maybe it’s because I’m more marketer than advertiser. Maybe it’s because in Australia we only saw the best of the best Super Bowl ads. Either way, I seem to have higher expectations of Super Bowl ads. I expect them to be creative, on brand, and effective. While being played during a game, they must stand alone in other placements. You’re paying $5 million plus production for the Super Bowl placement so you should get more for your money. It’s a lot of money.

2010 was my first year of Super Bowl ads. I was shocked by how many were more suited to late night TV (no storytelling or creativity), or had beautiful storytelling and cinematography, but nothing to do with the brand. I’m not impressed by Budweiser puppies. However, 2017 has impressed me.

The Great Super Bowl Ads for 2017

Kia’s Hero’s Journey

This one made me laugh. Well, the end of it. I laughed even more when I saw it’s called the Hero’s Journey. If I expect storytelling, an ad named for the most popular storytelling model makes it funnier.

Why did I love this ad? Sure it’s humorous and Melissa McCarthy is the current funny person of choice, but its premise was what caught me. It says if you buy this car then you needn’t do anything else to be eco-friendly. To be fair, I’m not familiar with Kia, but I assume it’s on brand. It has a call to action to buy their car. It also plays on the behavioral trend that people are more likely to do a single public eco-friendly act (like buying a car), and consider their responsibility done. It’s beautifully done, and I expect it will sell cars.

Lexus’ Man and Machine

This ad is beautiful. The dancer’s moves match the car’s curves. Or does the car match the dancer? It tells the story that machines are that, machine. They don’t have emotions. But says they can inspire emotions. This is something we can all relate to, and I doubt anyone can say they’ve been emotionless buying a car. Any vehicle can get us from A to B, but emotion tells us a sleek, red car can get us there faster.

Mercedes-Benz’s Easy Rider

This is the Super Bowl ad that prompted this post, but on second watching I’m not sure if it’s deserving of “great”. I love the story of the biker’s idol driving the German-designed sports car. They looked so conflicted. They want to assault this person who dared block their bikes in, but it’s Peter Fonda. The bit why I hesitate is trying to identify the target market. Is it older Harley Davidson riders? Then, this is actually a tad insulting with many holding American pride high. Is it playing to the perception of German cars being for the arrogant elite? I genuinely want to know your thoughts because I’m confused.

Wendy’s Cold Storage

I hesitated on Wendy’s Cold Storage ad, but then went back and applied my own criteria. This ad is brilliant and I’m curious on its timing. For a moment I also wondered if the social media incident over frozen meat was a stunting setting this up. Before that I didn’t know Wendy’s only use fresh meat in their patties, but then again I’m not their target market so there’s no need for me to know. Cold Storage hits all the criteria: storytelling, on brand, stands alone. It’s also timely and topical, thanks to the Twitter follower who forgot refrigerators exist. It’s a great ad, and an even better one if it was produced after the social media incident.

NFL’s Baby Legends

Does the NFL get a discount on a Super Bowl placement? Cute kids always score well in Super Bowl ads. Cute kids who look like players score even better. This ad is advertising gold. We acknowledge I detest football because I didn’t grow up with it. I wasn’t taught the emotional connection and with that injury count it really is a horrible activity. Baby Legends embraces that emotion. It gives the fans hope that their child can be the next superstar player. Great storytelling, adorable, emotional, on brand.

Go Daddy’s The Internet Wants You

I feel like I’m being too generous and too many ads are making the great list. Or it’s just that I want an excuse not to include a Go Daddy ad. It’s hard for a hosting company to have an ad personifying the internet and not be on brand. There’s no objectifying people (male or female) which is a bonus from Go Daddy. It’s clever, funny, and everyone can relate. I feel it does need more of a call to action though. Hosting is confusing and perceived as expensive. This is one of the few times I feel a price would add value.

Mr Clean’s the Cleaner of Your Dreams

Personally I think this is sexist and horrible, but I’m not the target market. The target market will love it. They’ll connect with the middle-aged woman who gets help from her non-buff husband, the rarity of a male doing housework elevates him to sexy, dream body. It plays (outdated) gender stereotypes. Showcasing product, emotional appeal, ad can be run for a long time. Mr Clean nails it.

Budweiser’s Born the Hard Way

These are listed in order I’ve found them. I’ve been eager to get to this one. Born the Hard Way will be the ad we talk about for years. There have been boycotts called on Budweiser for it. The ad tells the story of founder, Adolphus Busch, and his arrival from Germany to America. It shows the harassment and racism he endured. It’s on brand and timeless with brilliant storytelling. In any other year it would be considered as sweet as Budweiser’s previous Super Bowl ads. This year it is a pro-immigration message that has Bud drinkers up in arms. It’s so well-made that Born the Hard Way would make my list, but this year I tipped my hat to their creative team. Thank you for making an ad that we all know would upset your target market. Immigrants everywhere appreciate it.

Google Home

The Google Home ad nearly didn’t make the list. It tells a gorgeous story of family and friends coming together for a celebration. The Google Home device is used to make their party easier and more fun. The reason why I hesitated was the celebration. It looked like it was a Super Bowl party, thus stopping a great ad from being useful.

Runners Up

2017 definitely has had the best Super Bowl ads in a long time. Like with Easy Rider from Mercedes-Benz above, many ads came close and in previous years would be great.

Skittles – Romance
Coke Zero – Snail’s House
Wix – Big Game Ad (I’m sure it has a real title)
Febreeze – Halftime Bathroom Break – more an honorable mention
Expedia – Train
Audi – Daughter

For a complete list of Super Bowl ads for 2017, visit AdWeek. I just found another list that’s more inclusive.

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