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Best and Worst of Super Bowl Commercials

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

It felt like a down year for Super Bowl commercials, but there were some keepers in the bunch.

Best and Worst of Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl isn't just a football event: it's a cultural event as well. Every year, we are bombarded with overpriced ads for products, and every year we overreact to their significance and relevance in the pop culture sphere. This year's batch of commercials didn't seem as great compared to those of past Super Bowls, and the nature of the game (highly entertaining plus the bizarre circumstances of the power outage midway through) overshadowed all of this petty advertising, but there were some gems among all the highly expensive mediocrity. I took notes of commercials and previews that stood out to me, in a positive or negative way. Let's get started.

- Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips spice up the first big Super Bowl commercial during the lead up to the game in a Hyundai ad with a family doing a bunch of crazy things while The Flaming Lips provide the soundtrack. It's pleasant enough, and Wayne Coyne improves the quality of anything he's in.

- The first commercials of the night: not that impressive. Budweiser Black was very weak. The Audi "Bravery" commercial was a pretty well-made ad, but the more I watch it the more I'm creeped out by it. Sure the kid is bold, but he is also borderline psychotic. Did his parents know that was why he was going to prom stag? To steal a kiss from the girl he's obsessed with, get punched out and then leave with a black eye while grinning like an idiot?

- M&M's + Glee = Poor Effort.

- The Doritos goat ad is very similar to the dog ad from last year, but still pretty funny. Animals are usually a safe route in commercials, and they played the note right.

- The GoDaddy ad featuring the tech guy making out with supermodel Bar Rafaeli already leaked (like most of the Super Bowl ads), but it was still all kinds of awesome (in addition to all kinds of weird and awkward). That ad made me feel like there was justice in the world. I hope they had to do 50 takes to get that shot.

- While I didn't hear all of the jokes, the Best Buy ad featuring Amy Poehler is a winner in my book. Plus, she got into a drier. She is a golden goddess and can do no wrong.

- OK, the commercial for Fast & Furious 6 has taken this movie franchise from completely implausible to straight sci-fi territory. It's like they aren't even trying to be realistic with the action sequences anymore. But you know what? It's probably going to be the most successful installment of the franchise yet. This movie literally has EVERYTHING: Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese, Ludacris, Gina Carano, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez returned from the dead, planes getting grappling hooked, tanks driving at high speeds, exotic locations, and plenty of fast cars doing impossible shit. I apologize for spending this much time on the commercial, but it simply needed to be discussed.

- I'm embarrassed that I thought Stevie Wonder was Lil' Jon in that Budweiser "Superstition" ad. The music should have been a giveaway, but in my defense, Stevie was wearing an outfit that you would easily find someone like Lil' Jon in.

- The next GoDaddy ad has only one memorable line: "More everything sky waitress!"

- We get easily the funniest commercial of the night with Volkswagen's "Get Happy" ad. Yes, it plays mainly on finding humor in non-Jamaicans doing Jamaican accents, but I find that to be hilarious. If you get offended by that, I say lighten up. The phrases "Land of 10,000 lakes" and "The Gopher State" will never be the same for me. Excellent work, Volkswagen.

- A few instances of mild plagiarism were evident in the next string of commercials. The plot of the new Taco Bell ad borrows heavily from a Sigur Rós music video for their song "Hoppipolla" that features elderly men and women playing pranks on the young people of a town. The Taco Bell ad shows old folks running out of a retirement home to have a crazy night. You be the judge:


- Also, is that Tio Salamanca in the ad? I could have sworn it was him.

- The second is a Skechers show ad that seems to borrow from a Kenny Powers-led commercial for his K-Swiss shoes. Both ads feature men in their respective sneakers tackling animals on the African savannah with their increased speed. In the Skechers commercial, a guy tackles a cheetah that was chasing a gazelle and ties it up. In the K-Swiss ad, Powers has 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis demonstrate the power of the shoes by tackling a wildebeest. Not exactly the same, but there was definitely some creative license taken here.

- The E-Trade Baby has sort of lost his luster at this point in the game. There isn't much fresh ground they can break with that one, so when the new one hit I kind of checked out. But after reading Jon Bois' commercial thoughts, I was intrigued by the E-Trade baby based on his entry that the commercial should be made into a film:

The captain's hat signals an intent to maintain authority over his crew, even though his vessel of captaincy is lost, and even in the wake of his personal failures. The photo suggests that his crew has abandoned him, save for the photographer, unless he set up the camera himself to document his failings. The rest of the film, Captain Baby would wrestle with guilt, and eventually conclude that the fault lies in the maritime authority that granted him a position of command. It's a film, really, about how much personal responsibility one can really claim while existing within the authoritative hierarchy of modern mankind, and whether said personal responsibility evaporated when we stopped hunter-gathering and started smithing crowns and minting money.

That probably would have been the better route to take, E-Trade.

- The Deion Sanders "Leon Sandcastle" combine ad was funny, but again, how would any of those people not recognize that the man is Deion Sanders? After the whole Manti T'eo catfishing incident, I think the combine would do better background checks on its participants than that.

- Th new Budweiser Clydesdale ad was much more modern than most, but it was still pretty good. The whole thing was incredibly predictable, but who can poke fun at a man reuniting with his horse, especially one as beautiful as a Clydesdale?

- Psy's pistachio ad just gets a big :_(

- As a fan of The Walking Dead, I greatly appreciated my Super Bowl being graced by Daryl Dixon and his crossbow. His presence made the proceedings 10x more badass.

- One of the most interesting ads of the night was Ram's "Farmer." It was an incredibly well-made advertisement, using gorgeous imagery of farmers over nothing but a monologue from now deceased radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. The monologue centered on the strength and character of farmers and what they do. Yes, the whole thing seemed a bit self-righteous, but it was beautifully done and it's hard to argue with the message. I know I wouldn't be able to farm, and that makes me appreciate farmers all the more. I might not have felt this way about the ad at the time, but after re-watching it, the spot stuck with me.

- And finally, the Mercedes-Benz "Devil" ad with Willem Dafoe as the devil trying to buy a man's soul (and featuring Kate Upton and a too obvious "Sympathy for the Devil" soundtrack) was another slick but unsubstantial ad. The fact that he didn't sign the contract based on seeing the near $30,000 price tag for the Mercedes made me think, "What a spoiled, wealthy prick," but that's just me.

So that was that for Super Bowl 2013 and advertisements. Not great, but then again, commercials should never be called great.

Agree or disagree? What were your favorite ads from Super Bowl 2013? Let us know in the comments section.

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