The Best and Worst Super Bowl LI Commercials
This year’s Super Bowl commercials took a subtle but surprisingly strong political stance (kinda like Lady Gaga slipping in lines from a Woody Guthrie tune). Coke brought back the “It’s Beautiful” ad campaign from 2014, with American imigrants from other nations singing “America the Beautiful” in their native languages. Air BnB made a plea for diversity with its #weaccept ad. Those went on the pile next to 84 Lumber, Budweiser and Audi—all brands rabid Trump supporters now feel obliged to boycott. But they gave this year’s Super Bowl commercials a unexpected timeliness and made for some of the most memorable spots in the Big Game.
84 Lumber, “The Journey Begins”—It’s ballsy to spend all your money on a Super Bowl ad that doesn’t even attempt to sell your product. But the folks at 84 Lumber felt the message “The will to succeed is always welcome here” was important enough to risk it—even when FOX banned the commercial’s ending for being “too political.” See it online for the full impact. The backlash from today’s anti-immigrant crowd will be yuuuuge, but this is easily the most talked-about commercial of the night.
Budweiser, “Born the Hard Way”—It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser were immigrants. They were. So was pretty much everyone who ever started a beer company in America. But these are post-Trump times, and Bud’s sweeping tribute to the American Dream was seen by plenty as a shot across the bow of the current administration. Oh, well, Trumpies, there’s always Coors. (Nope. German and Prussian immigrants.) Pabst? (German immigrants.) Hamm’s? (German as well.)
Audi, “Daughter”—The German auto company weighs in on gender equality (not normally a Super Bowl topic) with this spot featuring a young, female soap box derby racer. It’s cute and makes a perfectly valid point. And it still pissed off a whole bunch of “men’s rights” activists, who are still super busy calling everybody who attended the Women’s March fat and unattractive.
Bud Light, “Ghost Spuds”—This was an unexpected, attention-grabbing piece of nostalgia. It’s sad, maybe, to realize that ’80s icon Spuds McKenzie is long dead. But it’s amusing to revisit the popular spokesdog in this amusing, party-centric twist on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Honda, “Yearbooks”—Bringing the dorky high school yearbook photos of various celebrities (Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Stan Lee, Viola Davis, among others) to life via CGI trickery as a way to inspire you to pursue your dreams was original and incredibly affirming.
Bai, “Bai Bai Bai”—Christopher Walken reading random stuff (in this case pop song lyrics) in his creepy voice? Standard issue these days. Justin Timberlake goofing on 17-year-old *NSYNC song? Jeez, that sounds like a job for Joey Fatone. Equating “Bye Bye Bye” with “Bai Bai Bai”? Silly, really. Now I never wanna drink your stupid “superfruit-infused” water.