Best and Worst: Super Bowl 51 Ads

The Super Bowl is and always has been one of my favorite Sunday events of the year. Not only did I grow up loving sports, but as a young woman pursuing a career in public relations and advertising I also sincerely enjoy critiquing the commercials.

I’m no advertising expert, and many will say the worst ads can sometimes be as effective as the best ads, but I’m judging the ads from Super Bowl 51 based purely on my reaction to and opinions about them. Because I enjoy listening to diverse opinions and inserting real data whenever possible, I’ll also provide some perspective from other outlets, such as Bleacher Report and Ad Age. Below are my five best and five worst ads of Super Bowl 51.


1. Bai

Bai kept it simple — Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake sitting on a couch as Walken reads lyrics from Timberlake’s NSYNC days as if he is a spoken word poet. I saw a tweet after the fact that said something like “I’ll never forget how to pronounce that drink’s name again thanks to that commercial.” Bleacher Report gave the ad an A- grade. It was definitely one of the most memorable for me.

2. Stranger Things

My bias might be showing because I will admit I’m an avid viewer of Stranger Things, but the partnership between Eggo and the now famous Netflix show is brilliant marketing for the waffle brand despite the fact it didn’t originally pay for any product placement in the show. According to an article in Fast Company, the Stranger Things trailer generated 307,000 tweets and front and center in that trailer are vintage Eggo ads. It also dominated digital share of voice with 11.78 percent according to an Ad Age article. A match made in frozen waffle heaven.

3. Budweiser

Surprise, surprise, I’m a fan of the one of the most talked about ads of the Super Bowl — Budweiser’s “Born The Hard Way” commercial. But seriously, could it have been any more relevant? According to Ad Age, the top emotional reaction tracked in response to the ad was love, but some hate was also present, mostly in regard to the quality of the product itself. Interestingly, Jared Feldman said in his article that four times as much hate was recorded on Youtube versus Facebook, where the negative emotional reaction totaled 13.2 percent. This hate was found to be rooted more in the underlying immigration statement made by the company. It claimed the number two spot behind Stranger Things for digital share of voice with 11.9 percent.

4. Honda

Bleacher Report gave the Honda “Yearbooks” ad an A+ and I completely agree with them. I also agree with the assessment that it was one of the best examples of effective celebrity endorsement. It was sentimental and funny in all the right ways. Andrew Gould, Bleacher Report’s featured columnist, explained it this way:

“Instead of lathering famous people in makeup and fancy clothing, Honda shared unflattering high school yearbook pictures from an A-list group featuring Magic Johnson, Tina Fey, Stan Lee and Missy Elliott. While reflecting back on their nerdier teenage years, they also touted the importance of chasing dreams, no matter how unlikely or outlandish.”

5. Snickers

I was surprised while discussing the Snickers live ad with classmates when many said they didn’t like it. I was even more surprised to find out that some of my classmates didn’t realize that the live commercial going up in flames was all a planned stunt. I’ll admit again that I may be biased because I’m a big fan of Adam Driver, but I found this ad to be hilarious and the follow up apology video to be even funnier. Simple humor gets me every time.


1. T-Mobile

At this point, I just can’t take another T-Mobile or Sprint ad whining about Verizon and AT&T. Full disclosure: I’m an AT&T customer and have never had a bad experience. But I think we can all agree that the T-Mobile “#UnlimitedMoves” commercial was just plain bad. There was nothing memorable about it and its connection to the brand was poor. Bleacher Report gave it a C, but I’m giving it an F. It just seems like T-Mobile is being a sore loser and, contrary to my statements about Honda, isn’t using celebrity endorsements in an authentic way whatsoever. Like many bad commercials, it still created a lot of buzz and made the Ad Age top 10 list for digital share of voice with 5.84 percent.

2. Alfa Romeo

All I’m going to say about this commercial is B-O-R-I-N-G. I’m surprised I remembered it when I made my “worst” list. In fact, Bleacher Report didn’t even list it in its article. To be fair, I’m definitely not its target audience, so there is a clear reason this wouldn’t resonate with me. But come on, Buick resonated with me and I’m not its target audience either.

3. Mr. Clean

Most people are surprised when I tell them I didn’t like the “Sexy Mr. Clean” commercial. To be honest, I just found it really creepy. I was glad that Bleacher Report gave it a C+ but it ranked third on the Ad Age top 10 list with 7.22 percent digital share of voice. My immediate thought after seeing this ad was that my mother would find it hilarious so if I critique it through that lens, they hit the proper target audience.

4. Skittles

I get it, the strange ads are part of the brand, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I can admire the creativity and also have to applaud Skittles’ response to the analogy made by Donald Trump Jr. about refugees using Skittles, but some of their stranger ads in the past have somewhat turned me off. Does that mean I won’t ever eat Skittles again? Certainly not — especially the sour brand because my sweet tooth can’t resist them.

5.Yellow Tail

As a regular consumer of wine, I was excited to hear that Yellow Tail would have a Super Bowl ad — the first for a wine brand in almost 40 years. It’s fair to say that some of the most popular Super Bowl ads are usually for beer, so I was expecting Yellow Tail to find a way for wine to break into the sports conversation in a unique way. Instead, it failed miserably, according to an article in Mashable and in my humble opinion. The worst part was the vaguely (or maybe not so vague) sexual joke. I was surprised that Bleacher Report gave it a B- and thought this was a kind grade. Andrew Gould said this about the ad:

“Yellow Tail, an Australian wine company, followed the beer-ad blueprint of big crowds, lively music, a scantily clad model (Ellie Gonsalves) and double entendres. It’s not great. It’s not bad. It’s just a typical Super pitch to buy alcohol so you can have fun like those good-looking people partying on a beach.”

My only point of disagreement: it’s very bad.

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