Unpopular Opinions: Super Bowl Commercials

In which the Arts Desk gives hot takes on what is the most important of the big game, anyway.


Danny DeVito in M&M’s Super Bowl commercial. (via Facebook)

The Super Bowl is one of the most watched TV broadcasts every year, but there is more than one reason hordes of fans tune in to watch teams lose to the Patriots year after year. The game has also become famous for its commercials which, for Super Bowl LIII, cost companies, from Coca Cola to Disney, $5.25 million to run a 30-second advertisement. Companies try to churn out the most ambitious, eye-popping commercials possible, but the results are not always successful. This is Unpopular Opinions: Super Bowl Commercials.

Tide, “It’s a Tide Ad” — Super Bowl LII
Guru Ramanathan, Arts Editor

Tide had one of the most daunting, uphill battles to overcome at last year’s Super Bowl: the dreaded Tide Pod challenge. Yet, with the assistance of “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, they found a way to shift the nationwide narrative of their brand and make Tide everyone’s favorite laundry detergent again. Tide had short commercials running throughout the entirety of the game, but the recurring joke was clear: each short would start with a random situation, only for Harbour to spontaneously show up, point at a stain, and reveal that “it’s a Tide ad.” The joke is simple, hilarious and surprisingly never got old. Tide was extremely clever, too, as the advertisement was so straightforward it became easy to remember and days after the game my friends and I were still repeating the tagline endlessly. All in all, the commercial was effortlessly funny and changed the national consciousness regarding Tide.

M&M’s, “Danny DeVito Human” — Super Bowl LII
Nicole Rosenthal, Music Editor

It’s already a step in the right direction if it features a cameo from Danny DeVito — unless he’s turning into an M&M. In this bizarre 30-second commercial, actor DeVito transformed from a red M&M into a human by picking up a magic coin from the street (I don’t know either). Throughout the ad, DeVito proceeds to randomly frazzle pedestrians, gets hit by a garbage truck and is thrown comically into a fruit stand. The resolution to this madness? A title card with the M&M logo that reads “have fun.” I don’t know what is fun about being hit by a garbage truck or a Danny DeVito-chocolate hybrid, but it sure makes for the strangest Super Bowl ad yet.

Toyota, “Good Odds” — Superbowl LII
Claire Fishman, Film & TV Editor

I do not typically support ads that try to elicit extreme emotional responses to sell their product. This is to say that I’m not a fan of ads that profit off the suffering of others without actually donating some of their product to stop whatever ailment they’re portraying in their ad. With that same logic, I would be inclined to dislike “Good Odds,” but something about it made me sing a different song. Perhaps it was my tears. They started three seconds in and they did not stop until long after the commercial. The ad itself shows the odds a person with a disability has of winning gold in the Paralympics from the time they’re born onwards. As the ad progresses, the little girl gets older and becomes more athletic (falling several times in the process) and her odds of winning get progressively better. In the end, the little girl turns out to be the eight-time gold Medalist skier Lauren Woolstencroft, even though her initial chances of winning once were initially 1 out of 997,500,000. What’s different about this story from the others I typically scorn is that Toyota treated Woolstencroft as a hero, not a victim. She wasn’t disabled, she was incredibly capable and strong. More importantly, Toyota didn’t try to compare her speed to a Camry by the end of the commercial. Instead, they showed their line of technology to help people with disabilities thrive, a side of their business they don’t typically advertise. So while I may not buy a Toyota anytime soon, I am very happy that they’re doing their best to help turn previously dismal odds into good ones.

Budweiser, “Wind Never Felt Better” — Super Bowl LIII
Alex Cullina, Books & Theater Editor

Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads, often featuring their signature Clydesdales, have been some of the most popular out there. The horses are undeniably cute, but I’ve always found the ads cloying and bland — like this one from 2013. Budweiser’s spot from this year features not only the iconic horses leading a cart through beautifully lush fields of wheat, but an adorable dalmatian too. But my biggest qualm with this year’s campaign isn’t the animals for once. The ad is already eye-roll inducing, with its use of that Bob Dylan song pumping the sentimentality factor up to 11; but it also tries to claim environmentalist bona fides for a company that most definitely doesn’t deserve them. I’m always skeptical when an advertising campaign tries to pander to viewers, but this is a particularly egregious case.

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