First of all, the headline has nothing to do with Pete Carroll’s bizarre play call at the end of the game that most likely cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl.  But after watching and being thoroughly underwhelmed by almost all of the more than 50 ads I saw, and constantly writing dumb in my notes, Dumb and Dumber is the one phrase that came to mind to summarize this year’s Super Bowl ads.

To put this into context, I wrote about Northwestern Kellogg Professor Tim Calkins’ commercial rating methodology (  You can boil the framework down to:

  1. Did I like the ad as an ad?
  2. Would I have known whose ad it was as a casual observer?
  3. Did it either reinforce brand positioning or at least create favorable awareness?

With that in mind, here are my thoughts.

Dumb. Most years, advertisers try to be funny.  Oftentimes they are, but they pay the price because people remember the ad, but not the brand.  This year, there were fewer ads that tried to be funny.  Most of them that tried, failed.  A few examples:

  • Discover Card.  Animals?  And just after I wrote how wonderful the Dawn of Discover ads were when the brand launched.  But at least I knew what the brand was here, as the ad played off their current campaign.
  • Kia.  With Pierce Brosnan.  Just not funny.
  • Snickers.  Stop with The Brady Bunch commercials already.  Steve Buscemi saved this ad from being one of the worst.


  • Sketchers.  Pete Rose?  Seriously?
  • Jimmy John’s.  Just not funny.
  • Squarespace.  Even Jeff Bridges could not save this one.

The Worst. Not even close.  T-Mobile with Kim Kardashian.  It seems like the people that did this commercial forgot that the spokesperson needs to be credible.  Even with her trying to spoof herself, it just did not work…at all.  Last year, I rated T-Mobile’s Tim Tebow ad as the second worst.  T-Mobile outdid themselves this time.

Runner-up. Nationwide, with the kid who never grew up because he died.

Whose ad is that?: One of the things that makes it tough to judge ads is you have to concentrate to make sure you know who was running the ad.  A lot of the spots tried to tell a story, and did not mention the brand until the end.  It is tough to keep people’s attention for 30 or 60 seconds.  Making them wait that long to reveal the brand does not make sense.  For example, I absolutely loved the “Like a Girl” ad.  My problem is that I did not remember whose ad it was (It was Always, apparently).

Car ads: Better than last year.  This year, there was not so much on the patriotism theme, and Bob Dylan was not trying to sell me a car.  But still not great.  Most of the ads had me guessing as to whose ad it was.  I would not have known unless I wrote it down.  See below for two of my favorite ads.  I also liked the Fiat ad, which I know a lot of people did not like.  But on a day of very dumb ads, this one was clever without being dumb.

Beer: Everybody croons over the Budweiser Clydesdale ads.  I usually do too.  But this spot was not up to standards.  It seems like Budweiser just mailed it in.  Its macro beer spot was way better.  And the Bud Light Pac-Man ad  was nowhere near as good as the “Epic” ads it ran last year and were my favorites.

Favorite ad: Last year I rated GoDaddy’s “BodyBuilder” ad as the worst of the year and one of the worst ever.  This year, GoDaddy went from worst to first.  A very simple ad.  No attempt at humor.  No hitting us over the head with the flag.  No sex.  Just a man working instead of watching the Super Bowl.  Great linkage.  Wonderful spot.

Second place: Weather Tech.  Like GoDaddy, simple and direct.  I know what the company does, and they made sure I knew who they were.

Third place: Dodge.  Yes, some of what the senior citizens had to say in their ‘100 Years” spot was trite.  But it certainly held my interest.  And I definitely was interested in knowing whose ad it was, so I was willing to wait until the end.  I was actually surprised it was an auto manufacturer.  And wonderful linkage with the “You Learn a Lot in 100 Years” tag.

Fourth place: Jeep.  When the ad started to “This Land is Your Land,” I thought, “here we go with the patriotism play.”  But, brilliantly, the spot cut to scenes around the globe, and it became apparent that “This Land” is the world.

Honorable mention: Microsoft .  Last year I rated its “Empowering” ads third. This year they were also good.  I also liked the TurboTax Boston Tea Party ad, which I thought was clever (not dumb).  And a special shout out to the teasers for Blacklist.