Oh hey there.
You may (probably not) have noticed we haven't posted in a while. But if there was one thing that was going to drag us out of retirement, it was another Super Bowl with its terrible, terrible "event" advertising. So of course here we are.
The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad
Celebrity cameos are rarely inspiring. And it's slightly annoying for BMW to compare its electric car to the entire internet. But despite that, this ad is pretty clever. The Gumbel/Couric clip is infamous for how hilariously tone-deaf it sounds twenty years later (let's face it, it sounded tone-deaf five years later), and BMW does a pretty good job playing it off against the continuing struggle that people have with getting into the concept of electric cars. (While no one is quite as confused about them as this ad, or that old Chevy Volt one, would imply, it's certainly true that they have not gained the traction they probably should.) Also, this is an ad that is VERY direct about its product, a relative rarity during the Super Bowl. Credit where credit is due.
Most Overproduced Ad
Mophie should also probably win an award that we don't give out (although the Cheapest Budget award gets halfway there) called "Who knew that was something that could afford to advertise during the Super Bowl?" But really, just look at this thing. All that CGI. All those apocalyptic sets. They had to build at least one set that could rotate, by the looks of it. And for what? A mediocre joke about God's phone battery running low. (And they didn't even go for the bonus "Me darn it" joke! What's up with that?) Also, doesn't God live up there? Like, he has a power cord, right? This premise isn't even internally consistent.
Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award
Frankly, Chevy's "You know you want a truck" pitch annoyed me all night. This probably wasn't the worst of their ads, but considering that nearly all of it is a black screen with text on it? It's a shoo-in for Cheapest Budget. Also, the suggestion that I go sit in a car to watch the Super Bowl is entirely comical. Why wouldn't I just go out somewhere at that point? What if I'm hosting a Super Bowl party? Complete nonsense. I suppose it gets its point across - this truck has built-in wi-fi! - but it does so in the laziest fashion possible.
Worst Use of "Humor" Award
Winner: Pizza Hut
This one actually aired before the Super Bowl, but it came on again during the game, so here it is. I must admit I don't totally hate this ad, but it makes several key mistakes. For one thing, I find it strange that the ad makes a completely unattributed reference to the Dez Bryant non-catch in the NFC Divisional round game between the Cowboys and Packers yet thinks you WON'T know who Rex Ryan is. (If you need to have a character say your celebrity cameo's name out loud, you should not be using that celebrity for your cameo. Also, if you don't know who Rex Ryan is, will hearing his name help you? It's like this is just to impress the non-football fans. "I don't know who that dude is, but he must be a famous coach because they said his name out loud! Pizza Hut is obviously great!") But the simple reason it ends up in this spot? The utterly gratuitous nut-shot, which is only there in an attempt for the cheapest possible joke. You didn't have to go there, Pizza Hut.
Flimsiest Pretense Award
Winner: Game of War
Word to the wise: "Free to play" means very little coming from an ad for a game that evidently had FOUR AND A HALF MILLION BUCKS to drop on this ad (and that's just for the ad space itself). But seriously, look at the "game play" at the end of the ad. That's what the game looks like. It doesn't look like a complex battle on a movie set. And it SURE doesn't have anything to do with Kate Upton's heaving bosom. But, give it to these guys: they know who they're marketing to.
The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for the Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities
This is always one of the most competitive categories, because advertisers seem convinced that as long as you vaguely recognize a person in their ad, you're more likely to buy their product. Snickers inserting Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi into the Brady Bunch - a double "Hey I know those things/people!" - was a strong contender, especially since that "You're not you when you're hungry" gimmick is wearing super thin. Lindsay Lohan's appearance in an Esurance ad was also right up there (and man, Lohan is looking rough). But I had to go with T-Mobile because "egregious" is right there in the name of the award. And why did these mildly famous people need to be in this ad? At least the Snickers ad is dependent on having famous people in it. The only joke here that is even remotely dependent on these women being sort of famous is the idea that they MIGHT have mansions (albeit not actually having them). But it's still not necessary. Any two commercial actresses could have handled this and probably would have come cheaper. Maybe they wrote this ad themselves? That's about the only explanation I can think of.
The Bad Idea Jeans Award for Most Epic Miscalculation
If you were on Twitter during the game, you would have noticed that this almost immediately became one of the most talked-about ads. And not in a good way. I'm actually reminded quite a bit of the ad we started this category for: that Groupon ad from a few years ago that actually ran in the opposite fashion. That one pretended to be serious, then pulled the rug out and made a joke out of its subject. This ad, meanwhile, starts with a whimsical premise and then rug-pulls into abject horror. The bigger problem, of course, is that this is an insurance company - in other words, you give them money to cover your losses if something bad happens. You know, something like your KID DYING. Nationwide claims that this was just about "starting a conversation," but conversations aren't normally started by warning someone about their child dying and then staring at them until they back away uncomfortably.
SkyMall Championship Trophy
As always, the SkyMall trophy goes to the weirdest attempt to sell a product. And as always, you could frankly give this to almost any Super Bowl ad. Skittles is pretty much a lifetime WTF achievement winner at this point, for example. But I had to go with TurboTax here, because... um. The premise of this ad is that if TurboTax had existed in 1776, the American Revolution wouldn't have happened. Which, uh, means we would all be living as British subjects right now. Was this ad written by Benedict Arnold? Bonus points for how overdone this ad is. You went to all that trouble and literally the only message is "TurboTax makes doing your taxes easier," which is a message I think most people get simply from hearing the name TurboTax. Coulda saved you NINE MILLION BUCKS since apparently this ad was sixty seconds long? This ad also sucks because of how weirdly glib it is. "Sure the US tax code is notoriously byzantine, but at least we don't charge you to file!" Way to clear the lowest possible bar, dudes.
Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2015
Winner: Bud Light
Plenty of strong contenders for this one as well. Could've been the Fiat ad that was basically a nine-million-dollar dick joke. Could've been the Mercedes-Benz ad that rewrites the ending of the Tortoise and the Hare so that the tortoise not only wins but also gets to fuck the hare's wife for some reason. Could've been the Fifty Shades of Grey or Ted 2 trailers just on principle because I can't fucking believe EITHER of those movies exists. Or it could have been the mawkish claptrap that was McDonald's pretending it cares about you as anything other than a revenue stream. But in the end, I had to go with Bud Light.
As I tweeted, "Bud Light: the perfect beer for when you are so clearly an actor it's painful." I don't know why they even bothered saying "Hidden cameras!" at the beginning as if the way the commercial proceeds is going to lead me to think I'm actually watching events that just spontaneously unfolded. Well, obviously they didn't - even if this were real, Bud Light had to set them up. But you know what I mean. Listen to that guy's incredibly unconvincing response when he comes across a giant quarter sitting on the sidewalk. But then, when you're tasked with being handed a Bud Light and selling the line "This is all I've wanted all day," I can see where it would be hard to convince. Look, this concept was kind of funny (if similarly unconvincing) the first time they tried it, with that dude bouncing from one random encounter to the next. But this is literally one thing - Human Pac-Man - being played by a guy who isn't famous but also does not come across as a convincingly real person who was actually just thrown into this weird situation. Also, Human Pac-Man isn't that funny or interesting. Also this ad is NINETY SECONDS LONG. Bud Light spent $13.5 million to remind me that their product exists and that there are people out there who are so desperate for shitty beer that they'll leave a bar they just walked into, walk down the street, blunder into a human-sized video game that Anheuser-Busch could get the rights to, and then act super excited because as their prize for having to go through all this rigmarole they received ONE BOTTLE of shitty beer. Congrats, Bud Light: your tedious slog through a fake urban wonderland was the worst Super Bowl ad of 2015.