Super Bowl ad rankings from NBC4’s Jerod Smalley


This photo provided by Bud Light shows a scene from Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade 2021 Super Bowl NFL football spot. (Bud Light via AP)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For the past several years, if I haven’t been covering a Super Bowl, I’ve been at home writing about the commercials. It’s a tradition as pointless as many of the ads we all watched! Each year I watch the game with a good friend of ours who is an advertising executive and we take copious notes on the winning ads. We found a socially distant method to watch again this year … and despite the endless challenges of 2020/2021, many companies delivered genuine winners.

A couple observations: With limited production capabilities, many companies relied on stock footage to complete their spots, and a few actually shared similar (or possibly the exact same) video. So many spots focused on nostalgia, with references to far happier, simpler times and beloved characters. They made spots to make you smile, and that’s a simple, and winning, strategy.

Here’s our list of the highlights of the night. I know you will 100% agree with all of them and that’s comforting.

T10. GM electric cars. Will Ferrell vs. Norway? Sure, he ended up in Sweden, but you get the point. I think that’s a campaign you’ll see continue for a long time.

T10. Tide “Jason Alexander hoodie.” The expressions changing on the sweatshirts is an act of editing brilliance, and Jason Alexander is probably the best choice for it. And if you’ve never seen his ad for the McDonald’s McDLT you need to stop reading this for the moment and go Google it.

  1. Scott’s Miracle Gro “Backyard.” How about the central Ohio company coming up strong with a celebrity-laden ad, including Stanley from the office (who has incredible hair now!!!!) and Travolta still dancing. Winner.
  1. Cheetos “evidence / it wasn’t me.” Shaggy, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. It was cheesy, which is perfect when you think about it.
  1. Amazon Alexa / Michael B. Jordan. Hilarious, and I feel sorry for her husband.
  1. Rocket Mortgage “be sure” with Tracy Morgan. Loved it because it sold the exact purpose of the company and trusting Tracy Morgan with important tasks is, in fact, not a great idea.
  1. T-Mobile “missed messages” with Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton & Adam Lavine. They shot another version of the same-message ad with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski that did not air during the game, but both were clever. Another ad with Anthony Anderson was entertaining.
  1. Toyota “upstream” featuring Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long. This ad performed extremely well among ad execs, and it featured the best line of any commercial in the game. Long’s mother says, “It’s won’t be easy, but it’ll be amazing.” That’s a message that strikes perfectly to everyone, and certainly for parents of kids with special needs. Beautifully done.
  1. Uber Eats Wayne’s World with Cardi B. What’s beautiful about this is for people my age it’s a great bit, but for younger people who don’t get the references they get to see the cheesy subliminal tricks and ridiculous wigs which led to one of the funniest movies of the ’90s. Throw in some TikTok references and you’ve got an updated classic.
  1. Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade “when life gives you lemons.” Brilliant execution, and perfectly described the past year.
  1. Anheuser Busch “Let’s grab a beer.” Incredible message, and a reminder of the thing we’re all missing right now. A chance to spend time with our friends and a reminder of why that time really matters. Our favorite of the night.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no specific order):

  • Edgar Scissorhands hands-free Cadillac. Nostalgia! I’m not sure people will remember it’s for Cadillac, but I enjoyed it.
  • Jeep/chapel in the middle of Kansas, Bruce Springsteen, “ReUnited States of America.” GREAT message, and as a former resident of Kansas (near Salina, the geographic center of the US) it was particularly poignant.
  • M&M “apologies” with Dan Levy. Poor Karen can’t catch a break. And Schitt’s Creek forever.
  • Bud Light “legends.” They’re consistently clever, and normally ridiculous, and this year they just took all the old heroes and blended them up in a jambalaya. Topped off by the “I love you, man” guy.
  • AND the ad which will likely get the most views afterward … Mt. Dew “count the bottles” with John Cena. A clever idea to get people to re-engage with the ad during and after the game.

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