The real competition on Super Bowl Sunday is not between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, but among the dozens of advertisers vying to stand out from the crowd of commercials airing during the Big Game -- advertising's very own Super Bowl.
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Acura: "What He Said" (Extended version)
The guitar riffs and other-wordly vocalizations of Van Halen's "Runnin' With the Devil" are really the only musical accompaniment you need if you're behind the wheel of the Acura NSX -- at least, that is what we come away with from this year's most gloriously fetishized car ad. Now, if only its manufacturers' suggested retail price were a bit south of $156,000. Agency: Mullen Lowe.
Audi: "Commander" (Extended Cut)
Instead of merely relishing the looks of a car, this ad for the Audi R8 V10 plus celebrates the thrill of actually being in the driver's seat, as experienced by a former NASA astronaut nostalgic for the days of space travel. The 610 horsepower engine may be a bit less than a Saturn V rocket, but it'll do. Agency: Venables Bell and partners.
Buick: "The Big Game Meets the Big Day"
Odell Beckham Jr. is a wedding guest, but it's a bouquet-catcher who shows all the right moves. Oh, and the bridge and groom drive a Buick. Agency: Leo Burnett Detroit.
Honda: "A New Truck to Love"
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline truck, which debuted at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, gets some serenading from an unlikely crew crooning Queen's "Somebody to Love." But is a truck bed audio system really a truck accessory worth singing about? Agency: Rubin Postaer and Associates.
In one of four commercials for Hyundai, the Elantra's auto-emergency braking with pedestrian detection helps prevent a calamity for distracted drivers motoring through a town where every hunk is Ryan Reynolds. Agency: Innocean Worldwide.
Hyundai: "The Chase"
When you're being pursued by bears in the woods, do what Leonardo DiCaprio could NOT do in "The Revenant": Use voice commands to remotely start your Hyundai Elantra with Blue Link. Warning: This ad breaks the if-you're-going-to-make-animals-talk-give-them-good-dialogue rule. Agency: Innocean Worldwide.
Hyundai: "First Date"
Kevin Hart, aided by Car Finder, is a helicopter parent for sure, when it comes to his daughter's date with a young man. And judging from the musical soundtrack, this isn't the first time it's happened.
The people who grow up to become designers for Hyundai are a different breed. You're forgiven for thinking them creepy-looking.
You can go where other vehicles can't, is the message of this Jeep commercial, which showcases not just the military heritage but the rugged outdoorsiness and romance of the 4x4.
Kia Optima: "Walken Closet"
Who wants to be beige socks, when you can have "pizzazz!"? Every walk-in closet should have a Christopher Walken lurking inside to steer the bland towards the joy of standing out from the crowd. Punch it! Agency: David & Goliath.
Mini USA: "Defy Labels"
Celebrities who themselves defy labels -- including athletes Serena Williams, Abby Wambach and Randy Johnson, actor Harvey Keitel, rapper T-Pain and skateboarder Tony Hawk -- explain that the Mini coupe isn't defined by stereotypes. Agency: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.
Toyota Prius: "The Longest Chase"
The hybrid gains a bad-boy reputation any car would be proud of, even if it comes courtesy of felonious behavior that automotive companies - under no circumstances - condone, no matter how cool-looking. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles.
Toyota Prius: "Heck on Wheels"
If you work 9 to 5 for The Man, driving a Prius may be the highpoint of your day. This commercial sure works hard to make that point.
Bud Light: "Bud Light Party"
Forget partisan politics; Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen know what Americans can agree on, and it's beer! Wow, they got the first rule of politics right: pander to your audience with cheap applause lines (and beer!).
Michelob Ultra: "Breathe"
A tribute to everyone who survives a workout -- going that extra mile -- and who then needs to mark the occasion. No beer guts here! Agency: FCB Chicago.
Budweiser: "Not Backing Down"
The Clydesdales are back for the umpteenth time, but here playing a supporting role in an ad swimming with industrial funk, that shows the hard work put into making beer. Taking a break from puppies is probably a good idea, and the roughness of the commercial is invigorating.
Shock Top: "Unfiltered Talk"
Anheuser-Busch's Shock Top Brewing Company is making its first appearance in the Super Bowl, and it's a rude one, as Wedgehead -- the Belgian White's mascot -- trades cutting bon mots with actor-comedian T.J. Miller. Really, would you take that kind of talk from a taphead?
Axe: "Find Your Magic" (Extended)
Finding the real you -- whether it means sporting traditionally-un-Hollywood looks, dancing in a wheelchair or in high heels, or cuddling kittens -- is the secret to being a man. Now, all you need is some personal grooming products from Axe. Agency: 72andSunny in Amsterdam.
The fitness tracker is touted both for its style and its features, which fit together like the contrasting shots cut together in this bouncing ad. Agency: Argonaut.
Schick Hydro: "Robot Razors"
Well-done visual effects and sound mark this ad for razors that may take the concept of "Transformers" more seriously than even the "Transformers" movies do.
Avocados from Mexico: "Avos in Space"
Aliens are given a museum tour of artifacts from the planet Earth -- a cube of Rubik, a torture device, the most infamous dress on the Internet -- which also happen to include avocados from Mexico that are grown all year 'round. Agency: GSD&M
Heinz: "Wiener Stampede"
Part of the condiment maker's #MeetTheKetchups campaign: A bunch of weiner dogs express their love for ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce, to the tune of Harry Nilsson's "Without You." If this commercial were an hour long it probably wouldn't wear out its welcome. Agency: David Miami.
Colonel Sanders has a rude awakening.
Jack in the Box: "Declaration of Delicious"
The fast food franchise advertises its "history-making burger" with a history lesson -- and George Washington never looked less presidential.
Taco Bell: "Bigger Than ..."
Whatever a "Quesalupa" is, it's bigger than anything else, or so they say. Agency: Deutsch L.A.
Butterfinger: "Bolder Than Bold Jump"
Does eating a candy bar really equate to the boldness of riding a bull out of an airplane? We'll just have to take your word for it. Agency: WPP's Santo.
Skittles: "The Portrait"
At first we thought it'd be a "Picture of Dorian Gray" takeoff, but no. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith stars in a "Taste the Rainbow" commercial featuring a portrait made of Skittles with an apparent death wish. Agency: DDB, Chicago.
Continuing the candy bar's "You're Not You When You're Hungry" theme (last year's Super Bowl ad starred Danny Trejo as Marcia Marcia Marcia Brady), this year's spot shows how the filming of an iconic Hollywood scene -- Marilyn Monroe's billowing dress from "The Seven Year Itch" -- almost didn't come off as we remember it. At least Willem Dafoe ("Platoon") proves he's a good sport. Agency: BBDO, New York.
Doritos Crash the Super Bowl
Doritos' annual competition announced three finalists prior to game time, one of which would earn its creator a million bucks -- which would sure buy a lot of Doritos.
A runner-up aired during the first half ...
And the million-dollar winner is...
This ad, by filmmaker Jacob Chase, featuring his dog, Miz, costs about $1,000 to make (plus calling in a lot of favors from friends and family). In addition, Chase gets to work with director Zack Snyder on his next project.
Mountain Dew's Kickstart: "Puppymonkeybaby"
Things are getting really weird in Mountain Dew land, with this ad featuring a hybrid dog-simian-toddler whose main purpose, we guess, is to confound us (and make us drink carbonated beverages). Agency: BBDO.
Pepsi: "Joy of Pepsi"
Janelle Monáe dances her way through three different eras of musical history, in this ad kicking off the Super Bowl halftime show.
Bai Antioxidant Infusion: "Horse Whisperer"
The low-calorie, caffeine-free antioxidant drink -- new to the Super Bowl -- continues its campaign launched last year on the theme of "None of This Makes Sense." But for a horse whisperer, he sure shouts a lot (which we guess doesn't make sense).
Coca-Cola: "Coke Mini"
The Hulk sees red when he sees his last can of Coke being hauled away by Ant Man, in this clever cross promotion between Coca-Cola and the Marvel universe.
PayPal: "There's a New Money in Town"
Cold hard cash is so 20th century, in this ad sporting a great soundtrack and editing. Agency: CP&B L.A.
SunTrust: "Hold Your Breath"
There are those for whom uncertainty over money is akin to holding your breath -- choking, gasping, sweating, feeling really uncomfortable. Why make us feel this, SunTrust, while we're eating snacks? Happily, one can exhale and feel relief, as do those who experience the firm's financial planning expertise. Wonderfully shot, the ad appears to have nothing to do with sturdy finances, and everything. [Question to editor: Why have narrator Gary Sinise say "Let go" at the same time we see a young child being held upside-down?] Agency: Strawberry Frog.
SoFi: "Great Loans for Great People"
What happens if an advertiser insults its potential customers? The Twitterverse and trade press lets them hear about it. And so, SoFi.com cut out the last line of their Super Bowl ad after it was posted online, to remove their suggestion that some of us might not be "great" enough to qualify for one of their loans. See? THAT'S what it's like to be rejected. Agency: Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer.
Quicken Loans: "What We Were Thinking"
Quicken's commercial suggests that securing a Rocket Mortgage with your smartphone could become so easy everyone would want one, heralding a whole new era of consumerism to furnish all those newly-acquired homes. "And isn't that the power of America itself?" the narrator asks. Just what we need on the heels of "The Big Short." What were they thinking?
TurboTax: "Never a Sellout"
Sir Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for playing a cannibalistic serial killer, would NEVER sell out. And he certainly wouldn't stoop to selling something that, actually, costs nothing. Pure logic. Agency: Wieden & Kennedy.
Adobe Marketing Cloud: "The Gambler"
A marketing exec is in deep, with a lot riding on the Big Game, because he "didn't look at the data," even though everyone warned him. So, would YOU buy his cream cheese? Directed by J.C. Chandor ("Margin Call"). Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Amazon Echo: "Baldwin Bowl Party"
Amazon Echo, a hands-free, voice-controlled speaker, proves a handy assistant for Alec Baldwin when he's throwing a party. It's Amazon's first Super Bowl commercial, and the first time we've seen Jason Schwartzman throw an empanada.
Apartments.com: "Moving Day"
Jeff Goldblum returns for this year's Super Bowl ad for the apartments.com site. Inspired by "The Jeffersons," it proves that, at the very least, beans don't burn on the grill. Agency: RPA.
Squarespace: "Real Talk with Key and Peele"
We expect so much more from Key and Peele than what we get in these thirty seconds devoted to building a web presence. Agency: Anomaly.
Wix.com: "Kung Fu Panda Discovers the Power of Wix"
In order to develop a boffo Super Bowl ad, Mr. Ping's Noodle Shop turns to website designer wix.com as the tool of choice. We don't think The Man Your Man Could Smell Like needs to fear for his job. Agency: DreamWorks Animation.
Marmot: "Love the Outside"
The first Super Bowl ad for the outdoor clothing line features a man's burgeoning friendship with a really big squirrel. Music by Flight of the Conchords, but we won't hold it against them. Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
Some coming attractions for upcoming films, with new edits of trailers and some previously unreleased footage.
"Alice Through the Looking Glass"
"Captain America: Civil War"
"Independence Day: Resurgence"
"The Jungle Book"
"The Secret Life of Pets"
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows"
Colgate: "Every Drop Counts"
This PSA from Colgate, about the importance of saving water, is adapted from an ad by one of the toothpaste maker's Latin American agencies about the need to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
Budweiser: "Give a Damn"
The most shocking thing about Budweiser's anti-drunk driving ad (featuring Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren laying out, in no uncertain terms, what miserable cretins drunk drivers are) is that she drinks her beer cold. British, really?!?
For every use of the hashtag #GiveADamn, Budweiser will donate $1 on safe ride programs. So go ahead and tweet it like crazy.
NFL: "Text Talk"
One of the most powerful ads from last year's Super Bowl was the NFL's PSA about domestic violence. This year, they return to the theme with cell phone text messages betraying the real topic behind a conversation.
NFL: "Super Bowl Babies Choir"
In a lighter vein, the music video below is an extended version of an NFL ad celebrating the kind of celebrating that goes on in Super Bowl-winning cities, featuring the adorable by-products of all those canoodling, happy fans. With ages ranging from 1 to 49, and led by Seal, all sing about the joy of a Super Bowl victory, but there's a tinge of TMI in the lyrics about what occurred between mom and dad once "there were no more jalapeno-chili-bacon chicken wings" left to munch.
Persil ProClean Detergent: "America's Number 1 Rated"
The detergent comes clean with its first Big Game ad.
Death Wish Coffee Company
Out of 15,000 entries in Intuit's contest for small businesses seeking a Big Game commercial spot, the Round Lake, N.Y.-based Death Wish Coffee Company -- offering "fiercely caffeinated" coffee -- won. The resulting commercial, featuring Vikings steering towards a glorious death, was shot in two days and features effects by the company behind "Pirates of the Caribbean." Drink up, for Valhalla awaits!
Esurance: "Pass It On"
The insurance company announces a sweepstakes awarding big bucks to people who retweet Esurance tweets during the game.
LG: "Man from the Future"
Jake Scott, who's directed Budweiser commercials with puppies, transitions to gleaming sci-fi-ish electronics with this commercial for LG's OLED TV. Liam Neeson brings his A-Game action-movie gravitas, but much of the ad features "Tron"-like effects that might look really cool IF you already have an LG OLED TV. Agency: Leo Burnett Detroit.
T-Mobile: "Restricted Bling" (Extended)
One thing all advertising creatives can agree is ridiculous: The interference of their clients, and their "genius" ideas about how to "improve" an ad. Drake is highly agreeable (suspiciously so) given the suggestions offered by a commercial client for his performance of "Hotline Bling." Agency: Publicis Seattle.
T-Mobile: "Drop the Balls"
Steve Harvey has some fun with his Miss Universe foul-up in this dig at Verizon.
Weather Tech: "Resources"
The auto accessories company whose products are made in America praises its greatest resource: American workers. Agency: Pinnacle Advertising.
Mobile Strike: "Arnold's Fight"
Arnold Schwarzenegger takes his gaming very, very seriously. Agency: TwoFifteenMcCann.
It's the 20th anniversary of "Pokemon," and game enthusiasts around the world show their colors, and their true mettle. Agency: Omelet L.A.