Super Bowl Ads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Tom Brady Super Bowl
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The game was a low-scoring snooze, and Maroon 5’s half-time show exuded strongly bleached blandness, leaving the ads our last best hope to avoid total Super Bowl viewing disaster. Here are the ads that rose to the occasion, and those that did not:


Andy Warhol Wins

Big year for Andy Warhol who was paid tribute in two separate Super Bowl spots.

In one practically perfect ad, Warhol himself eats a Burger King Whopper. Burger King cut the ad from footage of Jorgen Leth’s 1982 film, appropriately called Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger.

Serious student of Warhol also noticed Coa-Cola’s animated retro pre-game commercial “A Coke is a Coke” blew a kiss to the artist/director/producer. It’s Warhol who famously said:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.


Hulu’s third consecutive year featuring an original series in their Super Bowl ad this time gave a sneak peek into Season 3 of dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale spot takes inspiration from Ronald Reagan’s iconic “Morning in America” campaign commercial:

Hulu’s ad begins with with that same chipper optimism. Then June shows up, telling America to “Wake Up.”


Hyundai spot features an elevator operated by Jason Bateman taking passengers going car shopping “way down” past the Root Canal floor, the Jury Duty floor, and the Six Hour Flight In Middle Seat floor. Upon learning they are Hyundai Assurance customers, however, Bateman whisks them back up to a much higher floor. Catching another passengers trying to get off on the Hyundai floor, Bateman delivers the most memorable Super Bowl ad line of the night: “Not so fast, Capt. Colon”:


Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile’s “chunky milk” ad created a nationwide gag reflex, the sense memory of expired milk being maybe the worst definition of “memorable” Super Bowl ad.


A man walking dreamily through amber waves of grain is surprised to see his grandfather, who takes him to his garage to show him the car of the future: an electric Audi. But as he tries to drive off in the car, he suddenly wakes up and discovers he’s choking to death on a cashew. Saved by an office colleague, he seems disappointed. On the bright side, Audi says in the ad, one third of all new Audi models will be electrified by 2020. Congrats to Audi for boldness in comparing its product to – death?

PSA Proliferation

A whole lot of civil rights PSA content in this super bowl. But one critic wondered what would happen had one of the players exercised his First Amendment right to free speech.  Some celebs said they would boycott the game in an act of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. And the civil rights icons who lent themselves as props – Rep John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter – created maybe the most cringe-worthy coin toss in Super Bowl history.


WaPo: Economic Decency Dies in Darkness

The Washington Post debuted a 60-second Super Bowl commercial during the fourth quarter. Fred Kunkle, staff writer and co-chair of the newspaper’s union, savaged the “infuriating expense” in light of Jeff Bezos’ treatment of staff.

The ad’s a real button pusher. Narrated by Tom Hanks, it emphasizes the importance and danger of journalism. It features photos of freelance reporter Austin Tice, who has been missing in Syria for more than six years; of American war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was killed in 2012 by Syrian forces; and columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who the CIA determined was murdered at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. It ends with WaPo’s logo and slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

It’s a 60 second spot which, given the reported Super Bowl ad rate of $5.25M this year, could have had a $10M pricetag.

“While I too am extremely proud of the Post and its legacy,” Kunkle tweeted, “this seems like an especially infuriating expense for a company that has:

a) tried to take away health care insurance from part-time employees

b) moved everyone toward riskier forms of health insurance.

c) made it easier to lay people off

d) cut their severance

e) frozen their pensions and resisted the smallest enhancements to remaining retirement benefits until Sen. Bernie Sanders shamed it into doing so

f) refused to add a single day of paid parental leave to its measly four weeks and

g) must know that other media companies, sensing trouble ahead, have been trimming staff.”

Kunkle’s tweets:


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