You may know me from my work at Pitcher List. This is my first post here at QB List, and the only one I am qualified to write. You see, I watched the Super Bowl (big game? Am I allowed to say Super Bowl?), but asked many questions about the rules of football and how good each player is. I watch the game for the time in between plays.
The Super Bowl is the singular biggest advertising opportunity in America. Thus, a 30-second ad costs $5.5 million. How did advertisers spend their money this year? Some looked to encourage the country in the midst of a deadly pandemic, while others stuck to tried and true jokes and celebrity appearances. I’ll be breaking down some of my favorite ads from the 2021 big game.
It should be noted, I have an odd sense of humor. I tend to enjoy absurdity and awkwardness; Community and BoJack Horseman are two of my favorite comedic shows. The following list is absolutely MY personal favorites of the lot, not really based on any particular criteria. Does that make the following list objectively correct? Yes, yes it does. If I snubbed your favorite (looking at you E-Trade) I’m honestly not that sorry and won’t fight you.
#11 Dr. Squatch – You’re Not a Dish
I was going to do a top ten, but that would have excluded this absolute gem. While I don’t plan on going out to buy any organic soap soon, I love watching an everyman shout into a camera for 30 seconds. The Dr. Squatch spot was unpretentious (a word nobody has ever used to describe me) and fun. I would go as far as to call it . . . titillating.
#10 Fiverr – Opportunity Knocks
Whichever side of the aisle you may be on, we can all agree that the 2020 presidential election was a wild one. Easily one of the strangest moments was when a press conference was held in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Fiverr’s Super Bowl ad featured the CEO of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, showing that she answers the door when opportunity comes knocking. While the ad didn’t have a ton going for it beyond the commentary on one of the strangest footnotes of American politics, that was enough for me to include it here.
#9 State Farm – Drake From State Farm
This one was cute and simple. Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, who was on the field as the ad aired, complain that their stand-ins look nothing like them. Rodgers has been assigned an avid Packers fan wearing a cheese head. Meanwhile, Mahomes turns to see Paul Rudd as his stand-in. The ranking of this spot is due in large part to surprise Paul Rudd, as he is always welcome on my TV screen. Turns out, Jake From State Farm has rapper Drake as his stand-in. Cute wordplay and solid performances. I like it.
#8 General Motors – No Way Norway
I had to be talked into this one, but my mind is easily swayed. Originally, the GM spot was hindered by the fact that I have no idea who Awkwafina is (apparently she won a Golden Globe last year for her role in The Farewell). But, on second viewing, I did chuckle a few times watching Will Ferrell overreact to Norway’s electric vehicle sales. The final piece that sold me was Ferrell vomiting over the side of the ship. I am a sucker for vomit being played for laughs.
#7 Toyota/Paralympics – Upstream
The only serious/uplifting commercial included in this list, I was actually moved by the Toyota & Paralympics ad featuring Jessica Long. The ad is gorgeously shot and depicts the life story of Long, a 13-time Paralympic gold medalist. As Long’s adopted mother learns her new daughter will come from Russia and need to have her legs amputated, she simply responds “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing.” The ad gently shifts its attention to Toyota’s support of the Olympics leaving us with a much-needed message: “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.” Toyota took their time to share a truly inspiring story without shoehorning a “buy our cars” message at the end. Very nicely done.
#6 Tide – Jason Alexander Hoodie
Back to the funny stuff, and this is where they get really good. This year’s Tide ad features a horrific, flesh-toned hoodie that is simply Seinfeld star, Jason Alexander’s face. The one-minute piece shows us the trial and tribulations we put our clothes through, all the while displaying Alexander’s over-the-top reaction faces. In the end, we even get an appearance from Alexander himself, saying “That’s my face! You can’t just wear my face!” Good stuff all around.
#5 Oatly – Wow No Cow
Finally, we’ve gotten to the most divisive commercial of 2021, Oatly’s Wow No Cow. In this irreverent, weird, and wonderful ad, we find Oatly CEO and Joseph Gordon-Levitt lookalike, Toni Patersson in a field of oats with his trusty electric keyboard. He serenades the audience with a song he wrote himself, which some analysts are calling the ballad of our age, “Wow No Cow.” His singing voice, reminiscent of folk singers’ raspy tones, tells us Oatly is “like milk, but made for humans.”
The commercial was actually recycled, as it had played originally in 2014 in Sweden, after which the company was sued by the Swedish dairy lobby. With the ad now banned in Oatly’s homeland of Sweden, they had the forethought to be eco-conscious and economic in the unprecedented times we now live in.
However, the spot was not met with the same response I had, as some simply did not understand the true brilliance before them. Twitter users flamed the company for their lack of empty celebrity endorsements, gaudy set pieces, nonsensical plots, etc. Even Pitcher List Vice President, Alex Fast, misunderstood:
CEOs who insist on being in their own commercials must be stopped
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) February 8, 2021
Oatly, recognizing the buzz they had stirred up, capitalized on the moment. They tweeted out a link, offering free t-shirts to satiate football fans that did not appreciate their CEO’s singing. The shirts, which read “I totally hated that Oatly commercial,” were indeed totally free, and came with a beautiful message of unity on the official company website: “The rules of time and space make it impossible to give you back the 30 seconds you just spent watching our Super Bowl commercial, but at least we can give you this free t-shirt that lets the world know where you stand on our attempt to promote Toni’s singing skills to a wider audience. Feel free to wear it proudly knowing we are not offended since we believe that having different opinions on things is what helps move society forward, even if those particular opinions are strong enough for you to want to wear them in t-shirt form.”
The ad’s tone is authentic, surreal, and was described by Oatly on their YouTube channel in 2017, saying “In a one of a kind performance, multi-talented CEO Toni Petersson sings a song he wrote entirely by himself to explain exactly what Oatly is all about. Please feel free to like, share and comment. Toni is a big boy, he can take it.” He’s a big boy that will be rolling in dough, as his dulcet tones and catchy melodies will soon see Oatly flying off American shelves.
#4 Bud Light Seltzer – Last Year’s Lemons
Taking the topical route, Bud Light decided to inflict citrus-based carnage on the world with their 2021 Super Bowl ad. We all know 2020 was a lemon of a year, but now with Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade, we can look back on it with fond memories. While the spot may be a bit tone-deaf considering the actual death and turmoil we’ve seen in the past months, I thoroughly enjoyed watching glass breaking, bikers crashing, and all flights simply designated as lemons. Like I said at the top, I enjoy absurdity, and mass panic caused by an inundation of citrus is right up my alley.
#3 Rocket Mortgage – Certain is Better
Everyone’s favorite way to get a mortgage quote without speaking to any assistance from actual financial experts (the process just sounds sketchy), Rocket Mortgage brought us another fantastically absurd commercial this year. We find a family wondering if they can afford to purchase a home. When the father claims he’s pretty sure, Tracy Morgan in a bubble bath tells him “With Rocket Mortgage you can be certain – not pretty sure!” Morgan goes on to show them being certain is better, when he’s pretty sure these mushrooms aren’t poisonous, he’s pretty sure you can take Dave Bautista, and he’s pretty sure you can make that jump over the drawbridge. By the way, I love the face Morgan makes when he realizes he will not, in fact, be making that jump. All around fun and a great advertisement for what I’m pretty sure is a safe way to get a mortgage quote.
#2 Doritos – Flat Matthew
Doritos seems to bring a funny commercial each year, and their 2021 submission did not disappoint. To show off their new puffy “flavored corn snacks” they showed a day in the life of Falt Matthew, a two-dimensional, Flat Stanley-esque character portrayed by Matthew McConaughey. “Lately I just haven’t been feeling quite like myself,” says Flat Matt, as he is nearly blown away by a stiff window, gets sucked into a Roomba, and is harassed by Jimmy Kimmel. Luckily Flat Mathew finds his way into a vending machine to snack on Doritos 3D, which returns him to his three-dimensional form … in the machine. you’ve got to love Doritos annual entries.
#1 Cheetos – It Wasn’t Me
That said, the winning cheesy snack ad goes to Cheetos. As Mila Kunis finds herself caught orange-handed with her husband, Ashton Kutcher’s bag of Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix, she is given advice from reggae star, Shaggy: “Just tell him it wasn’t you.” Cue a hilarious rendition of Shaggy’s 2000 hit “It Wasn’t Me” featuring new lyrics “You’re the one who granted access to your snacks. Don’t act surprised that she sneak behind your back. You gotta keep tabs before she emptied a bag. Let’s review the situation: orange fingers, red flag. To keep your own stash you got to hide it better. If she asks where they are you say, ‘forget her,’ never admit to a word, and please don’t upset her, and if she keeps on snacking I guess you let her.” I believe (likely erroneously) I speak for the whole of QB List and Pitcher List when I say we love Shaggy in this house. Throw in a great punchline of “That’s the first time that’s ever worked.” and you’ve got the best commercial of Super Bowl LV.