Each year the Super Bowl is as notable for its ads as for the game itself.
As the most-watch television event of the year, brands of all stripes use the event to unveil their best marketing ideas of the year.
I’m proud to be a seasoned-enough blogger that I can now point to my 10 best picks for last year’s Super Bowl.
But it’s now 2017.
Here are my picks for the best of this year’s game, Super Bowl 51.
Best in Class – Super Bowl VI
1. Budweiser – “Born the Hard Way”
This ad got early press for its timeliness.
It shows the journey of Budweiser founder Adolphus Busch as he travels as an immigrant from Germany to America in the 19th Century to pursue his entrepreneurial dream of brewing beer.
The ad is one of hope, courage, and yes – America.
Yet some conservatives actually called for a boycott of the beer in protest. They saw it as an overly political critique of President Trump’s recent immigration policy.
Never mind that it was filmed weeks before President Trump’s anti-immigration executive order. Or that, as the rest of the commercials from last night showed – it was one of the tamer ones on that score.
2. Air BnB (“We Accept”)
In contrast to the Budweiser ad above, Air BnB’s “We Accept” ad was produced as a direct response to President Trump’s Muslim ban.
It shows faces of people of every color, young and old, along with these words:
“We believer no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.” #WeAccept.
It’s simple. It’s beautiful. And in this divided age, it may even be important.
3. National Geographic (“Genius”)
This was masterful not just in concept but for its placement.
Einstein, in his crowded study picks up a violin. And begins to play strands of Lady Gaga’s hit “Bad Romance.”
It’s an ad for National Geographic’s new TV series “Genius.”
But the true genius?
It aired immediately after the Half-Time show, where Lady Gaga’s final song was…”Bad Romance.”
4. 84 Lumber (“The Journey Begins”)
The story of a Hispanic mother and daughter rising before dawn on an epic journey north (presumably) into the U.S.
It feels real, heart-wrenching and a brave immigration story that goes directly against President Trump’s recent Muslim immigration ban and promise to “build a wall” between the U.S. and Mexico.
The ad ends mid-journey, and directs viewers to watch “the rest of the journey” online at http://www.journey84.com
The ad is for a lumber company, of all things.
Web Traffic was so intense after this piece aired that the site went down for a whole 15 minutes.
The mother and daughter journey all night, only to encounter a wall at the border. The daughter brings out a tattered U.S. flag – a symbol of hope for her mother.
And they eventually find a door in the wall and can come through.
It fades to black after these words:
“The will to succeed is always welcome here.”
5. SquareSpace (“Who is JohnMalkovich.com?”)
I want to hug whoever came up with this.
Actor John Malkovich discovers that the domain “JohnMalkovich.com” is already taken. He writes an irate email to the owner asking him who the **** he is is.
Get your domain name before it’s gone.
This was especially poignant to me:
A) Because there is another Peter Morscheck – he’s a German musician. Check out his music here. And
B) Because neither of us owns “PeterMorscheck.com.”
Nope. The owner is a cyber-squatter hoping to sell it back to one of us for thousands.
6. Bai (“Bai Bai Bai”)
Christopher Walken being his old, weird self.
He’s angrily ranting that he’s had enough.
So “bye bye bye.”
Only to have the camera pan over to Justin Timberlake in smoking jacket – a call-back to ‘Nsync’s hit song of the same name.
7. T Mobile One (“Bag of Unlimited”)
Martha Stewart. Snoop Dogg.
8. Intel (“Brady Every Day”)
Anything can look epic in 360 degrees.
A clever way to advertise Intel’s new 360 degree replay feature, this shows Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady as he yawns, brushes he teeth, and picks a pancake off the floor.
9. Bud Light (“Between Friends”)
A best man gives his toast to the groom on his wedding day.
And the camera cuts to said best man whining to his buddy in all sorts of circumstances, over a period of years.
Moving, karaoke, paint ball – it’s all there.
The glue that held them together as they built this friendship?
10. Mercedes Benz (“Easy Rider”)
A biker bar.
A bearded, tattooed fellow puts “Born to be Wild” on the jukebox. A bar fight ensues.
Until a patron notes that his bike has been “blocked in.” A gang of bikers exits, ready to rumble.
Only to see…a new Mercedes Roadster is the culprit.
But when it’s driver emerges?
Peter Fonda (the star of iconic biker film Easy Rider 50 years ago).
He drives off into the sunset in his Mercedes, leaving the bikers (and their bikes) in his dust.
A true rebel.
Bai (“Horse Whisperer”)
A white thug shows up in front of some horses:
“Yo – some people think it don’t make sense that I’m a horse whisperer.”
“You know what else don’t make sense? Bai.” (this fruit drink).
It’s absurd and hilarious.
Yellow Tail (“Let’s Yellow Tail”)
This wins because kangaroos are always funny.
I’m a movie geek, and this was the first I’d heard of this movie. But it looks like a plausible riff on Alien.
We’ve had about one solid space epic a year for the last four years (Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, and Passengers) so this has big shoes to fill.
But the non-traditional cast—headlined by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds—makes this one to watch.
And your picks for this year’s best Super Bowl ads?
Any I missed?