We Ranked Every Super Bowl XLV Commercial

It was a mixed bag for Super Bowl ads this year. It usually is, but I wonder if we’re just expecting too much from advertising companies on that first weekend in February. Their job isn’t to entertain us, it’s to sell us crap. Some firms managed to do both in the time alloted, and at almost $6 million per minute, that’s worth acknowledging.

There were a couple standouts: obviously the VW ad, and we’ll get to the rest in a bit. Max Pagehasm, the kid in the Darth Vader suit in the Volkswagen ad, appeared on the Today show this morning. Max is closer to Vader than one would have originally expected; he was born with a congenital heart defect and had to be fitted with a pacemaker. That child is more machine now than man…twisted and evil.

As for the others, well, that’s what we’ll attempt to parse out here. For the second year in a row, I’ll be reviewing every ad from Super Bowl XLV. These were my ground rules for eligibility:

  • Ads are rated for memorability, scale, and message economy. I’m not necessarily rating the ads by my own personal preference so much as by whether or not the company actually spent the money on the ad, and should have done so.
  • Ads for Fox shows are ineligible (Sorry, Glee).
  • Ads for films are not reviewed. Movie previews are supposed to be awesome, and all the time. If a quality 30-second synopsis can’t be made out of a 90-minute film, then it’s hardly the fault of the people creating the ad.
  • Ads during halftime aren’t counted (Suck it, Chatter).

Brace yourselves for another clickfest. The pages are broken up by every grade or so (A through F), so you can do the math for the most part. Agree or disagree in the comments; you’ve already seen these multiple times by now, anyway. We’re embedding as many as we can (while they’re still up).

Breaking Out, Audi — A

The best car ad of the night that seems to be getting little water cooler talk today in Twitterland. This ad had everything you could (and should) expect from a Super Sunday commercial: grandiose sets, class warfare through humor, and Kenny G. It wasn’t really laugh-out-loud funny, but it was luxury-car-commercial funny. The only thing that hurt its memorability was its timeslot–it was the third ad of the night to air.

Tibet, Groupon — A

Hilarious bait-and-switch from one of the hottest companies on earth today. Richard Gere probably broke a lamp last night after watching this.

The Force, Volkswagen — A

Even after VW intentionally leaked the ad last week, it’s still precious as all hell, and the Today show has aired the ad about 100 times this morning, so they’re getting massive return on their work.

Ozzy and Bieber, Best Buy Buyback — B+

It’s funny because Bieber put on a fake beard and that that Bieber looks like a girl. Beebz called himself a girl! That’s hysterical! The star power and the space suits carried what otherwise was a weak spot.

Reply All, Bridgestone — B+

We’ve all done that double-take after firing off a really nasty email. I’m trying to think of a good reason why this wasn’t an A, and I’m afraid I don’t have one.

Product Placement, Bud Light — B

We need more beer bottles in swordfights.

Great Idea, Chevy Camaro — B

It’s odd that the strongest Chevy ad of the night was the one where they couldn’t decide on a theme. This was basically dueling voices debating over the best way to sell American machismo. Couldn’t decide on a theme, machine-gun humor

Detroit, Chrysler — B

It was 2 minutes long, and whether you love Detroit or love bashing Detroit’s inability to make a car that people will actually buy, you’ll remember it. It was an ode worthy of the stage. But I think it truly was a shot across the bow of the “I’ll Never Buy Another American Car” set, and while I don’t think it carries much sway, it’s a solid effort.

You Gonna Finish Those, Doritos — B

Guy-on-guy rape will always have a place in advertising. And was that McLovin?

Feed The Fish, Doritos — B

“Grandpa?” Maybe the funniest ad of the night, with Grandpa coming back to life being the best punchline of all the ads. Dinged for some goofy editing in the middle.

What’s That Mean, LookUp316 — B

The precursor for this was a dude with a rainbow wig sitting behind the goalpost. This ad is a marked improvement, but needs more Tebow or something.

Cram It In The Boot, Mini Countrymaid — B

Mini dispels notions of “no junk in the trunk” with terrific double entendre. This was a win.

TV Shows, NFL — B

The NFL says thanks to its fans…right before pulling the plug on the 2011 season. But hey…Fonzie.

Parking Lot Monkeys, CareerBuilder — B

Mandatory one-grade bump for making chimps do human things.

What If We Settled, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid — B

Clever concept with the old brick cell phone and the typewriters in the coffee shop.

Dogsitting, Bud Light — B-

A solid entry into the “Animals dressed as people” category.

Beaver, Bridgestone — B-

Dam, son. Had to see it a second time to realize what had happened. I blame the beer for that.

Hack Jobs, Bud Light — B-

The very first commercial of the game, and it was solid. “But all you did was add Bud Light.” And we’re under budget!

Talking Cars, — B-

It’s funny because the car with the female voice won’t have sex with the car with the male voice.

Joan Rivers, — B-

This commercial is the perfect analogy for how inexplicably hot Joan Rivers has been over the last 18 months. After winning “Celebrity Apprentice,” she got back on E! with “Fashion Police” and starred in a biopic documentary that some say was snubbed by the Oscars. And now she’s a partially CG’d pin-up for GoDaddyIssues. What did I do last year? Uh, I went to Vegas?

Detourism, — B-

Clever concept that could have been branded a bit better.

Black Beetle, 2012 Volkswagen Beetle — C

I liked the Spiderbait, and that was about it.

First Date, Chevy Cruze — C

Facebook in the car? Wait til you get home, buddy. Which button do you push for the car to talk you off?

Border Patrol, Coca-Cola — C

The official beverage of peace.

Enzo The Tailor, E*Trade — C

I can’t wait until Super Bowl LX, when the E*Trade Teen is telling us about commission-free trades while fingerblasting some high school sophomore in the back seat of his __. Go away, E*Trade baby.

Clay Eminem, Lipton Brisk — C

“I don’t do commercials.” Uhhh…

1984 Tribute, Motorola Xoom — C

“Oh, it wasn’t an iPad commercial?”

Black Couple, Pepsi Max — C

Domestic violence is funny when the woman does it.

Kim Kardashian, Sketchers Shape-Ups — C

I fear this may be Danica Patrick 2.0; I don’t understand why anyone thinks we’ll be excited over boobs and hiney with all of these adorable dogs running around.

Service A Thing Of The Past, CarMax — C

“Are you trying to steal my engine?” Solid humor, but the ad didn’t really tie into the service offered. You could have stuck almost any company logo in the end of that ad and it would have worked. I don’t consider that to be a positive.

Lassie, Chevy — C

Chevy had two kinds of ads on Sunday: the lame, quasi-jingoistic lunges to tug at our heartstrings, and the ads that they should have been making: trucks acting like dogs and making fun of old people.

Dear Kim, Teleflora — C

Listen, b:tch. Just be happy you got ANYTHING for Valentine’s Day. I’m still not comfortable with the word “rack” in live mixed company. But I’m obviously a prude.

Western Singalong, Bud Light — C-

Stupid Clydesdales. This was probably a 30-second ad that they decided to stretch into a 60-second ad, because it just took forever to get going. Bud Light had only one miss on the night, and this was it.

Runaway Cars, Mercedes Benz — C-

This ad had all the elements in the first act: The classic Janis Joplin song, the Diddy cameo, but the reveal of four boring-assed cars in some airplane hanger fell flat. If you’re such a luxury brand, Mercedes, why the hell are you advertising four cars at once?

Jazz Bar, Stella Artois — C-

Adrian Brody’s nose must have its own gravitational pull. He probably needed a straw to drink that beer.

Kid In A Candy Store, Carmax — C+

Machine-gun humor again. Pick a theme and stick with it, guys.

42 Wild Italians, Chevy — C+

It’s funny because old people can’t hear.

Let Others Go First, — C+

Perhaps I’m being too harsh here, but I’m always disappointed whenever I find out that an ad is a “” ad.

Changes, BMW Diesel — D

Not a Super-Bowl quality ad. Plus it was in the same ad block as the X3. Yawn.

Volt, Chevy Volt — D

A car that uses electricity instead of gas? But where does the electricity come from?

Dragon, Coca-Cola — D

Oh look, he’s shooting fireworks out of his mouth! Whatever.

Doggie Door, Doritos — D

Not even the best ad with a dog.

Snap Out Of It, Hyundai Elantra — D

I…stayed awake through the whole thing.

Engaged, TGI Fridays — D

People go to Fridays to end their relationships, not start them.

Over The Top, — D

A tired gimmick that needs to end. “It’s too over the top.” Lemme guess…Danica doesn’t get naked. And by the time she does, we won’t want to see it.

Hypnosis, Hyundai Elantra — D

This was like watching a Franz Ferdinand video on acid. There has to be a better way to tell me that compact cars don’t have to be boring besides saying “Compact cars don’t have to be boring.” Show, don’t tell.

I Wonder, Pepsi Max — D

“Wait…which one?” Funny, but totally forgettable.

Werner, Pepsi Max — D

Mandatory one-grade deduction for the nut shot.

Tony The Logger, Snickers — D

Decent sequel to last year’s monster ad with Betty White and Abe Vigoda. Richard Lewis? Fine. But Roseanne?! Back in the mothballs, please.

iPhone, Verizon — D


Make Sense, BMW X3 — D+

Gets the plus for the South Carolina shoutout, and really, out of all of the “We Are Blank” car ads in the telecast, this one was the best.

One Epic Ride, Kia Optima — D

The first of a handful of “ADD storylines.” Kia seemed set on cramming as many people, places and things into 30 seconds as possible. Instead of picking one weak concept, they picked a handful, and executed them to the point where we don’t even care about the car at the end.