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2021 Super Bowl: The Good the Bad and the Constant Singing

This year’s crop of spots was filled with things you expect, like celebrities, things we’re tired of, references to how messed up the world is, and plenty of high-dollar productions on display. Let’s look at some of the winners and losers.

Winner: Comedy involving the product.

 To my thinking M&Ms won the night with comedy centered around using its product to do something rarely seen in years; making an apology. It did so brilliantly, with a series of funny vignettes with people making things right, relegating the requisite brand character appearance and celebrity cameo to the very end.

Tide comes in a close second with a hilarious effects-driven humor about a boy with a supernatural, and mistreated, Jason Alexander hoodie. Dorito’s with a flat Matthew McConaughey gets an honorable mention for dramatizing the new aspect of the product with the story device. Though how far do you go throwing shade at flatness when the majority of your product line is still flat chips?

Loser: Singing.

Just because you can… should you? Though sure to be a USA Today admeter darling, Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila singing a modified version of Shaggy’s “Wasn’t me” was cringingly bad. Shaggy’s section wasn’t much better. Oat milk brand Oatly’s CEO singing for 30 seconds felt like a painful eternity. And Dolly Parton’s reworking of “9 to 5” into “5 to 9” probably sounded like a good idea, but came off frail and a little sad. One exception was Turbo Tax, who’s moving desk screen people set piece was an informative and comedic triumph. And limited it’s sung original music refrain to the very end, instead using spoken word over music throughout to surprising effect.

Winner: Celebrities actually adding something.

McConaughey and Dan Levy certainly added to the first winners mentioned, but there were quite a few “more than just cameos” that worked out well. Both Doordash and Uber Eats put their funds from mercilessly up charging restaurant delivery to good use with a fun visit to Sesame Street and to the basement of Wayne’s World.  Jimmy John’s fabricated an amusing rival with Brad Garrett. Amy Schumer as the Hellmann’s “Fairy God Mayo” showed us all the things you can do with Mayo. (Including Chocolate Cake! Eww.) Four tiny Maya Rudolph’s serenaded us about buying boots on installment. Don Cheadle and Michelob Ultra lampooned celebrity cameos in ads themselves. And Tracy Morgan perfectly led a pair of effects-driven ads about the perils of not being sure. 

Loser: Seriousness.

The Super Bowl is traditionally the zenith of escapism. But this theme has waned in recent years as brands use it as an opportunity to branch out from engendering themselves to us into more world-saving endeavors. I was braced for an onslaught of such executions but there were fewer than expected. Chipotle told us how eating a burrito can save the earth. Bass Pro actually busted out “in these trying times,” as they encouraged us to flee civilization for the woods. American-made Weather Tech took 2 placements to tell us the one thing we already knew about them.

Jeep and Bruce Springsteen spent well over 2 minutes explaining how we can overcome cultural divides because there is a tiny empty chapel in Kansas that exists in the exact middle of the country. And Bud poured Lemons down on a 2020 world that didn’t have masks, but did have cardboard people in an MLB stadium. One major exception to all the wasted seriousness was Toyota’s telling of Paralympian Jessica Long’s backstory. While only loosely connected to the brand, it was an amazing saga with tears held back if only to see every second of the spectacular water effects and sets. Easily one of the most elaborate visual spectacles of the evening.

So, what do you think? Did I miss any standouts? Trash one of your favorites? In the end, advertising is the real winner. Taking the stage for its once-a-year moment in the spotlight.

About the Author:  Paul Prato is an Executive Creative Director at PPK. Paul has helmed campaigns for Visit Tampa Bay, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Bright House Networks, PDQ, Metropolitan Ministries and Pinch-A- Penny Pool Supply, among others. He believes in producing great work by any means necessary and brings that philosophy to each account he touches.


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