Ad Age called it The “Celeb Bowl” and the Celeb Bowl this was. Of the seventy-plus national commercials on Super Bowl 50, more than 40 were expected to feature a celebrity. From Christopher Walken to Scott Baio, from T-Pain to Lil Wayne, the stars came out and out . . . and how.
Effective? Sort of, but like too many puppies in too many ads, the truism becomes truer: Seen one, seen ’em all.
Quick now, no peeking — was Alec Baldwin in the closet, or Christopher Walken? (OK, good, you pass, now name the product in that closet).
But the most effective use of a celebrity falls to Hyundai, and Ryan Reynolds, in “Ryanville,” also a winner for effective use of a pop song, Salt n’ Pepa’s “Whatta Man.” My winners, followed by the losers:
1.) Hyundai Elantra, “Ryanville.” Great ad in all sorts of ways — most of them relating to Reynolds, who clones multiple times as a star-struck pair of women drive by his various incarnations. Also kudos to the Hyundai “Bear Chase” ad: Bear 1: “I was gonna hug him.” Bear 2: “I was gonna eat him.” Bear 1: “You’re a vegan.” Bear 2: “Cheat day.”
2.) Apartments.com. Starring Lil Wayne, George Washington — a fake one, duh — and Brad Bellflower, eccentric Silicon Valley maverick (Jeff Goldblum, of course, reprising the role) as he rode a grand piano to the top of a building, while “Movin’ On Up” from “The Jeffersons” plays. Based on pregame teases, some viewers claimed it was racist because Weezy was cooking for Washington (who owned slaves). Weezy said calm down everyone . . . It’s not.
3.) Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl.” Sure, it’s creepy. Baby in utero delivers itself to get to the chip? And sure, it’s funny. Does it make me a bad person to have laughed? If so, guilty as charged. This was the last of “Crash,” a decadelong campaign by this Pepsi unit in which the ad was handed over to a member of the public. A winner by this member.
4.) Avocados from Mexico. A masterpiece in miniature — aliens on a tour of a “human” museum” — it’s full of great visuals and writing to match: “They had chia pets, just like we do” or “Anyone wanna feed Scott Baio? It’s included in the price of admission.” (Go to the web to see the long version: Priceless).
5.) Chrysler/Jeep: “In my life, I have lived a million lives . . . and found myself right where I belong.” Chrysler kept this one under wraps until after the halftime, but it seemed like just the right moment. The Jeep has a long history and this ad found exactly the right tangent, or tangents, in locating the emotional power of that history.
1.) SoFi. “He’s great. She’s not great. Oh, they’re definitely not great.” Yes, it grates. SoFi claims it only offers great loans to great people and in the process ensures that all people — great and small — hate it forever.
2.) Axe. Congrats, Axe! The first Super Bowl commercial in history featuring a woman having an orgasm. At least the long version did; maybe the 30-second in-game did not, but at least Axe secured its rep as Super Bowl’s tackiest advertiser, a distinction that’s turning into a tradition.
3.) Bud Light Party. A waste of three big talents (Amy Schumer, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen), with terrible writing (the “caucus isn’t too big!”) and the general idea that a beer party could be equated with a political party.
4.) Mobile Strike. Watch the former governor of California blow up stuff. Watch the former superstar blow up more stuff. Watch the “Terminator” ride an elevator and actually make everyone — millions of us — run to the bathroom. Watch! No, don’t watch.
5.) Budweiser/Helen Mirren: Dame Helen called drunken drivers “pillocks” — imagine! — but the particulars seem to have been overlooked. After her tirade, she coddles the beer — “Oooh, a cold one,” leaving a mixed message: Don’t drink. Drink.