My Top Ten favorite ads from the 2013 Super Bowl

To hundreds of millions of Americans, today is the day after Super Sunday. To me, it’s Monday. (Hey, if I were a football fan I’d use those Roman numbers instead of “2013” in my headline.)

Still, I took some time this morning to look at the ads from the big event last night for the ADCO blog, and following are the ones I put in my Top Ten. (“Top Ten” may not sound very selective, until you reflect that there were 47 of them. Really.)

Here were my admittedly simplistic, off-the-top-of-my-head criteria:

  1. Does it sell the product?
  2. If it features a celebrity, does it make good use of that star power (or is it just a gratuitous appearance)?
  3. Is it original, clever, creative, witty, funny, whatever?

Anyway, here’s my list:

  1. Time Warner Cable: “Walking Dead” — Definitely sells the product, and most awesome use of star power: Isn’t Daryl everybody’s favorite “Walking Dead” survivor? “Yes, ma’am.” See video above.
  2. Mercedes: “Soul” — Great casting (nobody else can do that evil look like Willem Dafoe), and only Martin Scorsese has made better use of the Stones’ music. I was wondering how they were going to get out of the trap of the Mercedes actually being a devilish temptation; it was handled deftly, by punching the car’s (relative) low price.
  3. Dodge: “Farmer” — Accomplished what the “Jeep” one tried to do, and did it in an unexpected way. This one is the rightful successor to the much-maligned, but remembered, Clint Eastwood one.
  4. Kraft MiO Fit: “Liftoff” — I’m gonna miss that character. Or maybe not. Good thing we have Netflix. My favorite line of his from last episode of “”30 Rock”: When he calls a computer “the pornography box.”
  5. Volkswagen: “Get Happy” — Not a match for the Darth Vader kid, but a laudably original attempt.
  6. Samsung: “The Next Big Thing” — Two of Judd Apatow’s stars took it to one level, Saul from “Breaking Bad” took it to the next.
  7. Toyota: “Wish Granted” — Funny. Good star power. Give it a B+.
  8. Go Daddy: “Big Idea” — Had the hurdle of communicating (to the remaining millions who don’t have their own websites) what Go Daddy, does; jumped over it nicely. Far better than the other GoDaddy ad that everybody’s on about.
  9. Hyundai Turbo: “Stuck Behind” — Loved the “Breaking Bad” reference, if that’s what it was (the guy in the hazmat suit).
  10. Budweiser: “Brotherhood” — Deftly evokes the question, “Can a really big horse be man’s best friend?” (See video below.)


67 thoughts on “My Top Ten favorite ads from the 2013 Super Bowl

  1. Doug Ross

    Here’s what USA Today’s polling showed for the results:

    Clydesdale Brotherhood was #1 followed by Tide Joe Montana Stain.

    I liked the VW “Get Happy” ad despite all the feigned indignation by people who were offended by a white guy using a Jamaican accent.
    The bottom 5 on the list are interesting:

    The Bottom 5
    Calvin Klein Guy in underwear
    Anheuser-Busch Black Crown party
    Anheuser-Busch Beck’s Sapphire fish singing
    Anheuser-Busch Black Crown “coronation” Bar Refaeli make out

    People at my Super Bowl get together were cringing and hiding their faces at the Go Daddy Make Out ad. Looks like whoever produced the Black Crown ads might be looking for a new client today.

    The “Farmer” ad commanded the attention longer than you would have expected. Paul Harvey could have read the phone book and made it compelling. He was a master of the spoken word.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    The Joe Montana stain would have made my Top Ten had I been more of a football fan than a “Walking Dead” fan. (Still, though, I’d have rated the Time Warner one higher for relative esoteric cool. Everybody’s heard of Joe Montana. Daryl, not quite so much.)

    Here’s what I said about the Joe Montana one over on the ADCO blog (where I commented, very briefly, on every ad): “As ads mocking people of simple religious faith (or people who take sports too seriously) go, this one gets the job done. On the upside, it sells the product.”

  3. bud

    Everyone’s least favorite seems to be the GoDaddy commericial with the hot supermodel kissing the computer geek. It was a good idea carried waaaaay to far.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You know what would have made it less offensive? If they’d left out the wet, smacking sound effect.

      Also, it would have been nice if Walter the geek had looked old enough to shave. As it was, there was a hint of pedophilia to it.

      Before I saw the ad, I saw a still photo from it in the WSJ. I thought maybe it was two girls kissing — one hot, one not.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    And I totally agree about the Ralph Lauren, Black Crown and Becks ads. As for the “GoDaddy” kissing one, I wondered, “Question: Is getting to kiss a babe like that once in his life worth, to Walter, being immortalized as a hopeless geek? Probably.”

    A number of times recently, I’ve seen Black Crown in stores and wondered what it was like — although I wasn’t quite curious enough to buy any.

    It would have been nice if those ads had said something about what sort of beer it was, giving me an indication whether I’d like it or not. Instead, they gave me… nothing.

    1. Doug Ross

      According to an interview with “Walter” on the Today Show, it took 45 takes to get the kiss right.
      I’m sure Walter is okay with his geekiness.

      And, let’s face it, people are talking about that ad. Isn’t that better than being forgettable like Beck’s Sapphire?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Not necessarily. I was stupid enough to buy a six-pack of “Budweiser Select” when it came out, thinking it would be extra-tasty Bud. Turned out it was a light beer, and tasted like it.

        Since the only actual marketing info I’ve seen on Black Crown (on the packaging) is that it’s an “amber lager,” I’m thinking it might be good, kinda like Yuengling. But after the “Select” fiasco, dare I risk the cost of a six-pack on the basis of that? (It doesn’t sound like much, but I REALLY hate wasting money on beer that turns out to be a disappointment, when I could have bought something I like.) I dunno…

  5. Steven Davis II

    The Dodge “Farmer” commercial was my favorite followed by the Budweiser Horse commercial. All the rest I didn’t even bother to pay attention to.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Paul Harvey’s voice really grabs you, doesn’t it? That’s the only one I actually saw during the Super Bowl, when I changed channels to see if it was still on. I thought at the time that this year’s ads must be pretty good, if that’s a fair sample.

    Unfortunately, most weren’t that good.

    1. Phillip

      Of course, Paul Harvey made that speech over 30 years ago, and what that ad really tries to tap into is our romanticized idea of what we think a farmer is, or maybe what a farmer once was. Of course, as the “food historian” (for lack of a better term) Rachel Laudan points out, that image doesn’t bear all that much relationship to reality today.

      Still, it’s an effective ad, without question. And I agree that overall it was not the strongest year for Super Bowl ads. And that was a good no-call at the end of the game, by the way, for you 49er fans.

      1. Steven Davis II

        Are you serious? That has to rank up there with one of the stupidest things I’ve read on this forum. I’m sure a “food historian” and agreed upon by a piano teacher knows more about farming and ranching than anyone who has actually grown up on a farm or ranch. Everything in that commercial is correct… no matter what some woman in NYC writes on her blog. Farmers still get up and have to milk cows twice a day, they still stay up calving or helping horses deliver colts, they work long hours, they still have to deliver feed by pickup or tractor, the list goes on and on. Maybe Phillip (and this woman) needs to take a trip out of the city to realize the process food takes before it’s offloaded at a grocery store… I’m sure the first thing both would do is complain about the “stink” as they stepped out of their BMW. Farmers may not use horse drawn equipment or pencil and paper to keep their books, but the concept and the work is the same.

        BTW – Phillip talking about farming and ranching is like me talking about classical pianos.

        1. Phillip

          “That has to rank up there with one of the stupidest things I’ve read on this forum.” I guess Steven doesn’t agree with me on the no-call at the end of the game.

      2. Steven Davis II

        In reading some forums I subscribe to, what really ticked me off is that others on the forums were posting what they had been reading in some of the more liberal forums and in those forums they were blasting the Dodge commercial and were offended by what was being said in the commercial. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell was one who had a serious problem with the ad because of the use of God repeatedly. Maybe that overly tight face-lifted old hag needs retire to her upper-westside Manhattan penthouse and stop trying to fool everyone trying to look like she’s 50 years younger than she actually is.

        1. Silence

          Andrea’s husband Alan Greenspan is going to come down and get all Federal Reserve all over your face for that comment. Probably put an irrationally exuberant boot up your a**…

          1. Steven Davis II

            I’d just wave my hand in front of him and the breeze would knock that old fart over and he’d probably break a hip… only to have Andrea’s facelift knot come untied and send her across the room like a deflating balloon. Both of them together are nothing more than a bag of bones, one’s just wrapped a little tighter.

    2. Rose

      I liked the Farmer ad and I also didn’t like it.
      It showed big agribusiness out west. Those aren’t the farmers that my family members were.
      It also showed a token black male, a token white female, and a token brown couple (Latino I guess?).
      But the close up of that one farmer’s hands….yeah, those were my granddaddy’s hands.

      1. Steven Davis II

        Perfect example of political correctness in the ad. Even though 90% of farmers are white males… Dodge obviously upset some because they didn’t include enough black, brown, female, left-handed, glasses wearing, etc. members of the entire population.

        1. Rose

          I think the overwhelming numbers of whites in farming is a reflection of agribusiness and the decline of the family farm. The ad did not reflect my memories of my grandparents’ community of farmers. Small family farms, white and black. No cowboy hats. Denim coveralls, straw hats, and my granddad had a pith helmet looking hat. I suppose most farming today is Western and big. But those elements of the ad were jarring to me, and saddening.

          1. Steven Davis II

            I grew up in the Midwest, I didn’t see my first non-white farmer until I moved to the South. There was nothing sad about that ad, it was 100% the truth.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now that Rose mentions it, I did think the ad had an awfully Western feel. I kept seeing cowboy hats, and thinking that said “rancher” to me more than “farmer.” Of course, that’s my brain being inclined toward cliche. Of course people who work outdoors would be inclined to wear broad-brimmed hats, and they don’t have to be an Old MacDonald straw hat like in children’s books….

        1. Steven Davis II

          Were you hoping for the New England farmer look? Perhaps more of the Oliver Wendall Douglas look?

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        Again, I think Rose has it right…

        Farming today IS more Western than it was.

        When I lived out in Kansas for a couple of years, after having lived all over the Southeast, I learned what it was really like to live in a FARM state. By comparison, SC — and Tennessee, the other state I’ve lived in as an adult — are quite post-agricultural.

        The rhythm of farm life affected everything out there. The two big annual events that my newspaper covered — and covered both thoroughly — were the state fair and the wheat harvest. When the harvest was underway, you could see the clouds of dust all around Wichita, as the combines rolled through, making their gradual way from Texas up to North Dakota. It was something that rolled across the whole state in a way that’s hard to imagine on the East Coast.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          One thing I learned out there was how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Valuable life lesson. (Actually, it was pretty simple, on the small scale — take the head of a stalk of wheat, rub it between your hands, open your hands and let the ever-present wind blow the chaff away…)

    1. Silence

      Here’s an interesting tidbit for you bud. Movie stars and supermodels look really attractive with perfect lighting, a professional makeup artist, and a skilled photographer. Apparently, “she cleans up real nice” as we’d say back up in the holler.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Mab, I did not allow your comment that went here. Many would have read it as joltingly antiSemitic. While I feel quite sure that your comment was meant ironically, I wasn’t at all sure what point you were driving at. It was vague…

        1. Mab

          I’ve learned lots of things about anti-Semitism first-hand now since my almost-official-now conversion. Including Mother’s Day ‘gifts’ of spiky soap and drawings of hell. It’s a wild, wild life.

          1. Mab

            Silence — two words: Dirty Jew.

            Look up the history of that. It goes way back — even before Nazi Germany or Police State America. Happy Education!

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I just did the math, by way of telling myself I shouldn’t be looking her up on the Internet (the way some people seem to do), and the year she was 18, I turned 50…

        1. Silence

          You know what would make Bar Rafaeli even hotter? If she got some of those fake fangs and misaligned “yaeba” teeth that the Japanese girls are getting. They are all the rage nowadays. That would help her out immensely.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    I thought this was interesting…

    The WSJ I get at home goes to bed way too early to reflect actual viewer reactions from the Super Bowl (or any results from the game). So the story on the ads reflected only what insiders thought of them:

    Oprah Winfrey and a wrinkly senior named Bernie Goldblatt helped Chrysler and Taco Bell win the advertising battle at Super Bowl XLVII Sunday night amid a power outage at the New Orleans Superdome that interrupted the game.

    Chrysler Group LLC., which enlisted Ms. Winfrey to do the voice-over in a touching Jeep spot that paid tribute to the troops, was one of the big game’s most liked commercials, according to advertising executives and consumers surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

    Really? That’s what Madison Avenue thought? Well, neither of them even came close to my Top Ten.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, over the weekend, I was reminded why I am not a football fan.

    I was, before the fiasco of Super Bowl III. (Actually the first game called a “Super Bowl,” but the third post-season game played between the champs of the NFL and AFL.)

    I had waited what seemed like forever for my team, Johnny Unitas’ Colts, to with it all over the hated Packers. And they had. They were the NFL champions. Case closed.

    Oh, there was that silly post-season game that the NFL champ had played the last two years against the champ of the second-rate AFL. But that was a foregone conclusion. It didn’t really count.

    Until Joe Namath changed everything. I still remember that snot-puppy’s bragging before the game, which of course drew my scorn. Until he delivered on it.

    The fact that everything that was right and true, all the honor that the Colts had earned that season, could be overturned by ONE fluke of a game made me hate football.

    In baseball, you prove you’re good by coming out and playing day after day. And even the best team loses a third of the time, but gets up each day and dusts itself off and goes out and proves how good it is.

    In football, you lose one game and you’re chopped liver. Which isn’t right. Life isn’t like that; nobody wins all the time in real life.

    There’s something absolutist, something fascist, about football’s insistence on only the undefeated being honored.

    Anyway, enough with the sermon. Here’s the thing that creeped me out over the weekend. The WSJ, apparently in the effort to do a Super Bowl related angle no one else on the planet would think of, did a retro feature on Joe Namath’s bachelor pad from back in the day. Really, I’m not making this up (even by the WSJ’s standards of celebrating all aspects of conspicuous consumption, this idea was reaching). And there he was, looking just as he did as he sat at poolside bragging to all the sports scribes how he was going to beat the Colts…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Brad, did George Will help you write that? The NFL has a single-elimination playoff system following a 16 game regular season. You don’t have to win all your games to make it to the playoffs, but the regular season is how you qualify.

      Once you’re in the playoffs: If you lose, you go home. That’s kinda how single-elimination playoffs work. It’s exciting. (See: Madness, March). You know what the best part about the World Series is? GAME SEVEN. It’s win or go home.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The fact that there are only 16 games in the season supports my thesis. A baseball team can play that many in two weeks.

        What this does is make every game of SUPREME IMPORTANCE, with a ridiculous amount of energy expended (particularly in my old medium, newspapers, but on TV and radio as well) on ANTICIPATION, and looking back at LAST week’s game. Very little time is spent actually playing the game, so the world makes all sorts of high-stakes rituals out of peripheral things like the coach’s weekly press availability, and the draft. To me, the fact that the NFL draft is actually a big attraction that is looked forward to with the same absurd intensity as actual football GAMES is palpable evidence of a culture sliding into decadence.

        It was one thing when football consumed so much attention all week (anticipation and looking back on every day but one) during the season. Now that it has been stretched into looking back at last season and looking forward to next season ALL YEAR LONG, we have truly crossed the border into insanity. Nothing is that interesting, with the possible exception of sex.

        It’s just ridiculous.

        With baseball, there’s a (relative) minimum of hype, and the entire season is spent in actual play, instead of TALKING about playing. And when the season’s over, it’s over, until the spring. It’s sane, relatively speaking. It’s in perspective.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Of course, if all the focus on something as peripheral to the game as the annual draft is evidence that football obsession has reached the point of decadence, I guess the fact that we’ll spend so much time discussion the ADS during a football game says the same thing, only more so.

          That’s one way of looking at it. Another way, the way I prefer, is that it’s a good way to change the subject from football…

        2. Steven Davis II

          You should write an guest editorial to The State newspaper stating your views and that the NFL should play at least four games per week.

          1. Steven Davis II

            I don’t know what that last message was, it was something I wrote earlier.

            Yeah injuries will go up, but we’ll see who the real men are… those who can play 4 games per week. I say let them use whatever steroids they want… it’d be great to see 600 pound linemen, kickers who can kick 109 yard field goals and quarterbacks who can throw 90 yard strikes to receivers who can run a 2.5 second 40 yard dash.

  9. bud

    This is an example of 2 people viewing the world from different angles. It’s called parallex, a term borrowed from astronomy. That is how the distance to planets and stars are measured by calculating small differences of an object from two different place. What Brad characterizes as “the fiasco of Super Bowl III” from his perspective lives on in my mind as the absolute greatest sports memory of my entire life (rivaled only by Whit Merifields winning hit in the 2010 CWS). To a budding 12 year old liberal the triumph of the progressive, forward-looking AFL over the cranky, anachronistic NFL was priceless.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I know. Years ago, one of The State’s columnists wrote about that game as the one that really turned him on to football.

      With me, it did absolutely the opposite. Partly because the Colts were my team. Here’s another retro tidbit related to last night’s game… The only pro football game I ever saw in person was an exhibition game that the Colts played against the Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl in 1965. It was played to prove that New Orleans could turn out enough of a crowd to justify having its own team.

      Two things I remember about that game: First, it made me a Colts, and Unitas, fan. Second, I went to get a Pepsi from a concession stand, and it cost 25 cents, which I thought was scandalously high.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      But aside from my being a Colts fan, it does reflect worldviews.

      I’m not a big George Carlin fan, but I do agree with much of what he said comparing football to baseball. To me, baseball embodies so much that is good about this country, and football the opposite. Which is why I view it as a tragedy that for many years now, the Super Bowl has been a bigger deal than the World Series. If anything says the country’s going in the wrong direction, that does.

  10. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaking of retro stuff about the Super Bowl, there was a fairly interesting feature on “The Takeaway” this morning about how, in the late 70s, America was so amazingly square that the halftime show featured “Up With People,” year after year.

    For you youngsters, that was this painfully whitebread singing group that seemed designed to evoke everything Nixon meant in “Silent Majority.” Except they weren’t silent.

  11. Lynn

    What, no one liked the Taco Bell Old Folks Home Breakout Ad? I loved that one. You must have been on the Puppy Bowl for that one.

  12. Norm Ivey

    The Oreo library ad was the only one I laughed out loud at. I liked the Paul Harvey ad, and I’m glad they kept the sales pitch muted on it. I knew 10 seconds into the Bud ad where it was going to end–just a variation on a theme from recent SB ads for them. M&M, Taco Bell, Hyundai and Rav4 all were solid.

    Hmm…apparently I like my SB ads just a little over the top.

  13. Brad Warthen Post author

    Regarding the Rav4 ad…

    How come the Dad always has to be the loser idiot? I ask this because on something else that we non-football fans were watching last night — “Downton Abbey” — it’s become an every-week meme that the paterfamilias is always wrong.

    Why must this be? I ask as, you know, a Dad…

    1. Steven Davis II

      “How come the Dad always has to be the loser idiot?”

      Maybe because the writers was inspired for the idea while seeing a guy watching Downton Abbey when the Superbowl was on. Do you even own a man card?

  14. Brad Warthen Post author

    Sort of to tie things together…

    I’m realizing that there’s a theme running through the ads I like…

    Daryl from “Walking Dead,” Saul from “Breaking Bad,” the Judd Apatow starts Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, and Tracy Jordan from “30 Rock” all embody what I think is cool and clever in popular culture. Traits I don’t associate with football, which is why I take more interest in the ads.

    As we know, there’s no crying in baseball. And there’s no irony in football. Among other things.

  15. Brad Warthen Post author

    I was intrigued by this headline over at the WashPost site: “What our favorite Super Bowl XLVII commercials say about us.

    Of course, it didn’t deliver. It was just a listing of the most popular eight ads (one of which, somehow, I missed), with some cute asides sandwiched in. (A lame list, it lacked three of my Top Five.)

    If you want depth on what our favorite ads say about us (or at least what my favorite ads say about me, which is what we care about, right?), come to

  16. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s something more interesting from the WashPost:

    Football is a cruel sport that permanently injures the brains of its players. A “great hit,” the kind that elicits “oohs” and leads to instant replays, is a trauma. The brain slams into the skull. Hard. At the University of North Carolina’s Sports Concussion Research Program, they put six sensors into the helmets of their players. Malcolm Gladwell reported the results for one young defensive lineman, who in a simple day of practice, sustained four hits ranging from 63 to 96 gs. To put those numbers in perspective, Gladwell writes, “if you drove your car into a wall at 25 miles per hour and you weren’t wearing your seat belt, the force of your head hitting the windshield would be around 100 gs.”

  17. Luke

    So aren’t you in the advertising business now? I see you picked the one that got the top overnight numbers as dead last! Time for deep examination…….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You talking about the Clydesdale ad? Hey, that’s not dead last. It made my Top Ten out of 47. I discussed the others over on the ADCO blog (“Did this year’s Super Bowl ADs run out of power, too?“).

      In any case, I wasn’t doing a list of what I thought would connect with the broadest audience. I was listing the one’s I liked best. I’ll take Daryl shooting walkers with his crossbow over a cute horse any time.

  18. Phillip

    That’s interesting that when you see Bob Odenkirk, you think of his character on Breaking Bad. When I see him, I think of him as Larry Sanders’ agent, and even before that, going back twenty years (!) now, from the all-too-short-lived Ben Stiller Show, and especially his performance in this classic bit.

  19. bud

    Anyone who defends major league baseball by suggesting it is on a higher moral plain than football is not keeping up with the facts. Baseball has become a joke with the rampent steroid use and incredible mendacity regarding that substance abuse. It got so bad that there was not one single player inducted into the hall of fame this year because all the best “athletes” made their carreer stats by cheating. At some time in the future we’ll start to see these drug addicts succumb to a variety of drug-related cancers at a young age. Bottom line: in the NFL the head trauma is at least the result of legitimate on-the-field play and not out-of-control cheating as is the case with MLB.

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