Top Five Commercials from Super Bowl 2014


According to the buzz, this was a kinder, gentler year for Super Bowl commercials.

The buzz is right. The ads were less sexy, less edgy, more warm and mushy.

Also according to the buzz, the best of the lot (or one of the best) was the Budweiser ad with the horse and the puppy.

There, the buzz is wrong. Talk about belaboring a good thing. The one last year with the horse and the trainer was cute. This was cute with a candy coating. Too much.

Here, for your edification, are the Top Five Super Bowl Commercials of 2014:

  1. Radio Shack — “The ’80s called. They want their store back.” When’s the last time you saw an advertiser accurately and honestly describe its own greatest weakness, and have this much fun with it? Never, that’s when.
  2. Chrysler — “America’s Import.” They got Bob Dylan to do a car commercial. Bob. Dylan. And he did it with a pseudo-profound tone that mocked his own music and his reputation as some sort of American cultural prophet. I wonder how much they paid him. And I suspect it’s not enough.
  3. Budweiser — “A Hero’s Welcome.” The kind of warmth that Bud was going for with the puppy one actually works in this one. And yes, every soldier does deserve this kind of hero’s welcome. It’s been done, but this was done well.
  4. Turbo Tax — “Love Hurts.” Deals honestly, though in a twisted, ironic way, with the fact that most of America probably didn’t want these two teams in the Super Bowl. Kind of makes you wonder why all of those people watch the game, when you think about it.
  5. Pepsi — “Halftime Intro.” I don’t know why, I just really enjoyed the giant hands playing the Brooklyn Bridge like a giant electric bass, and the traffic circle like a turntable. Not all that complicated, but well executed.

I thought about including the Doritos/Time Machine one. But my colleagues at ADCO were mad at Doritos for not picking the one with the ostrich, which they loved. So I left it off…

radio shack


19 thoughts on “Top Five Commercials from Super Bowl 2014

  1. T.J.

    “And he did it with a pseudo-profound tone that mocked his own music and his reputation as some sort of American cultural profit.”

    Profit? Freudian slip? Don’t you mean prophet?

  2. Doug Ross

    “Budweiser — “A Hero’s Welcome.”

    There’s a letter on the Slate Dear Prudence advice website today from a military wife who says these over the top welcome home ceremonies are more for the benefit of the crowd than the soldiers.

    Her words: “I don’t think that the stories and ads are sweet and patriotic. I think that they are exploitative and insincere: that Americans post these feel good snippets so that they can feel like they are doing something to “support the troops” while they ignore/allow involuntary drawdowns, untreated PTSD, family violence, V.A. backlogs and all the other unpleasant realities that happen after the ticker tape parades are over. I know, of course, that my friends and family mean well and I don’t want to upset them by unleashing this rant, but it gets harder and harder to bite my tongue. Can you suggest a firm but gentle way to request that the onslaught cease?”

    1. Mark Stewart

      Yeah, I pictured a bit different relationship with Budweiser for too many returning soldiers. Maybe it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman dying with a syringe stuck in his arm in his bathroom that morning…

      Things like this may be meant sincerely, but they may certainly also be exploitative at the same time. This commercial felt that way.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I can see that sort of reaction.

      Anything a community does to relate to a veteran is bound to be wrong-headed, or tone-deaf, mainly because it’s tough for the community to relate to the experience.

      What I liked about the ad was that it showed the right attitude — a warm embrace. Not that that is necessarily what the veteran needs, but the intention is good.

      A lot of our notions of how to welcome a veteran home — the flags, the parade, the rah-rah — is very disconnected from what causes an actual hero to be a hero in a combat situation. A hero almost never does what he does for democracy, or the flag, or Mom’s apple pie. Maybe even not for the girl next door. Time and again, we see that soldiers do heroic things for a reason that, by definition, has nothing to do with the folks back home or their political notions about why the war is being fought. They do these things for the soldiers next to them, for their comrades — out of fear of letting the others down, and out of an obligation to look out for their comrades the way they expect their comrades to look after them.

      A community wanting to welcome a soldier back home can’t relate to that, because it — the community — was never a part of that intensely personal equation.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    But what about the controversy swirling around Renee Fleming’s daring change of meter for The Star-Spangled Banner?

    Personally, I thought she sounded amazing, had lively phrasing, and her outfit killed.

    1. Phillip

      Kathryn, I know I have this quixotic obsession about the national anthem, but I have to say that there’s nothing “daring” about the change of meter in the arrangement for Ms. Fleming. Doing the song in 4 has almost become the norm at least at Super Bowl level performances. It’s a concession to pop culture, I realize, which is fair enough when trying to bridge the distance between her operatic style and the kind of anthem most Super Bowl watchers expect these days. But to be really “daring” would have been to sing it in the original triple meter (which has only happened once in at least the last 7 SB performances) and let the beauty of her voice (and excellent diction) convey the message.

      1. Doug Ross

        I’m pretty sure when they announced to the crowd that a soprano was going to be singing the national anthem in New Jersey, half the crowd was waiting for Tony and a couple of the Bada Bing dancers to step on the field.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        The National Anthem should not be performed. It should be sung communally. However, given the sitch wherein a star does his or her interpretation of the national anthem, this was a good one. I am not familiar with other versions that have not garnered oppobrium, such as Roseanne Barr’s version, but this was nice. The phrasing made sense, rather than just being gratuitous, and the random melismas were at a minimum.

        I could also have liked her singing it perfectly straight.

  4. Bryan Caskey

    I didn’t watch anything after the kickoff to start the opening half was run back for a TD, so I’ll have to go watch most of the links above at some point.

    Having said that, of what I saw, I liked the Maserati commercial the best. I would never buy a Maserati*, but I found the commercial very gripping. The monologue with the idea of something small and scrappy going up against something big and slow was really interesting. I really wanted to know what the product was. The child’s voice was a great touch: “We were small but fast,” “Being clever was more important than being the biggest kid in the neighborhood.” “We have prepared. Now we strike,”

    I was completely surprised by Maserati being the “punchline” to the set-up. If you had stopped the commercial right before it showed Maserati, I would have had all sorts of guesses as to the product, but a European sports car would not have been one of my top 10. The commercial was a great set-up, but it was for the wrong product. It should have been for a product that I’ve never heard of.

    I’ve heard of Maserati. It’s not the scrappy little underdog. It’s not marketed to people who are scrappy little underdogs. Nothing about Maserati says small or little to me. Heck, it’s owned by mega-company Fiat.

    *I could blow a lot of money on a Land Rover, though.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hey, did y’all catch the Freudian slip in my post? I said Dylan “mocked his own music and his reputation as some sort of American cultural profit.” Instead of “prophet.”

    Social comment, that.

    It’s fixed now…

  6. Mark Stewart

    Radio Shack was the standout in a feeble commercial year.

    Way, way too many kids and bright colors in all of them. Nobody was taking real chances. I’m sure they all felt that they were because they were spending lots of money. But that is far different than risking alienating some to score with others. Those are the ads everyone wants to see – the fearless ones. Not the mush.

  7. bud

    You got the number 1 correct. Very good use of the 80s props. I really didn’t like the Dylan ad at all. It was waaay too serious for a car ad; a complete turnoff for me. I also liked the Doberhuahua ad )don’t remember the product it was advertising) and the bull put out stud in the Chevy ad. The puppy/horse ad for Budweiser was ok but not my favorite. Both the Doritos ads were cute. Thankfully they didn’t have a repeat of last years GoDaddy ad with the beauty and geek sharing a waaaay too long kiss.

  8. bud

    When’s the last time you saw an advertiser accurately and honestly describe its own greatest weakness, and have this much fun with it? Never, that’s when.

    Dominos did it a few years back when they dissed their old pizza sauce and came out with a new recipe. But it wasn’t as fun as this.

  9. Kathy

    The new Kraft mac and cheese ad (not on Super Bowl) is better than most of these loser ads. I do agree with Brad’s choices. Those were most of the better ads. Nearly all of the others were disgusting, boring, and/or just plain stupid.

  10. Norm Ivey

    Radio Shack nailed it for funny. Cheerios nailed it for making me want to buy their product (which is the point, after all). Coke nailed it on Twitter.

  11. Phillip

    I know Bob Dylan has done some ads before but…it’s just a little hard to take especially in the same week Pete Seeger died. I’m trying to think of iconic music legends, counter-culture types, who have stuck to their guns their whole lives in neither appearing in ads nor perhaps even licensing their music for ads. Any ideas? I’m thinking Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, but perhaps I’m just forgetting examples of their (or their music’s) appearances in commercials.

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