The Best and Worst of Super Bowl Commercials of 2014

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By almost all accounts (except for those of Seahawks fans, probably), last night’s Super Bowl was one of the most boring Super Bowls in recent memory. Bruno Mars’ halftime performance hovered slightly above our neutral expectations (his music is bland, but at least his feet can move), and the neon-green accents on the Seahawks uniforms looked kind of cool onscreen. Aside from that, without any power outages or nip slips, it was a pretty bland night (unless, of course, you entertained yourself with Flavorwire’s Official Halftime Show Drinking Game).

Unfortunately, even the commercials failed to make much of an impact. A couple made us chuckle or gave us a goosebump or two, but most seemed like last-minute attempts at tried-and-true formulas: puppies, Clydesdales, military homecomings, and bro humor. So, we present to you, in no particular order, the five best Super Bowl Commercials that stood apart from the masses — and the five worst, which left us either cringing or escaping to the kitchen for more dip.

The Best:

Chevrolet

This one has been on a couple “Worst” lists this morning, but we’re not sure why. Chevy’s “Romance” commercial, which recurred twice during the game, told the story of a snorting, lip-licking bull on his journey to impregnate some equally sexy cows. With so many commercials trying to pack waaaay too many jokes into 60 seconds (e.g. Johnny Galecki’s Hyundai ad), we like that Chevy took one theme and ran with it, and with an excellent soundtrack to boot.

Radio Shack

We appreciate a company that’s self-aware enough to poke fun at its own declining relevance, à la Radio Shack. Taking the classic insult “The ’80s called — they want their store back” literally, ’80s creatures like Chuckie, Hulk Hogan, Mary Lou Retton, and the California Raisins ransacked the place, making way for the Radio Shack of 2014 (which we have yet to see). Maybe they were just hoping for the flood of ’80s nostalgia to go viral, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Maserati

As this commercial played, we hazarded guesses as to what mini Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis’ powerful speech was selling. As it turns out, Wallis’ paean to the ones who “knew that being clever was more important than being the biggest kid in the neighborhood,” who “wait until they get sleepy, wait until they get so big they can barely move, and then walk out of the shadows, quietly walk out of the dark — and strike,” was actually a Maserati ad. OK, so we don’t quite buy Maserati as the clever little underdog hiding out in the corner, but this commercial gives us goosebumps every time we replay it, so it’s on the list. On that note, how do we commission a Batman movie starring Wallis as Bruce Wayne?

Coca-Cola

Surely the experienced ad folks at Coke knew what they were doing with this one, a lovely rendition of “America the Beautiful,” sung in different languages including Hindi, Arabic, and Tagalog. Immediately, the xenophobic racists we call our fellow citizens were up in arms about the ad’s horrible inclusiveness. It’s pretty much the same backlash and boycott threats (probably made by the same people) that were hurled against Oreo in 2012 when it posted a gay pride photo on Facebook. We’re gonna go ahead and guess that those “boycotts” won’t really threaten Coke’s profits.

Budweiser

Budweiser didn’t move too far off-brand with this “Puppy Love” ad, which made the rounds on YouTube well before its Super Bowl debut. We’ve come to expect emotional, Clydesdale-starring spots year after year, but the majestic horses, rain-soaked puppies, and best-friendship are clearly a formula that works, so here you go.

And… the Worst:

SodaStream

Scarlett Johansson’s banned SodaStream commercial got a minor tweak and made its way to the air, but we wish it hadn’t. Aside from the ridiculous premise that turning perfectly fine water into flavored soda is “healthy,” SodaStream is all too happy to promote the antiquated notion that a woman’s only means of getting attention is to parade around in a bandage dress and seductively play with a straw.

Axe

Axe’s placement on the worst list won’t surprise anyone, and the nauseating body spray company committed the same offenses we’ve come to expect from them — although they ostensibly tried to hide them this year under the guise of love. We’ve got some racism, and a hearty dose of sexism as well. There’s a Middle Eastern (perhaps meant to be Iranian?) couple with their finger on a big red button, an Asian (North Korean?) general commanding some troops, a Russian (?) soldier on a tank. But wait! All these seemingly menacing men aren’t starting a war (today at least) — they just want to perform romantic gestures for their girlfriends! Sorry, Axe. You’re not going create world peace with body spray.

Heinz

Apparently, Heinz’s basic strategy here was to promote how shitty their bottles are — both glass and plastic. First of all, everyone knows you hit the “57” to get the ketchup out, not the bottom. And secondly, we’re pretty sure this qualifies as false advertising, because none of the actors ruined their meals with ketchup floods after a particularly hard bottle-smack. Also, old lady fart humor is gross?

Subway

Gone are the days of Jared, and of Subway promoting itself as a healthier alternative to McDonald’s. Here instead is an advertisement for Subway’s new sandwich, the “Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt,” an idea clearly stolen from middle-school cafeterias and Allison Reynolds. Jared’s been replaced as spokesperson by Olympians like Michael “12,000 Calories Per Day” Phelps and Apollo Ohno, i.e. the only people who could actually eat this sandwich without ballooning. Also, the commercial is boring.

Bud Light

But the award for most boring commercial of the night has to go to Bud Light’s “Cool Twist” ad. It’s basically a kaleidoscope of Bud Light bottles set to the world premiere of a new Afrojack song. Not sure who your target audience was for this one, Bud.