Super Bowl XLV: What Were the Night's Best (and Worst) Ads?

Super Bowl XLV (aka Ex-El-Vee) is in the books, and the team with the yellow pants won a glorious victory. Wait, they were both wearing yellow pants. I don’t think Nina Garcia would’ve approved. But I digress. A hearty congrats goes out to the Green Bay Packers (sponsored by Cheese ™), and now that we’ve got the sports shenanigans out of the way, let’s talk about the evening’s other high-stakes game: The battle among Madison Avenue firms to create the ultimate Super Bowl ad.

Below, you’ll find my picks for the three best and three worst spots of the night, but by keeping my list tighter than a pair of Lycra pants, I’m gonna bet more than a few of you will have bones to pick with my selections. So head to the comments to rail against my glaring omissions and questionable taste. Heck, the pug fan in me might pop down there and join you in a glass of Haterade! (Oh, and to get up-to-the-second alerts about all my TV coverage, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.)

Super Bowl XLV’s Three Best Ads

3. (tie) Chrysler’s ‘Motor City’ (featuring Eminem): A haunting and unexpectedly beautiful love letter to Detroit from the folks at Chrysler, with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” pulsating in the background. “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?” asked a stark voiceover, as gorgeous images of the Motor City filled the screen Yes, the point seemed to be that luxury is borne of toil and sweat and hard work, but suddenly I want to take a weekend architectural tour of Detroit.

3. (tie) Carmax’s ‘Service Station’: Modern man freaks out big-time when confronted with ’50s-era service. Tell me I’m not the only one who howled at the “I’m being carjacked!” punch line.

2. Audi 8′s ‘Rich Man’s Prison Break’: The details in this ad about two rich older dudes breaking out of an upper-crust prison — the charge of the elegant Afghan hounds, the “hit ‘em with the Kenny G!” battle cry — were deliciously absurd, and that cameo from the cheesy sax man himself was a total touchdown.

1. Volkswagen Passat’s ‘Mini Darth Vader’: If you haven’t watched it yet, then far be it from me to spoil even a single detail. Press play below for the most adorable/hilarious ad of Super Bowl XLV. (Bonus points to the German car company for its “Black Betty” VW Beetle ad, an anthropomorphic joy ride that came thisclose to making my list as well.)

Super Bowl XLV’s Three Worst Ads

3. Groupon.com’s ‘Tibet’ (featuring Timothy Hutton): Hours later, I still haven’t gotten over the unpleasant tonal shift from “crisis in Tibet” to “amazing fish curry!” Yeah, this one was about as tasteful and fun to watch as car tires connecting with a baby bunny.

2. Brisk Iced Tea’s ‘Animated Eminem’: It was the best of Em (see Chrysler ad, above), and this was the worst of Em, as the snarling animated rapper explained his disdain for shilling product. Did they really end this spot with a tuxedo-clad ad exec getting pushed off the top of a tall building?

1. Pepsi Max’s ‘First Date’: Look, I wouldn’t have been so offended by this ad’s willingness to exploit ugly sterotypes about men (all they want from women is sex!) and women (all they care about is how much a guy makes!) if it had been, y’know, funny. But this limp noodle of an ad was as ugly and uninspired as the decor of the restaurant in which it was set. (This ad can’t have been generated by the same agency contest that produced the earlier — and much funnier — spot where the dieting woman hurls a soda can at her man, and takes out the flirty blonde jogger instead, can it?)

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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76 Comments
  1. ProudTVJunkie says:

    VW’s mini Darth Vader ad was just freakin adorable. I can’t get enough of it.

    The shift from serious to ridiculous in the Groupon ad caught me so off guard if actually made me laugh.

  2. Judith says:

    I agree with your choice of the no.1 worst but I totally think the Groupon Timothy Hutton was funny and supposed to be a wink towards celebrities telling us about the world.

  3. Linda says:

    My favorite was the Mini Darth Vader VW Passat hands down.

  4. Lee Harvey says:

    The Pepsi Max ads were the worst. Mean spirited and anti-woman.

  5. Barry says:

    Man all those sucked bad.

  6. Amanda Leigh says:

    I thought the Carmax commercial with the “I feel like a kid in a candy store!” variations was simple, memorable, and made me want to visit the website. Also, the tire commercial where they guy thought he had forwarded the email to all of his contacts instead of just one – brilliant =)

    I agree that the Tibet commercial was shockingly tasteless – there was a chorus of “wow” from my viewing party after that one.

  7. AJ Miller says:

    This ad can’t have been conceived by the same agency that ran the earlier — and much funnier — spot where the dieting woman hurls a soda can at her man, and takes out the flirty blonde jogger instead, can it?

    I found both equally offensive. All of the PepsiMax adverts were terrible.

    • Lee Hung says:

      I agree! The first one with the black couple and the white girl…..OMG! Just write that ad out. When you write it out you can see the racial stereotypes, the ad should have been thrown in the garbage immediately!!! And let me tell you, had the races in the ad been reversed, Al Sharpton would be on every show he could get his mug booked on today. Picture it, a middle aged white couple, in the park and cute black girl comes up and sits down and looks at them, and then gets a can hurled at her head! They’d all be in an uproar today. Absolutely inappropriate!That ad shouldn’t even have made it to the discussion table at Pepsi! Boo Hiss!!!

      • darclyte says:

        Forgive me, but I laughed at all 3 Pepsi Max commercials. The beaning the jogger with the can, the date thoughts, and the nerd hitting the guy in the crotch with the can launched from a cooler. Sure, the date and crotch shot ads were predictable, but the jogger one I didn’t see coming, and they all at least got a snicker.

      • Karen says:

        I completely agree. I found this commercial to be highly offensive and had the roles been reversed Sharpton would have been all over it. Awful awful awful commercial.

  8. philip says:

    The best was the Bridgestone Carma Ad.

  9. Zoe says:

    Volkswagon’s Mini Darth and Bridgestone’s Beaver and Man save each other were my two faves, followed by Audi’s rich person’s prison break.

  10. Vanessa M. says:

    The Pepsi Max spots were all consumer-generated; an agency wasn’t involved. The three Pepsi Max and three Doritos spots were the winners of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.

    • Michael Slezak says:

      Thanks for the info, Vanessa! I kept away from any pre-game info about the ads, so I’d be experiencing all of ‘em for the first time. (Sentence now tweaked to reflect your explanation.)

      • darclyte says:

        Hi Michael. Should you and your hubby ever actually decide to come to Detroit to check out our amazing architecture (both the crumbling and the still intact) I’d be glad to be your driver. Just reading that the ad even gave you that thought brightened my day.

  11. Mikaylah says:

    I watched the Mini Vader commercial and few days ago and have shared it with EVERYONE. Cutest thing ever. I hope my kids are that awesome. :)

  12. Jacob says:

    The PepsiMax, like the Dorito’s ads were user submitted ads from an online contest — so it’s probably not fair to say an ad “agency” was behind any of them. Every year, at least one or two of the winners are people who have no previous (professional) advertising experience. Usually the contest is just for Dorito’s, so I think expanding it to Pepsi Max was probably a mistake… with six slots to fill instead of just three, they just couldn’t be as selective as they usually are.

  13. Christine says:

    I thought the Doritos commercial with the pug flying at the door was awesome. I thought it was going to be one of those typical “look at the smooshy face dogs crashing into something and getting MORE smooshy faced”, but this one went a completely different direction. I admit, I might be biased because I HAVE a pug who would totally do what the pug in the commercial did!

    • Virginia says:

      I agree! I thought the ‘Pug Attack’ commercial was the best. It still makes me laugh hysterically because yep, that is exactly what a Pug would do. I have two of them. :)

  14. DES says:

    The Darth Vadet commercial was awesome!!! I loved it!

  15. Street23 says:

    The VW Vader ad was great, although I prefer the longer 60 second version that got sneak previewed on YouTube last week. I’m glad to see both Carmax ads getting some love, too — they were both pretty funny. I am a little concerned, however, that there seem to be no decent movies coming out that I want to see.

  16. Toia says:

    I am bias to VW since I am a lifelong driver bit that commercial made me react audably. Definatly my fave. The grouoon was in poor taste although because I always record the game and watch only the commercials after it’s over in saw the Liz Hurley one first. Either way do not draw positive attention to the product. I mean no one is thinking about the savings group on offers watching that ad they are likely thinking of the poor taste of the ads.

  17. John Grose says:

    Volkswagon’s Vader was the best, but I also liked some of the Doritos offerings and Teleflora. Personally, I like Budwiser generally has the worst commercials because they never take us anywhere new. It’s always the same tired joke. – John

  18. Terri says:

    Volkwagen darth vadar!! It was the only one that I laughed out loud! Loved it!!

  19. JohnDoe says:

    The best ads were the CareerBuilder monkey ad, and the Doritos ad where the guy licks his co-worker’s finger…lol, oh and the Ozzy and Bieber one was okay too. Most of the ads sucked big time this year.

  20. C says:

    totally agreed with VW’s Darth Vader even though we missed his mom in it. oh well. plus i liked the “Pug Attack” on the Doritos ad. classic. and i gotta say all of those movie previews look amazing!!!! can’t wait…

  21. Darrow says:

    I personally think Pepsi(Doritos Included) dominated the commercials and make Coke look second rate.

    Best Buy sucked…maybe I’m a little bias though, those b*stards fired me last year.

  22. Springtime says:

    Agree with you.
    I can’t get enough of the VW’ mini V D .

  23. deb says:

    My favorite is the mini Darth Vadar one. The longer version on YouTube is better. Just so cute & made me laught!

  24. Kate says:

    One I really liked was where the guy thought he sent an email reply all and ran around trying to stop people from seeing it! I also thought the beaver commercial was cute!

    • Ann says:

      The email commercial was particularly funny if you’ve seen the recent Modern Family where Gloria accidentally sends an inappropriate email and begs the computer to bring it back!

  25. Marie says:

    I really liked the Jack in the Box commercial, thought the end could’ve been sold a little harder, but good stuff. Makes me want to get that burger and win that Cancun trip.

  26. Marcie Yellin says:

    I don’t know if it counts, but I loved the House promo take off on the Mean Joe Green ad of long ago.

    • Mel31602 says:

      That was my favorite too and I don’t even watch house. I also liked the NFL ad with all the old sitcom scenes in it

      • Amanda says:

        I loved the NFL ad as well! My other fave were the Dorito’s cheese finger and Dorito’s brought back to life.

      • forrest says:

        i couldn’t agree more – being a tv junkie the nod to the original Coca-cola commercial was great and the collection of old favorites in the NFL promo was fun.

  27. milessilverberg says:

    Casting my vote for “I just don’t care about the Super Bowl ads one bit.”

  28. mjh says:

    Maybe not the best of the lot, but I liked the one with Faith Hill regarding the florist (which I don’t remember) and the young man asking her to help him write the card as he is ordering online. She tells him to write what is in his heart. He starts writing “Dear____, your rack is unbelievable…” What! I LOL’d :D

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Mini Darth Vader, hands down…doubly so because the little boy who portrayed him is six and battling a congenital heart defect, according to reports.

  30. mj says:

    sad, sad lot. Hard to distinguish anything good or bad they were all so mediocre. I don’t get the fuss about the kid in the Darth Vader costume. You must have to be a star wars groupie to appreciate it. Looks pretty dull to me. Probably like Transformers. Unless you were a little kid who dressed up and pretended to be Darth Vader the charm is missing.

    I did like the Detroit commercial.

    • Amber says:

      You do not have to be a Star Wars groupie to appreciate it. Being a mother to a young son, though, helps a ton. My son would TOTALLY do that, and the commercial really made me laugh and warmed my heart because it reminded me of my son. That is a much bigger audience than Star Wars groupies only, and clearly we are their target audience.

      • Amiee says:

        Not to mention I totally wanted to get with the father. So adorable giving his son that little surprise bit of joy and that little eyebrow raise he did after….rowarrrr!!!

  31. My favorite was the House ad which parodied the Big Joe Green Coke commercial!

  32. Buffy Freak says:

    The Snickers ad was pretty awful…Richard Lewis and Roseanne are NOT Abe Vigoda and Betty White or Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin. And the Adrien Brody/Stella Artois ad was really bad too…

  33. David says:

    That’s it, Slezak. You were right about the worst and #1 of the best, but other than that, you have the single worst taste ever.

  34. Broadway Baby says:

    I thought the Beetle ad with a beetle racing through the jungle was different and refreshing. I’d say that was my favorite. The Snickers ad was the most disappointing.

  35. Diana says:

    I wasn’t impressed by any of the ads. But I really hated the doritoes commercial where the dude licks the other dudes finger! Disgusting!!!! I hope I never have to see that one again!!!!!

    • forrest says:

      the finger licking as was one of the first during the Super Bowl – and it was disgusting – bad – bad for Doritos…was not appealing nor funny.

  36. TV Gord says:

    Holy moly, some people need to ligthen up! Some of you are easily offended.

  37. E says:

    The VW/Vader ad was the best for sure, but the full version (avail on Youtube) is even better, a little more buildup (and sync’d with the music a little better). LOVED IT.

  38. topoopon says:

    And what was that one with “test baby” getting thrown against a pane glass window and sticking? That was “eww”.

  39. Jessica says:

    KungFu Panda 2 and Glee commercial that actually involved a football were the only 2 good ones for me.

  40. hammer says:

    I liked the one where the housesitting guy brought things back to life with the Doritos. Bringing the grandpa back to life wasn’t what I was expecting! My favorite of the Dorito/PepsiMax commercials (which isn’t saying much, I guess..)

  41. Miranda says:

    Did Canada not run the same commercials? Because the only one I saw of these was the Eminem Brisk commercial. I’m pretty sure we got the usual commercials we always get and I was really disappointed. But then again, I did miss the last hour of the game.

  42. S says:

    I may be a TOTAL GLEEK when i say this but I loved the Glee Chrysler Ad

    Totally adorable!

  43. S says:

    No

    Canada never does unfortunately…

    Annoying really

    I have have to youtube them all

  44. Diana says:

    I loved the Detroit/Eminem commercial. So moving. Perhaps even more moving to me since I love Detroit 187 and know it won’t be renewed. WAH!!

  45. Topher says:

    The worst commercial is definitely Groupon. Hi let’s make Genocide funny! Whoever green lit that spot is an idiot. Also the overload of car commercials made it so that only VW’s spots were memorable to me. Personally, I loved the Detroit love letter but the other people in the room didn’t like it.

  46. David says:

    One of my favorites was the E*Trade baby sharing a “moment” with the old guy. I personally liked the Snickers commercial for the simple fact that Roseanne got clobbered. The worst were the Faith Hill commercial and the one where the baby gets thrown against the wall in a test chamber.

  47. Rachel says:

    LOVED the Detroit/Eminem commercial, it definitely deserves better than #3! Can’t argue with the Darth Vader kid, though.

    And I liked the Eminem/Brisk commercial, I thought it was amusing. Not the best, but certainly not the worst!

  48. Erin says:

    I absolutely loved the Darth Vader VW one. I would have liked it anyway, but since I have a five-year-old, Star Wars/Darth Vader loving, costume-wearing son, it was particularly poignant to me. A scene like that would play out in my own house (and has…my husband has told my son to use the force to do everything from open the gate in our community to eject the disc from the PS3, while he secretly used a remote to really do it). I thought all the Pepsi ads were totally stupid. But, oh the Vader ad…

  49. PJM says:

    I got an email from Groupon today, and apparently you can donate to the causes they had in the commercials (Greenpeace and The Tibet Project), so they weren’t completely mocking celebrities shilling for charities. Of course, before I knew that, the commercials were a bit jarring. Somehow, I don’t think Timothy Hutton would have done that commercial without knowing it really was for charity.

  50. O says:

    VW ad is so freaking AWESOME I can’t stop watching it!!!!!

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