Great story lines abound in Super Bowl XLVII: the Harbaugh brothers as opposing head coaches, Ray Lewis’ final game, a spirited comeback by the 49ers, even a curiously timed power failure. That was all well and good, but we all know that the real action took place during the breaks in the game.
All right, that’s not exactly true, but there was plenty of interest in this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials. For starters, several of the top brands made their ads available for viewing prior to the Beyonce concert — er, the Big Game. Topping out at about $3.8 million for a 30-second spot, according to AdAge, it seems like a strange strategy, and it’s certainly a long way from when Super Bowl commercials were as well guarded as the nuclear codes.
Also, consumers were in more control than ever. Doritos, as it has for the last seven years, enlisted consumers to create and choose its Super Bowl commercials through its “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. It aired two user-generated spots during the game — “Goat 4 Sale” and “Daddy Fashionista.” Meanwhile, Audi let consumers select which of three commercials posted on its YouTube video channel would air during the game. Coca-Cola also enlisted consumers to vote on how its Super Bowl commercial would end.
Finally, there was plenty of star power in this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials. Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Willem Defoe, Amy Poehler, and Psy (does he still count as a celebrity?) all made appearances in ads.
SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL LIST
Have a favorite Super Bowl commercial you want to watch again? Download RealPlayer, play the video of the commercial and hover the mouse over the top right corner of the video screen and click Download This Video to save it.
You’ll have no trouble finding collections of Super Bowl XLVII commercials online. Even the National Football League itself understands how much Super Bowl commercials have become a fixture in popular culture. The league set up a site that let viewers watch and rank the Super Bowl commercials. You can also search for commercials by rating, brand, and air time (first quarter, etc.).
For the first time, consumers could participate in USA Today’s Ad Meter panel, a live poll conducted during the game to rank the best spots. Hulu AdZone offered sneak peaks of several Super Bowl XLVII commercials prior to the game and live streamed ads as they aired during the broadcast. The site lets fans vote for their favorites (via Facebook), and you can browse the best Super Bowl spots from previous years. It’s also available via iOS and Android mobile devices.
BEST SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS
Sentiment trumped humor when it came to viewers choosing the best Super Bowl commercials. The consensus favorite was Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” commercial, which details the reunion of a Clydesdale and the man who tended to him as a foal.
Also highly rated — number one on Hulu AdZone in fact — was the Chrysler Ram “Farmer” commercial, a celebration of the American farmer featuring the voice of the late radio legend Paul Harvey. Taco Bell’s “Viva Young” ad, which featured residents of a retirement home cutting loose while on the lam for the day, scored well on the NFL’s site and AdZone, though not quite as well on Ad Meter.
WORST SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS
GoDaddy.com has earned the reputation for sporting the most, shall we say, provocative Super Bowl commercials. Their ads always grab plenty of attention, but that’s not to say people like them. This year’s “Perfect Match,” with model Bar Refaeli necking with a nerd, complete with graphic sound effects, ranked at or near the bottom of every list… and that was the toned-down version of the spot.
Calvin Klein’s “Concept” didn’t find favor with audiences either. The commercial was a series of black-and-white beauty shots of a man with 12-pack abs sporting nothing but a pair of skivvies and a scowl.
MOST OUTRAGEOUS SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS
GoDaddy.com commercial aside, there was plenty of outrageous moments in this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Volkswagen’s “Be Happy” featured (mostly white) office workers speaking in Jamaican accents, a tactic that some critics described as racist. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ignores the swelling chaos around him as he chases down a milk truck in the latest “Got Milk” spot. Finally, a library is destroyed in Oreo’s “Cookie or Cream” even as the patrons keep their voices at a whisper.
Which Super Bowl commercials were your favorites? Were they as good as previous years’ commercials? Did you think any of them went over the top? Did you watch the Super Bowl online? Let us know in the comments section below.
John is a longtime technology journalist and author — long enough to remember when the CD-ROM was going to change the media landscape as we know it. He’s written for PC Magazine, CNET, CNBC, and CNN/Money among other media outlets. His favorite lost cause: the New York Mets.