Super Bowl LIII may be about football and an exciting half-time show, but at the end of the day, what we'll really be left talking about are the big game commercials. Sure, we are excited to see whether Tom Brady will extend his record as the winningest Super Bowl quarterback in NFL history or whether the Los Angeles Rams can defy the odds and take down the Pats. But these ads will live (in infamy, in some cases) long after the final seconds tick down on the play clock.
To celebrate, here's a look at this year's best and worst Super Bowl commercials so far.
Expensify — "Expensify This"
Adam Scott as the out-of-touch exec who tries so hard to be cool is some pitch-perfect casting, and then we jump right into 2 Chainz's music video that feels authentic and unforced but still sends home the point here of keeping tabs on expenses. That animated segment! The backhand clapping! Now, this is a slick Super Bowl ad.
Olay — "Killer Skin"
Ordinarily, it might not seem like a good idea to couple skin care regimens with the horror realm, since there's a whole sub genre of body horror devoted directly to that subject, but with bona fide scream queen Sarah Michelle Gellar on deck, it works well enough.
Bubly — "Michael Bublé vs. Bubly"
M&M's Chocolate Bar — "Bad Passengers"
Fellow moms will definitely appreciate the slow, but sure maddening experience that Christina Applegate endures here as the "kids" — in this case, M&M's who've been forced together in the brand's new chocolate bar — argue ad nauseum while she's trying to drive. There's an extra chuckle in store when she finally reaches her breaking point and issues a very unique and terrifying threat.
Pringles — "Sad Device"
Pipe down, Alexa. This ad does a couple of things right — it reminds us that we can mix and match our chips to try out different flavor profiles, and it adds a funny new layer to one of those pesky smart home devices that have been getting a little too personal lately. As a bonus, the commercial ends on disco earworm "Funkytown," ensuring the flavor sticks in fans' minds.
Stella Artois — "Change Up the Usual"
When we first learned that Sarah Jessica Parker would be slipping back into some Manolo Blahniks (probably) as her iconic Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw, we were pretty pumped. And while the first glimpse at what she was doing was rather meh, the final product here is much better. She and Jeff Bridges, reprising his role as The Dude from The Big Lebowski, both forego their characters' usual drink orders — a Cosmopolitan and White Russian, respectively — to try the beer, and upend the whole place in the process. The Dude abides by his desire to try something new, even if he hilariously mispronounces the brand name, and makes an unlikely new friend in the process. Good stuff.
Michelob Ultra — "Robots"
Thanks to Black Mirror's "Metalhead," Ex Machina and every other creepy tale of robots taking over the world, people are rightly side-eyeing the heck out of every AI achievement. But as this ad reminds us, tech can't enjoy all of the sensory experiences that human beings can. Take that, nerds!
Pepsi — "More Than OK"
We've all been there. You order a Coke at a restaurant and the wait staff kindly asks, "Is Pepsi OK?" This year, Pepsi aims to answer that with a resounding yes, courtesy of Steve Carrell and the woman who originated the "Okurrr" herself, Cardi B. The ad is a lot more inventive and interesting than this year's yawn-worthy Coke commercial, which retreads old territory, and it's a DRASTIC improvement over last year's Pepsi commercial debacle.
Yellow Tail — "Tastes Like Happy"
These are some pretty good analogies here for what "happy" must taste like, and they all revolve around the occasions when you'd be most likely to crave a glass of wine. This commercial is subtle and elevates the product without being too pushy or performative. Well played.
Doritos — "Now It's Hot"
Last year, Doritos brought the fire, literally, with their hip-hop pop culture mash-ups. This year, they're bringing some boy band action into the fold as well. Chance the Rapper pairs with the Backstreet Boys in all their comeback glory to add some heat to their biggest song, "I Want It That Way," after snacking on some Flamin' Hot Nacho chips, and it's exactly the kinda stuff that'll make '90s kids feel young again.
Hyundai — "The Elevator"
Jason Bateman is exactly who you might imagine as the prognosticator of life's most unpleasant tasks, so casting him as the elevator operator who casts a thin-lipped smirk as you step off for the jury duty and colonoscopy floors is pretty much perfect, and the ad does the trick to showcase the ease of the brand's new shopper assurance program. Well played.
Amazon — "Not Everything Makes the Cut"
When you've become as ubiquitous of a mega-brand as Amazon has, the best thing you can do is gift the world with a bit of self-deprecation, and this ad does that very nicely. Seeing all the biggest Alexa fails in motion feels right. It just does. And Harrison Ford as the grump dog dad? That's the good stuff.
Walmart — "Famous Cars"
To advertise its pick-up grocery service, Walmart towed in some of the most iconic cars in film history, including the Batmobile, theJurassic Park SUV, the Bumblebee bug, the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, the Flintstones' "car," the Back to the Future Delorean, the dog car from Dumb and Dumber, Cinderella's pumpkin coach and Lightning McQueen himself.
Audi — "Cashew"
This is probably more along the lines of what GM was going for with that terrible "robot suicide" ad, as it features a dude almost kicking the bucket and being not too thrilled to be rescued from the other side after seeing what it had to offer — including his grandpa and a sweet new electric vehicle.
Burger King — "Eat Like Andy"
Burger King really got a value package when it came to their Super Bowl ad. By recycling footage from Andy Warhol's hamburger segment from Jørgen Leth's 66 Scenes from America, they got to send the message that their meals were straight-up art. So simple, and yet so effective at reminding us of this piece of American iconography at the same time.
Mercedes — "Make it Cooler"
Mercedes-Benz's ad for the new A-class was like a dream come true, where serendipity befalls anyone who drives it, and they use that power for good — and fun — with a little Ludacris jams to make the ride that much sweeter.
Washington Post — "Democracy Dies in Darkness"
This year's Super Bowl ad slate was mostly apolitical, but the Washington Post reminded audiences exactly what they'd be missing without the fourth estate and what the media has lost in the process of trying to speak truth to power, including journalists who gave their very lives to the pursuit of the truth, like Jamal Khashoggi.
Michelob Ultra Pure Gold — "The Pure Experience"
We get what they're trying to do here. ASMR videos are viral gold, and goodness knows organic products have a place in the market right now. But despite Zoë Kravitz's smirking coolness, this commercial is just bizarre. Nice try, capitalizing on a trend and all, but unlike the brand's robot commercial, this one is ... not working.
DEVOUR — "Food Porn"
Kudos to this commercial for going in hard (pun intended) with its theme, but there are about two too many Not Safe for Super Bowl innuendos here. We could've definitely done without the sticky magazine shot and those jerky arm movements in the garage, because they elevated this commercial from clever wordplay and visuals to total ick status.
Bon + Viv Spiked Seltzer — "The Pitch"
There's a lot happening here, and very little of it is good. The CGI is not exactly Hollywood quality, for one thing, and the women look so contorted and uncomfortable that it's painful to watch. Then there's the fact that the inexplicable third act looks like the characters from Aquaman and Bruce from Finding Nemo got together for some kind of two-bit Shark Tank spin-off for absolutely no reason. The sight of all that water might do the trick in making people thirsty, though, so at least there's that?
Budweiser — "Wind Never Felt Better"
This one's got all typical markings of a solid Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. Cute dog? Check. Heavenly horses? Oh yes. Sweet song selection? You can't beat Bob Dylan. On top of that, the brand's pivot to wind energy brewing adds an eco-friendly factor. And yet this ad still feels like it's trying to shove three square pegs into one round hole. It's a little ridiculous, and what's worse is that it's also utterly forgettable.
Colgate — "Close Talker"
What is this commercial trying to say — that it's okay to invade someone's personal space as long as you're minty fresh? No, the real takeaway from this ad is just to not be like Luke Wilson's character. The ad might have been able to make the case for an effective toothpaste had it been set in one of the many situations where close-talking is inevitable — like the economy section of an airplane — but this just isn't it.
TurboTax — "RoboChild"
Did we learn nothing from the "Test Baby" incident of 2011? Making kids sad — even robot kids — is too much of a bummer to sell anything.
Squarespace --"Dream It"
It's hard to miss when you've got Idris Elba acting out some childhood fantasies of becoming a world-class pugilist and a fashion designer extraordinaire and a triumphant astronaut. That said, this all has very little to do with making websites, so this one's just okay.
Toyota Rav4 Hybrid — "Toni"
Watching Antoinette "Toni" Harris work is the kick in the keester we all need to be more productive right about now ... but it feels a little forced to juxtapose all her achievements with this car, no? Just us?
Planters — "Mr. Peanuts Is Always There in Crunch Time"
This is three different commercials in one, and, as a result, it's a little too much. Standing alone, Mr. Peanut's big thrill ride might be great, and the bit with Charlie Sheen acknowledging his own battiness is nice. But then you've got this third act with Alex Rodriguez and the kale chips, and it's just a hodgepodge of random mini-events, making this one just a so-so Super Bowl ad.
Avocados from Mexico — "Top Dog"
Nice try and all, switching the human-to-canine roles in a dog show, but this commercial is just not quite as clever as it thinks it is, and it certainly doesn't measure up to the brand's previous entries into the Super Bowl commercial game.
Google Assistant — "Joe Pesci Watches Home Alone Again"
Google hit a holiday homerun when they brought back Macaulay Culkin to revisit the relive the events of Home Alone with modern technology in play. So, instead of reinventing the wheel for the company's Super Bowl ad, they basically re-played the first ad with a little live commentary from Joe Pesci as Joe Pesci because why not?
Bumble — "In Her Court"
Serena Williams being a champion for taking agency over your dating life is a great idea, but this one would've really popped if we saw a little more of her off-the-court coolness, too.
Verizon — "The Team that Wouldn't Be Here"
After the company was accused of throttling data for firefighters during the California wildfires that claimed so many lives, Verizon could be seen as trying to restore some good will with first responders with this ad, which highlights those NFL stars who owe their lives to them. Whether they also intend this as a statement about the ongoing "Take a Knee" movement, however, remains unclear.
Super Bowl LIII will air on CBS and stream for free via CBSSports.com or the CBS Sports app (available on most connected devices). The game will also be available on CBS All Access. (To sign up for CBS All Access, go to the CBS All Access landing page and pick the plan you want to purchase. Head here to go straight to the free one-week trial.) If you have any questions about CBS All Access, which NFL games are available in your market, want to submit a question and/or would like to provide feedback, etc., click here.
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In addition to CBS, the Spanish-language version of the game will be broadcast on ESPN Deportes. Fans can also watch on fuboTV.
Kickoff for Super Bowl LIII is slated for Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET.