The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads of 2014—Plus More Superlatives

Including: "Widest Gap Between Sophistication of Commercial and YouTube Comments," "Commercial Most Likely to Appeal to House Republicans," and "Worst Use of an Animal"

The game was horrible. The commercials were slightly better than horrible.

According to the USA Today Ad Meter, the most popular Super Bowl commercial yesterday was Budweiser's perfectly Budweisery spot, "Puppy Love." The worst ad, naturally, was the "GoDaddy" ad, because GoDaddy ads are, axiomatically, the worst. But best and worst is boring. Below I hand out slightly more dubious and convoluted awards for yesterday's commercials.

Most Impressive Use of Non Sequitur
Best Advertisement of Business That Defies Advertising

The spot: Watching the Super Bowl when your team isn't playing is like going to high school prom and watching your crush dance with some hotshot, while you assemble an analytical breakdown of his on-floor performance, so go ahead and do your taxes online, because getting a refund from the IRS is the only proper revenge in this heartless world. On the one hand, what? One the other hand, can you can come up with a better conceit for an online tax company?

Most Honest Ad
Most Cheerful 
Acknowledgment of Impending Doom, Bankruptcy
Best Use of Alf

The electronics retail industry is getting creamed by Amazon and Walmart, and RadioShack's stock has fallen from $20 to $2 in the last three years. When you're that low, all humor is gallows humor. So a company everybody forgot about after the 1980s invited a bunch of celebrities everybody forgot about after the 1980s to gleefully destroy a RadioShack store. It's whacky, it's self-aware, and Erik Estrada gives his best performance since the Reagan administration.

Most Likely to Inspire Insipid Cable-News Discussion on Multiculturalism
Widest Gap Between Sophistication of Commercial and YouTube Comments
Safest Ad to Call Your Favorite (Except on YouTube)


Coke is quietly the world's best advertiser (its Happiness Machine series was brilliant) and this spot—a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful"—is simply lovely. Just like the adorable Cheerios ad everybody was talking about before the game, it's a gem that acknowledges and embraces an America where fewer than 50 percent of young children are white. Watch it again, and do not scroll down to read the comments unless you want your Monday ruined.

Sweetest Revenge
Best Performance by a Broncos Quarterback in the Super Bowl


Tim Tebow behaving ridiculously is an old joke now, but an old joke told well is better than most commercials. The former Broncos quarterback, who can't get a contract in the NFL, talks up the benefits of not having one, and in the process shows that he's better behind the camera than in the pocket. Even so, he probably finished with a better Super Bowl than Peyton Manning, the guy who took his job at Denver.

Best Use of Dogs
Commercial Most Likely to Appeal to House Republicans

Compromise. It's Washington's longest four-letter word. And, according to Audi, it leads to rabid monster-head dogs attacking your children in cars, just like the Tea Party warned us. The transition to Audi cars is a little cheesy (Audi doesn't compromise on "quality") but the montage of tiny canine beasts attacking little kids is good old-fashioned fun.

Worst Use of Bob Dylan
Worst Use of Tautology
Best Explanation of Globalization
Most Apt Meta-Statement of American Decline

"Is there anything more American ... than America?" Deep stuff from Bob Dylan there. But Chrysler is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat, an Italian car company, which will change its name to "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV" and relocate to the Netherlands. Is there anything more American than a subsidiary of an Italian car company based in the Netherlands? Under the strictest definitions of American, yes, probably. In any case, the jingoism quickly fades. "Let Germany brew your beer," Dylan continues. "Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car." A brazenly patriotic commercial telling you to buy German beer and Swiss watches? Things have changed, indeed.

Best Argument for Buying a Car
Best Use of Pan-Out


Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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