Breaking Down the Super Bowl LI Ads

by Renay Daigle, Principal of Daigle Creative

For most people, the Super Bowl is about the two best teams in the nation coming together in an epic battle for a trophy, a team full of impressive rings and serious bragging rights. However for me, it’s always been about the battle of the brands . . . going back as far as age 13. This year was no different.

Now, while there are not many people who obnoxiously “shush” others during commercials like I do, according to AdWeek, 53 percent of Americans say they’d be disappointed if the Super Bowl went commercial free. But, if you’re a company who is trying to get the attention of even half of the 100 million people who tuned in, you had better plan to bring it. That said, many advertisers focused a little too much on getting attention, rather than making sure they have all the elements of a good commercial.

So, what separates the good from the bad? A good commercial should create a positive perception about a product or service within the mind of a specific target audience and then ideally move that specific target audience to take action. David Warschawski, a contributing writer to AdWeek, uses BEST as a handy pneumonic device to explain.


  • Brand-centric: Does the commercial reinforce the brand and what makes the brand unique?
  • Emotional Connection: Does the commercial evoke an emotional connection?
  • Stand Out: Does the commercial stand out from its competitors. Is it memorable?

(Fun fact: Only 33 percent of consumers can remember seeing a typical Super Bowl commercial in the first place.)

  • Target Achieved: Does the commercial have a clear target audience and does it achieve a business goal with that target?

For me, the winners of the night followed much of the BEST philosophy. They were on-brand, memorable, connected with the audience and had a clear purpose – whether that purpose was moving product or building goodwill.  These are my top three:

  1. Mr. Clean — Cleaner of Your DreamsAdmittedly, at first I was a bit creeped out by cartoon Mr. Clean as he romped around the kitchen, but then the commercial took a surprise turn with the result being a perfectly cast husband cleaning up. Using the iconic Mr. Clean was certainly branded and they showed the product being used in the kitchen and bathroom. They certainly tapped into the emotional well of women who would find nothing sexier than their husbands helping with housework. They even had Mr. Clean quipping about other commercials on Twitter throughout the game. Two clean thumbs up.
  1. Audi — DaughterWith 25 percent or more of Super Bowl ads going to car manufacturers, Audi took a big chance and stood out with a political point. It also checked off the BEST elements nicely. They have gotten a lot of pushback for the spot from people who did not appreciate their statement – so we’ll have to wait and see if it was worth it for them. I not only respect their #drivingprogress as a woman, but also as an advertising expert.
  1. Bai — Timberlake/WalkenIt’s hard to go wrong with Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake. Not only do you cover a wide range of age demographics, but it’s bound to be captivating. Also, many of us never knew if it was pronounced Bay or Bye – we do now.

Now onto the ones that were not as good. I must say that while Super Bowl LI was certainly one of the most exciting we’ve seen in terms of games, it was overall underwhelming in terms of commercials. And, bad commercials hurt more than good ones help. According to an AdWeek survey, about 70 percent of respondents said they were less likely to buy from a brand if the Super Bowl ad was bad. Comparatively, only 50 percent said a good commercial would motivate them to buy. For me, these commercials got a thumbs down:

  1. TMobile – #UnlimitedMovesMy guess is Beiber’s believers are a little less excited after this spot. He looked somewhat nerded out and his chatty lines at the end of the commercial were annoying. However, what was worse was that viewers were 30 seconds in before TMobile offered the big reveal that the consumer benefit they were touting was unlimited data. Taking their time cost them 4.8 million.  It also didn’t emotionally connect me to anything.
  1. TurboTax – Humpty HospitalThis commercial not only spent a lot on the air space, but also a pretty penny on production. It was entertaining and stood out; however, will you remember it was about TurboTax? It seemed better positioned for a healthcare company or AFLAC.
  1. Bud Light – Ghost SpudsBeing an 80s girl myself, I really wanted to like this commercial, but Spuds entered the scene 30 years ago, which means anyone under 40 likely never even heard of him. Also, many drinkers over 50 are likely paying more for higher-end brews. They are missing out on way too many drinkers. I’m not even going to into using the old the Christmas Carol motif . . . in February.

Here’s looking to Super Bowl LII.

For Renay’s full interview with WJXT4:The Local Station, click here or watch below.