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Super Bowl 2015: The 10 best (and 5 worst) commercials

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Super Bowl Sunday was a good night for soul-stirring shots of global beauty, incongruously placed celebrities, wannabe blockbusters, and dads, dads, dads—or, at least, dads who have made the life-saving decision to choose Nationwide. (More on that later.) But which of the night’s splashy ads were most effective—and which ones just made us feel, well, icky? (Looking at you, Disgusting Foot Gremlins.) We break down the best and worst below.

BEST

10. Jeff Bridges for Squarespace

What is Squarespace? What is Jeff Bridges doing in this perfectly normal couple’s bedroom? What’s the meaning of life, maaaan? You’ll find none of the answers in this bizarre 50-second spot—but it’s more than intriguing enough to prompt you to visit the site it’s hocking (DreamingWithJeff.com, which hosts a collection of soothing sounds meant to help you sleep… starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, because why not). Which makes it a completely successful commercial, as well as a delightfully offbeat one. —HB

9. #DodgeWisdom

Old people rule! Funny and kind of poignant, and surprisingly high-energy given that everyone onscreen is old enought to be your grandparent’s uncle. —DF

8. Bud Light’s Human Pac-Man

Does the ad make me yearn for a crisp, soapy bottle of Bud Light? Not really. Still, there’s no denying that Human Pac-Man looks really, really awesome. —HB

 7. Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric ponder “What is Internet?” for BMW

So much to take in in this commercial. Bryant Gumbel’s ’90s tie. Katie Couric’s ’90s hair. The fact that the old Today Show set had a lot of, what are those things, oh yeah, books. And then there’s the SMASH CUT to two decades later, when the commercial goes Full Linklater and lets us really experience, like, the passage of time. Gumbel is SO CONFUSED. Couric is really trying: “Fan? Turbine? Fanbine?” Can we get a new talk show where these two just drive around while their guests are in back? It would be like Comedians in Cars with Coffee, but with non-comedians who aren’t drinking coffee. —DF

6. Coca-Cola’s “Make it Happy”

The only sure things in life are death, taxes, and the incontrovertible truth that the internet is a dank cesspool of anonymous hatred and rage. (Hi, commenters!) Well, until a sentient bottle of Coke worms its way into the mainframe and transforms that series of tubes into a place of corn syrup-induced joy. It’s a lovely sentiment, though of course not everyone online sees it that way. (One of the ad’s current top YouTube comments: “In a world of sissies and losers, this commercial garners applause. Pathetic.”) —HB

5. #LikeAGirl

Super Bowl ads trend snarky and referential, but every year, there are a few companies that really stretch themselves and try to conjure up something like genuine inspiration. That’s definitely true of this spot from Procter & Gamble, a vaguely feminist declaration that “Like a Girl” can also mean tough, strong, and proud. On a testosterone-heavy day filled with commercials about dads and dudes, this one stood out. —DF

4. Mophie, “All-Powerless”

A hurricane hits Nebraska. A tsunami hits Paris. A tree spontaneously catches on fire. A dude is walking around in a “The End is Near” sandwichboard—and for once, he’s right. Then, after multiple scenes of mysterious destruction, we flash up, up, up to the cause of all this mayhem: God’s smartphone has run out of battery. Deities: They’re just like us! —HB

3. “Avocados from Mexico”

The Garden of Eden-meets-Draft Day concept is cute enough to be a children’s picture book—and I love the hard left turn at the core of the ad, where you don’t really know what it’s about until the last few seconds. But what really sells this is the little jingle at the end. I’ve been chanting “Avocados from Mexico” all day. At a certain point, I started hoping that every advertisement would end with someone singing “Avocados from Mexico.” —DF

2. Danny Trejo joins the Brady Bunch for Snickers

The candy bar’s “Hungry?” commercials have been around for five years at this point—but this series is showing no signs of fatigue, thanks to its canny central premise (Snickers-starved layperson transforms into random grumpy celebrity) and easily-replicable format. It’s like the Stefon of ad campaigns—and its 2015 Super Bowl spot may be its best yet. Who knew that Danny Trejo, Steve Buscemi, and The Brady Bunch go together like chocolate, peanuts, and caramel? —HB 

1. Liam Neeson for “Clash of Clans”

Question: What is Clash of Clans? Answer, in the form of a question: Who cares? Celebrity commercials are a dime a dozen on Super Sunday nowadays—yeesh, Clint Eastwood did a Super Bowl commercial—but this is an uncannily perfect riff on Neeson’s whole star persona, glorying in his dude-from-Non-Stop badassery while also poking fun at it. (It is most certainly not pronounced “Lie-am.”) This is definitely the best Taken sequel of the year. —DF

WORST

5. Breaking Esurance

Nope. Nope. Nope. Like, okay, Bryan Cranston wants to make some scrilla, no problem. But this ad can only make the most obvious Breaking Bad jokes, over a year later? I dunno. Gandolfini would’ve never done this, is all I’m saying. —DF

4. GoDaddy’s “Here’s to the Working Guy”

Okay, GoDaddy: I can respect the fact that you’ve graduated past scantily-clad women and crude sexual humor. That said, this hollow, pandering, faux-inspirational tribute to small business owners is a different kind of lazy—semi-understandable, given the circumstances (it’s a replacement for the company’s tasteless lost puppy ad), but underwhelming nevertheless. —HB

3. Pete Rose in the Hall

Apparently this commercial has been around for awhile? Which still makes it unforgivable that it aired during the Super Bowl, since it shouldn’t air anytime, ever. Like, who told Skechers this was a good idea? Although now I’m excited for a few years from now, when Skechers makes a video starring Alex Rodriguez, where he says that his Skechers help him to enhance his performance, and then someone says “Alex Rodriguez! That’s funny, because you used steroids. Hahaha!” —DF

2. Kate Upton for Game of War

Kate Upton: Warrior Princess? Maybe we’d believe it if she sounded even a teensy bit excited or convincing, instead of like a 9th grader forced to read her paper about To Kill a Mockingbird in front of the whole class. Game of Thrones this ain’t. —HB

1. The Jublia foot horror

Ahhh! AHHHH! Toes should not be anthropomorphized. I refuse. Like, if Pixar announced tomorrow that they were making a new movie called “Big Toe” where Nick Offerman voices the Big Toe, I would think that was a horrible idea. And Jublia ain’t Pixar. And that big toe ain’t Nick Offerman. Serious question: Do the other toes have little eyes and hands, too? Or is the big toe the only toe that achieved consciousness? —DF

BEST/WORST: Nationwide

The Case For: I get it: This ad is cuckoo bananas. And it’s uniquely unfit for consumption during the Super Bowl, where we’re basically only trained to enjoy snark or generalist sincerity. By comparison, this ad is a horror movie. And what a horror movie! The first half makes you think you’re watching one of those very-contempo ads shot like a Zach Braff indie flick, with the cutesy narration and the fairy-tale special effects and the All-American suburban background. Then suddenly the kid turns to the camera and says HE WAS DEAD ALL ALONG. This is the Super Bowl advertising equivalent of killing off Janet Leigh midway through Psycho. Suddenly we’re in a terrorscape of overflowing bathtubs, chemicals splayed across the floor, and a big screen TV that has fallen off the wall and I think crushed a child? Is that what this ad is warning about? Big screen TVs that attack children? I feel like Ian McEwan could write a novel based on this advertisement. I dunno.

Is it in poor taste? This whole spectacle is in poor taste. I guess this is a failure as a commercial, insofar as now I will always associate Nationwide with kid-killing TV sets. But as a thing to watch for 45 seconds, this is top-notch. —DF

The Case Against: Darren. DarrenIt’s a ghost child sent from Hell to terrify parents into buying insurance. I cannot fathom how we’re even having this argument. —HB