Our Picks for the Best (and Worst) Big Game Ads

America’s annual football holiday brings together the largest audience of the year, from diehard fans to casual observers. While only some viewers get fired up about the game, everyone gears up for a big night of shared pop culture experience, complete with multi-million dollar efforts from both growing and established brands.

Our design, content and public relations industry professionals watched the game with high anticipation for what the ads would bring to the table. While we had some mixed feelings overall about the quality of the ads, we each had our favorites.

The King of Beers Reigns Again

The beer commercials from Budweiser and Bud Light had very different tones, but were appreciated by the team for their unique approach. According to Marketing Director Scott Allison, Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” was a lesson on how many things that we consider quintessentially American actually came from the hard work and ambition of immigrants. One such example is Budweiser beer, which is based on a recipe brought from Germany by Adolphus Busch. The spot brought to mind how America came together as a patchwork nation.

On the other hand, Bud Light shot for a humorous note. They used the ghost of their own legendary pitch-animal, party dog Spuds MacKenzie, to show how having a Bud Light around friends is more than a night out. The dog guides a man in the fashion of the ghosts from “A Christmas Carol” to see the quality time being missed, and Spuds finally leads the man to a friend’s house with an offer of a chance to make memories. The comedic timing and pacing of the commercial left Art Director Kristen Pericleous with some laughs and a new perspective on the brand.

Client Service and Public Relations Director Cheryl Besl did take issue with one beer ad, the nature-themed clip for Busch Beer, due to its “sch” sound that kept going despite its awkward length. She did appreciate the ad for Audi, however, with its promotion of perseverance, grit and equality.

Topic has a Fan Moment

Stranger Things fanboy and Content Strategist Sean O’Brien loved the preview of the second season, which featured an old-school Eggo Waffles ad to reference a joke from the show. Justin Timberlake fangirl and Social Media & Public Relations Strategist Emily Rossetti appreciated the “Bai, Bai, Bai” ad for obvious reasons. She knew she was the target audience for that one. Conversely, both Allison and O’Brien were disappointed by the ad for the new Transformers film, mainly because neither was looking forward to another movie in the series.

These were our initial impressions of what we saw during America’s favorite sporting tradition, and we can’t wait to see what companies try next year.