2017 Super Bowl Ads: Stranger Things Happened Than the Pat's Comeback

Blog Post
February 06, 2017

No football team had ever come back from such a large deficit. No QB had ever won five rings. No Super Bowl had every gone to overtime. The Patriots became, arguably, #GOAT late on the 5th in Houston. No wonder millions took the 6th off work and school!

Super Bowl commercials can also become historically significant, like Apple’s 1984 spot, yet most are only relevant for a moment or two, then disappear into the dusty record books. Sunday’s spots saw the usual mélange of mayhem and fun; movies and celebrities; and messages of purpose.

To help work through the laundry list of multi-million dollar commercials, I drafted my family to help separate the touchdowns from the touchbacks! I used emojis to indicate their reactions.


Tide managed to run interference on viewers with Terry Bradshaw’s ketchup-stained sideline snippet. This one goes down as clever audience insight: “the internet” loves to troll and are often distracted by minutiae.


Intel’s Drones were more technically clever but, wow, didn’t they work well as a backdrop to Gaga’s epic opening rooftop sequence?! 300 drones all meticulously choreographed with color and location…stunning visually and technologically.


But the winner of this opening quarter was National Geographic’s teaser for Genius, their upcoming anthology on Einstein. Creating a spot that could only have run after a Gaga Halftime Show, Albert plays Bad Romance on the Violin … simply but impeccably filmed and completely unexpected.

Surprised emoji for 2017 super bowl ads


Buick’s celebrity tie in with Cam Newton was trolled mercilessly on Twitter, given his SB50 performance, but nonetheless was a hit around our TV. Slapstick; embellishment on a theme; an homage to grass roots sports; it had it all!

Amused emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Mr. Clean was my wife’s favorite spot of the night. The brand icon re-imagined as a CGI dancing domestic deed doer. Covered top to toe in a tighty-whitey onesie, he certainly was a hit with the ladies. He kept the fun going on social media too, though the engagement figures suggest there was less second-screen brand interaction that authentic audience reaction to be had this year.

Kissy emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Our winner was undoubtedly the Kia Niro spot featuring Melissa McCarthy. Personally, I felt it was one gag too long, but the unexpected opening hit our wannabe Eco Hero took, set us up for a rip-roaring success. Casting an SNL favorite for your big game commercial is hardly groundbreaking thinking, yet it works spectacularly well here. Hit the spot in every way.

Laughing emoji for 2017 super bowl ads


From hits to fails. A few spots just didn’t follow through on their pre-game promise. Snickers put an awful lot of effort into an awfully dull live commercial. Skittles gave the game away too early online to have any spontaneous reaction that night. And Wix, who featured ass-kicking duo Gal Gadot and Jason Statham, should have spent more money on their airtime than their A-listers—the 2-minute online version was vastly superior to the 30-second spot. Cut down, it was too visually confusing to follow.

Mixed emotion emoji for 2017 super bowl ads


THE most discussed type of commercial was from brands who tackled the current sociopolitical challenges being faced in the country today. Hyundai ended the night with a near-live spot, featuring live virtual reality broadcasts of military families watching the game with deployed love ones. Technically and emotionally challenging with purposeful use of real-time broadcasting and editing, this spot stood out for all the right reasons.

Surprised emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Another group—that included Google, Coca Cola, Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber, and the NFLall touched us with messages of diversity and unity. It seems they, and the others, felt that the big game provided them with a platform. Brave indeed. Some were more forceful than others. 84 Lumber drove millions of viewers to their site to watch the unbanned and full story of Mexican mother and daughter as they seek entry to the USA.

Emotional emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

The standout in the category, though, was Airbnb. Their message of acceptance blew up the second screen social scene. What’s more, this spot felt like an extension of the company’s tone of action … after they offered refuge to those most in need. Up to 100,000 will be helped … “To help people around the world facing displacement, we’ll work with our community of hosts to find not just a place to stay, but also a place to feel connected, respected, and a part of a community again.” The commercial itself was simply constructed and sensitively handled. Made us all stop and watch in silence.

Emotional emoji for 2017 super bowl ads


Another established grouping are commercials teasing the release of blockbuster movies. Now though, new shows tend to get into the action too. And boy, did we get some excited reactions in our family! Ghost in the Shell, Transformers, The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and more all had their time—but too often they were reworked versions of already-released clips. Not so, though, for the Stranger Things 2 trailer!

Starting with an eighties commercial for Eggo, before quickly spooking everyone out with fast-cut scary snippets of the stories to come, including the kids in Ghostbusters outfits and a glimpse of a very red, very angry looking Upside Down! We clapped, hollered, high-fived and generally couldn’t contain our excitement—until we saw it’s not coming until Halloween 2017. Seriously Netflix, what’s with that!?

Angry emoji for 2017 super bowl ads

Sadly, I don’t think any of these spots are entering the Hall of Fame along with the Patriots this year—just not enough timelessness, as the zeitgeist was favored often. Nonetheless, they added to the spectacle that was Super Bowl LI for our family and millions like us.