Super Bowl LIII was a low-scoring affair both on the field and in the ad breaks, leaving viewers with little to cheer or even boo about. But it certainly wasn’t a complete wash. Here’s a recap of our picks for 2019’s best Super Bowl spots:
5. Bud Light: “Special Delivery”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy New York
A beer brand using its longest Super Bowl ad to basically just bag on its competitors’ ingredients? On paper it sounds like a snoozefest, but Bud Light and Wieden + Kennedy New York elevated the topic into an epic tale of rivalry, sea monsters, wizard cannibalism and more. It’s one of advertising’s most epic diss tracks, and surely had competitors like Coors Light seething. And they did it all with nary a “dilly dilly.” That said, the best was yet to come…
4. Amazon: “Not Everything Makes the Cut”
Agencies: Lucky Generals and Amazon In-House Creative Team
Amazon and London agency Lucky Generals created a Super Bowl classic in 2018 with “Alexa Loses Her Voice,” so it was good to see them back for a follow-up this year. “Not Everything Makes the Cut” introduces us to the Alexa-powered devices that never got put into mass production. It’s not a creative home run on the level of last year’s spot, but it was still one of the year’s biggest crowd pleasers, almost solely thanks to Harrison Ford and his gravy-loving pooch.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale: “Season 3 Teaser”
Agency: Wild Card
Ronald Reagan’s re-election ad, commonly known as “Morning in America” but technically called “Prouder, Stronger, Better”, is widely considered one of the best political ads of all time. So it was somewhat jarring to hear its comforting voice over introducing an ad in the 2019 Super Bowl. It quickly became apparent what we were seeing was not some sort of early Trump 2020 ad but rather a promo for Season 3 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Putting a dark and dystopian spin on the original, this new version focuses on how “dozens of children will be born to happy and healthy families” in the Republic of Gilead, where fertility has plummeted to the point where it threatens human extinction—and leads the theocratic government to threaten any childbearing women with sexual slavery. At a time when Donald Trump has reinvigorated Reagan’s fan base, this was a boldly and pointedly played piece of advertising.
2. Burger King: “#EatLikeAndy”
Agency: David Miami
Risk comes in many forms when it comes to advertising. Going political is risky, but at least you can feel confident that roughly half of your audience will take your brand’s side. Then there’s the kind of risk Burger King and agency David Miami took with #EatLikeAndy, one in which you have no idea how anyone will respond.
Created entirely from real footage found in director Jørgen Leth’s 1982 art film 66 Scenes in America, #EatLikeAndy is 45 seconds of modestly voyeuristic footage of pop art icon Andy Warhol eating a Whopper. It’s uneventful, dry … and absolutely impossible to look away from.
Response was, to put it lightly, mixed.
Burger King faced a wave of pushback on the ad, with critics coming from a variety of different angles. Some felt it was a bad fit for the brand, others said it was an ad solely made for ad pros, and many simply dismissed it as a waste of millions of marketing dollars. But the ad will long be remembered as one of the gutsiest uses of 45 Super Bowl seconds and proof that Burger King under global CMO Fernando Machado is willing to try just about anything. Sure, it’s got a bit of elitist swagger to it, but it also introduces an art icon to new audiences on an unprecedented scale. This is advertising that takes guts, wins awards and gets people talking.
1. HBO x Bud Light: “Joust”
Agencies: Droga5 and Wieden + Kennedy New York
No Super Bowl ad in recent memory—even in Tide’s meta campaign in 2018—has pulled the rug out from under viewers quite like the Bud Light and HBO crossover that shocked fans of both brands in Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast. What began as pretty standard Dilly Dilly fare took a turn when the Bud Knight faced a new challenged: Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. As he crushed the skull of Bud Light’s beloved hero like a tin can and a dragon ascended to bathe the jousting field in murderous flame, it began to register…this is no Bud Light ad. Cue the Game of Thrones theme, and it all comes together.
Perhaps most impressively, the ad marks a collaboration between two of advertising’s most celebrated (and competitive) modern agencies: Droga5 and Wieden + Kennedy New York. While we bet there was more than a little drama in that process, the end result was an absolutely unforgettable moment in a broadcast that ran short on surprises. One has to applaud both brands for going there—and say a prayer for the poor Bud Knight.
To catch up on Adweek’s extensive coverage of this year’s Super Bowl ads, be sure to visit all our articles here.