Friday, February 28, 2020
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Super Bowl LI Commercial Responses

In contrast to the classic game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the commercials this year were pretty underwhelming. I’m sure that everyone was waiting to see which companies were going to take jabs at President Trump or our state of politics – but I sure wasn’t. The things that make Super Bowls memorable to me are the games themselves, of course, and the catchy or ridiculous commercials that stick in your head for weeks. Who could forget last year’s Mountain Dew “puppymonkeybaby”?

I believe that our generation loves the feeling of nostalgia and tends to want more of the past to bring back the good times. Bai hit a chord in every NSYNC fan’s hearts when Christopher Walken eerily muttered the words of “Bye Bye Bye”. It worked for them, as viewers will forever associate the 2000 pop hit with the relatively unknown company that most folks at home had never heard of.

Bud Light tried to get into the action with a Spud MacKenzie commercial, only to leave our generation in complete confusion on who exactly the ghost dog was. It was a reach for the beer giant, as for that minute and 35 seconds, people at home took a quick phone timeout.

Like a majority of sports fans, I wanted to use the Super Bowl as a break from everything else happening in our lives. Politics, tests, Valentine’s Day coming up. The Super Bowl was a time I planned to just focus on one game and the entertainment that comes with eating pizza and yelling at the TV screen as if we were in NRG Stadium that Sunday evening. I am aware of the Budweiser, Airbnb, and 84 Lumber commercials that aired, but when can we say: “We get it already.”

Juan Gonzalez is a fourth-year literary journalism and educational sciences double major. He can be reached at


So… how were the ads from Super Bowl LI? Rather disappointing. While the price of air time has increased from $5 million to $5.5 million according to Variety, it seems the quality of the ads themselves have remained the same. A great commercial should be able to balance heavier themes with lighthearted fun, but the events of these past few weeks altered how people received the commercials themselves.

In light of a turbulent political atmosphere, it was difficult not to see some of the commercials as political messages. 84 Lumber’s trimmed Super Bowl spot, among other ads, appeared to operate on subtext. The advertisement portrays a mother and her daughter’s journey from Mexico to the United States. The removed portion of the ad featured a large border wall with pivoting doors. Of course, this imagery was largely reminiscent of the calls by President Trump to build a wall along the border between the US and Mexico. Ironically enough, the CEO of 84 Lumber, Maggie Hardy Magerko, is pro-Trump. She insisted that the commercial was about the opportunity for legal immigration, and that hard work and persistence is welcome in our country.

Budweiser released a commercial that detailed its co-founder’s difficult immigration from Germany to the states before helping create the Anheuser-Busch brewing company. Budweiser has stated that this was not intended to be a political statement.

Of the companies that tried to extricate themselves from political interpretations of their commercials, Airbnb appeared to have the most direct political message. The company recently came out against the travel ban and its spot echoed the same sentiment. “No matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, who you worship, we all belong,” states the ad.

A lot of enthusiasm for this year’s Super Bowl commercials has been tempered by political context. Sure, there were misguided attempts to distract viewers from political issues such as the strange Mr. Clean commercial, but ultimately, the efforts fell flat. Case in point, the animation was more uncanny valley than humorous. This year’s Super Bowl also lacked the flourish of the Doritos commercials that would often elicit laughter. Commercials like the ones produced by 84 Lumber and Budweiser are not unique to the Super Bowl ad stage, but the lack of successful, tongue-in-cheek, slapstick comedy tipped the balance too close to an uncomfortable reality.

Eashan Kotha is a first-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at


I am silly. Here I thought that Super Bowl Sunday was going to provide some solid football, a few laughs at the expense of the commercials, and Lady Gaga descending onto the gathered masses looking like a spider on LSD.

With all the political turmoil effectively tearing our nation apart at the seams, the Super Bowl was sure to take our collective mind off of the unpleasantness for four hours in the form of gladiatorial collisions and an inevitable Tom Brady comeback. Clearly, I had that wrong. It was but a stage on which to plop a combination of arguably the two most insufferable parts of my human existence: commercials and overt political stances.

Now, look. I don’t see a problem with the occasional hokey ad calling for us to come together, like Coke going with the multilingual “America the Beautiful.” I get that, and I thought it played its role well.

84 Lumber took matters to another level with its ad depicting a mother and daughter illegally immigrating to America. The second part of the commercial where they make it to the border to find a wall there, only to have a door (supposedly built by 84 Lumber) let them through, was pulled from its spot. Should the second part of the commercial have been pulled? Yeah! They should have pulled the first one while they were at it. Can you fault FOX for deeming an illegal activity controversial? They were at risk of alienating a huge part of their consumer base by surprising them with politically-charged dramatizations when they tuned in to see grown men hit each other and some commercials involving Doritos and time machines.

Luckily, the actual game took most of the focus and might go down as the greatest Super Bowl of all time, and there were a handful of classic Super Bowl commercials in spite of the anti-Trump brigade that included Christopher Walken delivering a monologue of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” and Martha Stewart saying “cannabis.” God bless America, God Bless football and God bless Christopher Walken.

John Nardolillo is a fourth-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at


As a seasonal sports fan — that season being Super Bowl Day — I was pleased to watch what I assumed would go down as a legendary football game while memorizing another year’s worth of commercials. These are some of the commercials I thought were far above (and below) the rest of the competition.

The American Petroleum Institute’s pro-fossil fuel ad was by far my least favorite ad, misinforming viewers that oil is both an innocuous source of energy and the essence of life’s greatest hits. “This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Oil” introduces the ad and is followed by several slides of modern inventions, including prosthetic limbs and treadmills, said to be made possible by oil.

Art? Oil. Makeup? That’s oil. Robot arms and people running fast? The tools most valuable to us when the ice caps inevitably melt and we are plunged into a post-apocalyptic Waterworld/Mad Max scenario. Uh, I mean oil.
A close second for worst ad goes to Mobile Strike’s attempt to steal Arnold Schwarzenegger’s soul by way of one-liner ridden commercials. Directly quoting “I’ll be back” from “Terminator,” “Hasta la vista, baby,” from “Terminator 2” and “Get to the chopper” from “Predator,” the only emotion this commercial made me feel was embarrassment for Schwarzenegger’s career.

On the topic of embarrassing Super Bowl performances, Justin Bieber’s T-Mobile ad (if you have ever wondered why he does not act more, this is your answer) and McDonalds’ “There’s a Big Mac For That” were the most disappointing commercials of the litter, featuring uninspired scripts and forced celebrity cameos. These epitomized the Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow kids” meme. Neither were particularly interesting or engaging, and stood out as a couple of commercials who snuck in backstage with the actual rockstars.

Contrary to these bland corporate tools, Snickers’ hilarious “live commercial” with Adam Driver stood out as one of the best-made ads of the year. Snickers’ typical, straightfaced “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry” ad was brought to the set of an old Western flick starring Adam Driver. Despite blood packs popping open off-queue and set pieces collapsing around them, the cast remains dedicated to their deadpan performances, creating a beautifully awkward scene of confusion that will entertain many — or at least me — for years to come.

Last, but not least, the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Super Bowl spot is now my favorite movie trailer of all-time, reassuring my convictions that the sequel will surpass the original in quality and drain my bank account with its Baby Groot merchandise fallout.

Super Bowl 51 left me with another year’s worth of hatred for the Patriots (but a lifetime’s worth of respect for Julian Edelman’s insane fourth-quarter catch) and a ton of commercials to show my unenthused friends, leaving me well-prepared to pretend that I am a sports fan until next February.

Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at