c/o Doritos

c/o Doritos

Welcome back, dear reader. It’s been a whole year since I blessed you all with my unwanted opinions about the commercials in Super Bowl LVI. Now, as the pinnacle of capitalism comes around again, I return to my spreadsheets and Google Docs to rate them all for your enjoyment (or torment, I don’t care frankly).

As a refresher for those of you who weren’t here last year or may have forgotten my article, I will be rating all of these ads on a scale of 0 to 5 in seven categories: Concept (is it a sound idea), Elevation (does it belong at the Super Bowl or is it more in the unskippable online ad territory), Originality (good or bad, is it original), Celebrity (were there—and/or should there have been—celebrities in it), Influence (did it leave me feeling something or even remembering that it happened), Timing (in both the game and the American consciousness, is this well-timed), and Entertainment (quite frankly was I bored or not). A perfect score is 35, an absolutely awful score is 0.

Also, like last time, I’m not rating trailers or ads for streaming services. This time, I’m also not rating the QR code ads, because I hate them and you can’t make me. Na-na-na, boo-boo.

Sadly, I have to report that I was disappointed by this year’s slate of advertisements. Where last year my ratings averaged 21 out of 35, this year’s barely surpassed 18. Furthermore, each category last year was fairly high—four of the categories averaged over a 3.0, and only one averaged less than 2.5. This year, only one category, Originality, broke a 3—and just barely! It only garnered a 3.03 average. The worst category was Elevation, with a 2.00 average. To put it more pithily, this year’s slate of commercials didn’t feel like they belonged at the Super Bowl.

A perfect example of this is the Dunkin’ commercial featuring Ben Affleck. The premise was pretty basic: Affleck worked a Dunkin’ drive-through and the camera caught reactions from the customers. It felt more like a late-night sketch you’d see on Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden than a Super Bowl ad. Then at the end of the ad we got a guest appearance from Jennifer Lopez, who asked her husband what he was doing before asking for a glazed donut. Overall, mid. It was early in the night, so if I were more merciful I would forgive it, but tragically I am to Super Bowl commercials as Michelle Visage was to Adore Delano on All Stars 2.

I gave it a 2 for Concept (it was fine I guess), 1 for Elevation (very basic), 1 for Originality (been done before), 3 for celebrity (J-Lo and Affleck are familiar and expected in a Super Bowl commercial, but I don’t really have any complaints about their presence), 2 for influence (I remember it at least), 4 for Timing (consider this my mercy, if this had been at half-time it would’ve gotten a zero), and 3 for Entertainment (it wasn’t awful to watch but if I could’ve skipped I would have), giving it a grand total of 16 out of 35. Mid.

Speaking of mid, let’s talk about Melissa McCarthy’s Booking.com ad. This is what I mean by YouTube ad vibes. There wasn’t really anything to write home about with this one. McCarthy wanted to go on vacation, sang a little song about it, blah blah booking.com, booking.blah.

I gave it a 2 for Concept (nothing special), 1 for Elevation (YouTube ad territory will do that to you), 2 for Originality (it felt like every other Booking.com ad I’ve seen), 2 for Celebrity (McCarthy’s there but it would’ve been nice to have at least someone else appear alongside her), 2 for Influence (I completely forgot this one happened and had to rewatch it although it was nice to hear McCarthy sing), 2 for Timing (fourth quarter and this is what we’re watching? Really?), and 2 for Entertainment (like I said, the singing was good, but I got bored quickly), bringing its score to 13 out of 35.

Now let’s focus on some positives real quick. One of my favorites of the night was the Squarespace singularity commercial starring Adam Driver. This fun commercial played on the current cultural obsession with multiverses (I mean come on, I straight up thought the singularity in the commercial was the everything bagel from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at first). Driver plays a thousand versions of himself, replicating and being sucked into the vortex that is Squarespace’s singularity: a website that makes websites. Though he only has a few lines, the commercial is memorable, witty, and creative.

I gave it a 5 for Concept (it was cool, what more do I need to say), 4 for Elevation (it was almost there, something indescribable was just barely missing for me), 5 for Originality (did you think of it? Didn’t think so), 5 for Celebrity (it featured Driver and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else), 4 for Influence (I did wonder what this does to set Squarespace apart from competitors that are, by definition, websites that create websites), 5 for Timing (in a time where time travel and multiverses are all the rage, a singularity vortex consuming endless Adam Drivers is very apt), and 4 for Entertainment (nothing to complain about, it just wasn’t the most entertaining of the night), adding up to an impressive 32 out of 35.

Continuing on our high note, I also enjoyed the Will Ferrell electric vehicle (EV) commercial. It was cute, a bit cheesy, and filled with references to various pop culture moments of the last few years—from “Stranger Things” to “Bridgerton.” I didn’t have Ferrell getting murdered by the “Squid Game” red-light-green-light robot on my 2023 bingo card, but I’m not mad at it at all. The comically out-of-place presence of both Ferrell and his sleek EVs in these contexts made for a memorable and funny commercial.

I gave it a 4 for Concept (interesting, fun, charming, nostalgic), 3 for Elevation (it was good but there was this air of forced product marketing that just didn’t strike the right chord for me), 5 for Originality (hilariously random and not in a 2014 way), 4 for Celebrity (I would’ve loved maybe a few more cameos from other celebrities), 4 for Influence (it was really good but I didn’t know it was advertising General Motors until I googled it), 5 for Timing (EVs are all the rage right now and a reminder of Netflix’s golden days didn’t hurt), and 4 for Entertainment (I will admit the ad got old after a while but it was still fun and exciting), bringing it 28 out of 35. 

c/o Kia

c/o Kia

Sharp drop now, let’s talk about my least favorite commercial of the night: the Kia Binky Dad ad. This is one of my prime examples of a non-Super-Bowl Super Bowl commercial. I would expect this ad to play in between scenes of an early-2010s Thursday night network drama, not the most watched event of the year. The whole premise is very simple: family goes to resort, dad forgets binky, dramatically drives to get it, world cheers for him, returns to family with binky, whoops it’s the wrong color! Womp womp! It was just so forgettable. Not to mention its tragic attempt to play into internet culture with a series of cringy and outdated memes about #BinkyDad. It was just sad.

I gave it a 1 for Concept (it was coherent and that’s all it had going for it), 0 for Elevation (it should not have been on my Super Bowl screen), 1 for Originality (it just felt so tired, I can’t explain it), 1 for Celebrity (putting someone famous in the starring role would’ve made it a bit better at least), 1 for Influence (forgettable and ignorable), 1 for Timing (I’m tired of talking about this), and 2 for Entertainment (it was at least something to watch I guess), giving it a sad total of 8 out of 35. 

Okay, with the negatives out of the way, I’m skipping all of the mid ones again and going right to the top. My runner-up for best commercial was the PopCorners Breaking Good commercial. This clever skit showed the “Breaking Bad” characters Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) treating the popcorn-adjacent snack as if it’s their homemade, top-notch crystal meth. They present it to Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) who loves it so much he tells them to increase their production of signature flavors. Overall, it was fun and creative, and treating a relatively unknown snack as a highly addictive drug sure gets the point across.

I gave it a 5 for Concept (it was brilliant and funny), 5 for Elevation (why couldn’t they all be like this?), 5 for Originality (whoever pitched this is a wonderful soul), 5 for Celebrity (I mean come on they got the original actors), 4 for Influence (in the words of Abby Lee Miller, “You were good, I’m waiting for you to be great”), 4 for Timing (I don’t know I just feel like a bit earlier in the game would’ve been better), and 5 for Entertainment (I adored it, what can I say), giving it a total of 32 out of 35.

Before I get to the top, let me pull a WatchMojo and give some honorable (and dishonorable) mentions. I loved Diddy’s Uber One jingle ad featuring celebrity after celebrity, the Pepsi Zero Sugar ad with Steve Martin, and the Snoop Dogg Sketchers commercial featuring Martha Stewart. They all made me giggle just a bit, and were creative expressions of consumerism. And I love Martha Stewart. Dishonorable mentions go to any of the multiple “people/animals dancing and that’s the whole ad” commercials, both of Serena William’s entirely unrelated spots, and, sadly, the Maya Rudolph M&M commercial (I just didn’t get it, and I feel like they could’ve done a “Dilly Dilly” and given us a full story leading up to this; I mean come on we’ve been looking forward to the climax of the M&M controversy for so long).

I give an absolutely neutral mention to the “He Gets Us” Christian ad. As a religion minor, I could write an essay about this ad and its donors, but for the sake of not getting canceled in either direction, I will not be reviewing this.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, my favorite commercial of the night: Doritos’ celebration of the triangle starring Jack Harlow. This one was great, dear readers. After being inspired by a Dorito’s triangular shape, Harlow forsakes his career path to become a celebrity triangle player. Missy Elliot incredulously asks, “You’re gonna quit rap for a triangle?!” Harlow responds, “I gotta do me, Missy.” Slowly, triangles begin to take over the world, working their way into fashion, art, and currency as they eventually replace the British pound sterling. Finally, Harlow is up for the Triangle Player of the Year award, only for Sir Elton John to clinch the title at the last minute, subverting expectations in beautiful ways.

I gave this one a 5 for Concept (it was hilarious, ridiculous, and fantastic), 5 for Elevation (now this is how you do a Super Bowl commercial, everyone), 5 for Originality (who the fuck thought of this? Give them a raise), 5 for Celebrity (it had Harlow and John Elliot), 5 for Influence (I remembered it the most, quite frankly, and it made me genuinely laugh), 4 for timing (this is its only non-perfect category simply because I feel it was too early in the game, they should’ve saved it for halftime), and 5 for Entertainment (I was glued to my little screen), giving it a grand total of 34 out of 35—just one point higher than the runner-up.

Those who paid attention may note that while last year’s winner—Uber Eats’ “Uber Don’t Eats,” starring Jennifer Coolidge—garnered a perfect score, this year’s came one short. I think this speaks to the general vibe of this year’s commercials. They’re a brood likely to be forgotten in a few years’ time, and I doubt any classics will emerge. It’s tragic really.

In conclusion, I should be given full creative control over every corporation in the United States. I hope you agree. As for the halftime show and the game, Rihanna killed it and the Chiefs won (rest in peace to the city of Philadelphia). Shoutout to my dear friend Jonny Sonnenfeld ’25 who I’m sure is mourning like a wartime widow after the Eagles’ narrow defeat.

Now I will let you all rest for another year until I return from hibernation to once again push my amateur opinion onto multi-million-dollar capitalist short films. 


Sam Hilton can be reached at shilton@wesleyan.edu.

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