1.NFL — “Inspire Change”
The NFL itself also touched on politics in this emotional 60-second spot, which aired right before kickoff.
The PSA for the league’s “Inspire Change” initiative focuses on the 2015 police shooting death of Corey Jones, the cousin of former San Francisco 49ers player Anquan Boldin.
In it, the ex-wide receiver recounts how his relative’s story inspired him to start the Players Coalition, a nonprofit that works to end racial inequality and social injustice.
“Loved the execution of the NFL spot that turned into the open of the game,” said Jennifer DaSilva, president at Berlin Cameron.
2. Amazon — “Before Alexa”
Celebrity couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi lead off this ad with a joke about what life could have possibly been like pre-Alexa.
A cast of odd characters then appear throughout eras of history to ask for things they’d normally request from the voice-activated virtual assistant.
The whirlwind ad was entertaining and with Ellen’s star power, “worth every penny,” said Emi Morita, creative lead at the Via Agency.
“I just love Ellen. Who doesn’t?” said Morita. “The teasers were fun and the spot was great.”
But even if the commercial won’t blow your mind, it will “entertain your pants off and make having a talking speaker in your house seem like a no-brainer,” added Jay Norman, creative director at Doner.
3. Google — “Loretta”
Google tugged at heartstrings with a “beautiful, simple [and] very well-told” story of an elderly man using the little-known Google Assistant feature to help him remember his late wife, Loretta.
“I’m not crying, you’re crying!” was the reaction of Frank Cartagena, chief creative officer at The Community agency in New York.
Set to instrumental music, the voice of an 85-year-old widower is heard asking Google to “show me photos of me and Loretta together” as a slideshow of images appears.
Google aids him in recalling everything from Loretta’s favorite movie (“Casablanca”) to her favorite flower (tulips) and how she told him, “Don’t miss me too much, and get out of the dang house.”
“While the default mode for Super Bowl is to try and make us laugh, Google once again reminds us that even a technology behemoth can connect on an emotional level,” said Chris Graves, chief creative officer at Team One.
The ad also helps to make technology seem more approachable.
“At a time when many Americans are suspicious of technology, this commercial helps to humanize it and give it a heart,” said Jennifer DaSilva, president at Berlin Cameron.
Finally, its simplicity made it something anyone with a heart can connect with.
4. Hyundai — “Smaht Pahk”
You don’t have to be from Boston to enjoy this ad from Hyundai — thankfully.
Maybe that’s because it’s packed with celebrities, like Evans, John Krasinski of “The Office” fame and Rachel Dratch of “Saturday Night Live” — all Massachusetts natives.
There’s even a surprise cameo from Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz, aka “Big Papi.”
The ad features Evans and Dratch springing into an accented back-and-forth over whether Krasinski will be able to “pahk” his Hyundai Sonata in a tight spot — rattling off landmarks like the Boston “hahbah” and the Boston “gahden.”
Fortunately, thanks to the company’s new automated “smart parking” — or “smaht pahking” — Krasinski is able to maneuver the vehicle without a problem.
Our experts found the ad “wicked smaht” for its use of big-name stars, humor, memorability and ability to sneak in a product demo.
“Everyone who watches this will walk away knowing exactly what Smart Park is. It think that represents a victory,” said Jean Morrow, writer and creative director at Pereira & O’Dell.
And while the connection between a Korean car brand and Boston wasn’t immediately clear, it didn’t matter much.
“The best part of this ad is the Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl,” quipped Markyle Rondon, social media coordinator at T3.
5. Budweiser — “Typical American”
This heartfelt, patriotic ode is sure to be part of Monday’s water cooler discussion, our experts said.
Directed by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and produced by the David Miami agency, the spot challenges stereotypes of a “Typical American” by showcasing the extraordinary actions of ordinary Americans.
“Budweiser creates a timely, heartfelt tribute to America in 2020,” said Graves. “There are very few brands that can do it authentically, and certainly no other beer.”
The ad was a welcome, thoughtful cultural commentary, done in a tasteful, apolitical fashion, our experts said.
“A much-needed bit of affirmation, and a reminder to look beyond labels,” said Graves. “[It] successfully walks a non-partisan political line, so people of every stripe can interpret it through their own filters.”
6. Jeep — “Groundhog Day”
With the Super Bowl falling on Groundhog Day, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that at least one of the commercials would pay homage to the iconic 1993 movie.
Bill Murray starred in Jeep’s spot, which shows the actor reliving the same day as he drives around in one of their cars, with Punxsutawney Phil in tow.
The combination of humor and nostalgia was a hit with our experts.
“Jeep’s Groundhog Day remake had smart insight and a charming groundhog helmet,” said Morrow.
7. Cheetos — “Can’t Touch This”
There was some ’80s nostalgia among this year’s crop of ads — and that included an appearance from “Can’t Touch This” rapper MC Hammer in the Cheetos commercial.
The cheesy yet charming spot tackled the age-old issue of getting Cheetos dust all over your fingers.
“I can almost see the pitch in my head. ‘MC Hammer, can’t touch things because of Cheeto dust.’ So simple,” said Norman.
Morrow added: “Perfect combination of a great song, a great idea and a baby MC Hammer.”
8. Snickers — “Fix the World”
Snickers | #Snickersfixtheworld: Super Bowl Ad 2020
Declaring that the world is out of sorts, Snickers attempts to fix it with candy.
The commercial features a catchy original song and touches on a serious sentiment in a quirky way.
“This spot is extremely funny without pretending it has any of the answers,” said Morrow.
It’s also an original extension of the brand’s “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” catchphrase, our experts said.
“I particularly like the odd combination of hope and goofiness that feels just right for this moment in history,” said Graves.
Topical but fun, Cartagena added: “Even though it’s ridiculous, you actually leave thinking, ‘Yeah, maybe a giant Snickers could help this crazy world…’”
9. Verizon — “What We Won’t Do”
Verizon used its 2020 spot to celebrate first responders.
Harrison Ford narrated the touching ad, addressing everything the company’s 5G can achieve — and pointing out what it can’t.
“5G won’t replace the courage it takes to run into the fire,” Ford says. “It won’t make the decision to become an officer any less selfless. Or have any impact on what’s required to put others’ lives before your own. It can’t take the place of bravery or substitute for compassion.”
Heartwarming and simple, the commercial hit home for our team of experts.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the brands divorcing their ads from their products in favor of highlighting the people that use them. We’re looking at you, Verizon,” said Rondon.
Added DaSilva: “We salute Verizon for saluting the courage of those who serve.”
10. Microsoft — “Be the One”
San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers stars in this uplifting ad for Microsoft’s Surface Tablet.
“We have all these assumptions about what women do in life and what men do,” Sowers says over footage of her at work. “All it takes is one and then it opens the door for so many.”
The ad closes with a montage of girls and young women for whom Sowers has opened doors.
The message — and relevance — of this ad stood out to our experts.
“Not only does this commercial serve as inspiration for young girls that they too can be the first to achieve their dreams, it taps into a cultural shift we’re seeing where women want to see more of themselves in the NFL,” said DaSilva.
“Call it serendipitous or a giant stroke of advertising luck, this ad which ran throughout the NFL postseason is made all the more special as its star becomes the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl,” added Rondon. “Separate of the promoted product, this is a well-deserved and overdue moment that should serve as a shared inspiration to us all, not just young girls.”