TIME Advertising

The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads of 2015

TIME grades all the ads of Super Bowl XLIX

  • Toyota

    Toyota pays tribute to Paralympian snowboarder and Dancing with the Stars competitor Amy Purdy crosscuts intensely between Purdy’s boarding and ballroom dancing with a classic Muhammad Ali rhyming boast. She’s cool. Ali’s cool. But making the eternally sensible Camry seem “bold” is beyond Ali and Purdy’s powers combined. Awesome ad for snowboards and prostheses, though!

    Grade: C

  • TurboTax

    The tax-preparation giant builds a dramatic re-creation of the Boston Tea Party, then suggests that all it would have taken to end the American Revolution would have been for the Redcoats to offer free tax filing. Bit of a flat punchline, topped by the suggestion–in a game involving the Patriots–that the Founding Fathers could have been bought off cheap? As the ad’s refrain says, “All right then!”

    Grade: C-

  • Game of War: Fire Age

    A warrior princess rises from a bath and dons strategically bust-baring armor to ride off against her enemies. Doesn’t look like anyone was out to overturn anyone’s ideas about how women are portrayed in video games, but–truth in advertising, I guess.

    Grade: D-

  • Tomorrowland

    Disney’s been showing trailers for this George Clooney futuristic adventure for a while now, but this quick, visually enchanting cutdown is at least enough to make you wish for tomorrow to come a little faster.

    Grade: B-

  • BMW

    Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel prove good sports by journeying back to 1994, when e-mail addresses were still news and the pair still hosted a morning show on the television machine. (“What is Internet?” Gumbel wonders on air. “Do you write to it, like mail?”) Cut to 2015–when Couric does the news on Yahoo–and the two are tooling around in an electric car made in a wind-powered factory. Message: the I3 is the future–so points off for ending on a twerking joke, which expired sometime in 2013.

    Grade: C

  • Minions

    First wardrobe malfunction of the game comes well before the halftime show, as the fun-sized Despicable Me sidekicks tout their sequel. Bonus points for theming an ad around the game rather than going with a movie-trailer cutdown, and as always, the guys are little yellow pills.

    Grade: B

  • Snickers

    Like a layer of rich caramel, the “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign gets chewed over and over without losing its flavor. In possibly the most bizarre and funniest take yet, Danny Trejo plays an axe-wielding Marcia and Steve Buscemi a pouty Jan in a surreal episode of The Brady Bunch. A couple Super Bowls from now, the Snickers ad will just be an extended version of “Too Many Cooks,” and I’m fine with that.

    Grade: A-

  • Budweiser

    Have a soul? This ad is for you. “Lost Dog” is about an 11-week old golden lab puppy who accidentally gets separated from his Clydesdale best friend. The emotional rollercoaster of an ad is essentially Homeward Bound condensed into a 60-second spot.

    Grade: A

  • Nationwide

    Inattentive insurance providers have apparently made Mindy Kaling feel invisible. So takes advantage by eating ice cream right out of the frozen food aisle, walking through a car wash (sans vehicle), and nuzzling up to Matt Damon in a restaurant. The ad trades on Kaling’s charm but undercuts its central point (insurance is a good thing?).

    Grade: B+

  • Coca-Cola

    It’s the good kind of hack. When Coke spills in a data center, it sends a message of hope and anti-bullying around the world.

    Grade: A

  • Avocados from Mexico

    It’s hard to know what exactly is going on in this ad starring: a caveman, two sportscasters, high fiving koalas and kangaroos, a fainting Dodo Bird, a polar bear in a sombrero, and… an avocado. Too much. Too confusing. But the sloth was kind of cute?

    Grade: C

  • Dove Men

    Dove compiled a series of home videos (or clips which look like home video) of children calling out for “Dad” in all the word’s permutations. It’s an almost perfect, emotional tour de force—aside from the pitch for the product with its AM-radio-esque announcer which seems beside the point.

    Grade: A

  • Doritos

    This spot stars a bro on an airplane playing the recorder, clipping his toenails, hacking up mucus, and doing other gross stuff to prevent people from taking the free seat next to him. Until, that is, an attractive woman appears. He pulls out a bag of Doritos to lure her just as—womp, womp—it turns out she has a baby in her arms. Bummer, brah! The joke doesn’t land. Probably because it’s not funny.

    Grade: F

  • Nissan

    Super Bowl 2015 appears to be the the year of the dadvertising. Nissan’s 90-second ad is the Boyhood of spots, following a family over the course of a boy’s childhood as he watches his Dad compete on the NASCAR circuit. The cinematography is good, it’s pretty heartwarming, but the story-telling is only so-so.

    Grade: B+

  • Nationwide

    Remember all the adorable father-son bonding? Nationwide’s “Boy Can’t Grow” ad might ruin all your warm and fuzzies. A little boy tells Super Bowl viewers that he’ll never get the cooties, get married or travel the world with his best friend—because he died from a preventable accident. Wrenching.

    Grade: B

  • Weight Watchers

    For starters, some food porn. Pizza as far as the eye can see. Onion rings raining from above. Crème burlee cracking. Steak sizzling. And then—an empty plate with the text “It’s Time To Take Back Control.” Weight watchers is here to tackle this nightmare (though it looked pretty delicious) and help regulate your eating habits.

    Grade: B+

  • WeartherTech

    This ad looks very cool and high tech. There are lasers and industriald machinery and American workers wearing protective goggles. Making car mats never looked so…inspiring.

    Grade: B

  • McDonald’s

    McDonald’s has incredible news for America: It will now accept hugs as payment for Chicken McNuggets. The Pay with Lovin’ campaign lets select customers use “Lovin'” as currency. This includes compliments, silly dances, and calling your mom just to say “I love you.” It’s sweet.

    Grade: A-

  • Esurance

    Esurance’s Breaking Bad-themed ad doesn’t quite land the way it would if the show was still on. Despite Bryan Cranston’s pitch-perfect performance, this one doesn’t feel very relevant.

    Grade: C

  • Fiat

    Fiat’s “The Pill” spot trades on old cliches: Italians are randy—even if they need Viagra. The new Italian-made vehicle looks great. This ad on the other hand…

    Grade: C-

  • GoDaddy

    GoDaddy’s paean to the hard-working small business owner who isn’t at your Super Bowl Party right now has a few funny lines but is mostly tinny and uninteresting.

    Grade: D

  • Discover Card

    Discover’s ad is one of the—thankfully—few spots trading on Internet memes this year. Needless to say, the surprise isn’t worth ruining because it’s not very original or funny.

    Grade: D

  • Microsoft

    Microsoft’s “empowering” commercial tells the story of a little boy who hasn’t let the fact that he has two prosthetic legs hold him back. With the help of Microsoft-powered technology, Braylon runs relay races, plays tennis and…warms your heart.

    Grade: A

  • Squarespace

    This may be the only Super Bowl ad that wants to put viewers to sleep. For 30-seconds, we were treated to Jeff “The Dude” Bridges making the lulling sounds of a didgeridoo next to a couple that’s fast asleep in bed. As much as the Dude abides, this ad didn’t quite get the job done.

    Grade: C

  • Toyota

    Another Dad ad. This one isn’t quite as successful as Dove’s but, by the end of the spot, it’ll likely have gotten you there. If by “there,” you mean teary and emotional.

    Grade: A-

  • Sketchers

    If seeing Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot in a halftime performance in 2015 wasn’t retro enough, this Pete Rose ad certainly did the trick. Rose, who was infamously banned from baseball for betting on games, appears surrounded by memorabilia in what looks like it could be the baseball hall of fame.

    But nope, Pete’s not in Cooperstown, he’s just lounging in his own house’s hallway and marveling at the comfort of his Skechers. It’s a decent idea, but Rose’s wooden delivery, the bland background music and a too-on-the-nose reference to his past transgressions at the end of the ad make this spot a clunker.

    Grade: D

  • Always

    Taking a page from Dove’s successful ad campaigns centered on female empowerment, Always offers a clever one-minute spot that deconstructs the common playground insult that someone throws “like a girl.” In the ad we see actual girls throwing, running and fighting with all their might. The resonant message and the cuteness factor combine to make a memorable ad that would make Mo’ne Davis proud.

    Grade: A

  • Clash of Clans

    You know mobile gaming has hit the big-time when one if its biggest titles gets a Super Bowl ad.

    This spot for Clash of Clans starts off predictably enough, but it takes a turn for the bizarre (in the best possible way) when it’s revealed that Liam Neeson (aka “AngryNeeson52”) is playing the game in a coffee shop — and he’s ready to go on a Taken-style warpath to get revenge on those who would dare cross him. It’s Neeson’s icy delivery that really sells the spot, and the clueless barista at the end who mispronounces his name (LIE-am) only adds to the hilarity. Well played.

    Grade: A

  • Sprint

    Sprint takes a page from T-Mobile’s book by calling out competitors Verizon and AT&T by name. The script for this ad is actually rather vulgar, but the curse words dissing the country’s largest wireless carriers are replaced with a bleating goat and a surly-looking donkey. The ad is pretty unexciting overall, and loses points because no one actually wants to hear a goat screaming when they’ve got their TV volume turned way up to watch football.

    Grade: C-

  • Lexus

    Lexus gives a slightly different spin to the typical car ad by using a miniature model of its RC 350 line to show off the vehicle’s slick handling capabilities. The premise is fun and the tiny car definitely could have earned a spot in Tokyo Drift, but we kind of wish the tricks were even more outlandish. How about leaping over a two-foot chasm or something next time?

    Grade: C+

  • Dodge

    Dodge resurfaced its successful 2014 campaign featuring centenarians offering life advice to all us young whippersnappers who weren’t alive for the 20s and 30s. The ad is a clever way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the car company, and presents a set of people that are rarely used to market things that aren’t specifically aimed at the elderly. What’s not to love about hearing a 100-year-old dude yell “Don’t bit*h!” right after he mean-mugs the camera from the driver’s seat of his ride?

    Grade: A

  • Jublia

    I’ll admit that Jublia was facing an uphill battle from the get-go when they decided to try to advertise a medicine for toenail fungus during the Super Bowl. But was an animated, rancid foot dressed as a football player really the best thing they could dream up? The saddest part is the ad’s not even supposed to be a gross-out spot that shocks people into remembering it. This company appears to believe a fungus-ridden toe with a helmet covering its browned toenail is cute.

    Grade: D-

  • Jeep

    This is a bit too solemn and serious — not to mention pretentious — for a car commercial, but it does show some gorgeous parts of the United States, reminding us that the country is beautiful, or whatever. Sadly, many of these remote locations are simply not accessible for the everyday Jeep driver.

    Grade: B-

  • Mophie

    Think of all the scenes from every disaster movie you’ve ever seen and make them all weirder. Then, throw in a dog walking a human on a leash and edit everything together a little too fast, and you have this spot for Mophie. It’s a bit dark for a Super Bowl commercial, but it does capture the inner turmoil you face when your phone battery is nearly depleted. The ad would be better if it had explicitly revealed what Mophie is, and, more importantly, if it had featured Morgan Freeman as God.

    

Grade: B-

  • Loctite

    This ad draws you in immediately, bringing to mind questions like “What the hell is happening?” and “Why do they all have fanny packs?” Soon, you realize they have fanny packs because they’re filled with Loctite glue, which is what this very funny 30-second spot is selling. But it’s also selling joy and great dance moves and the perfect solution to your marriage.

    Grade: A

  • Mercedes

    Props to Mercedes for attempting something whimsical and cute as opposed to austere and chic, but it seems they’re trying just a little too hard to appeal to the youths here. Group selfies? Trash-talking tortoises? Sweet jumps? Bro voices? Sorry, but hip youths simply cannot afford the vehicle being advertised here.

    Grade: C

  • Bud Light

    This ad starts off with too much idle chatter between a bro and his buds, but eventually gets to the point, and that point is: real-life Pac-Man looks super fun. This might not make you want to drink a Bud Light, necessarily, but it will definitely want to make you run around like a human Pac-Man at a sweet rave.

    Grade: B

  • Doritos

    This ad stars a modern-day Jonathan Lipnicki as a kid who will go to great lengths to eat some Doritos. You’ve really got to admire his inventiveness, engineering prowess and his commitment to keeping animals safe and happy, even when he’s using them in somewhat dangerous schemes. But perhaps the best part of this commercial is that a selfish farmer who won’t share with children gets his comeuppance.

    Grade: B+

    Read next: Enjoy These Super Bowl Ads, For Tomorrow You Shall Die

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