For the past ten years, I have played Monday Morning Quarterback, handicapping the best and worst ads of the Super Bowl. Radio, TV, newspapers…it’s a day-long media blitz of interviews but it’s always a ton of fun. Regardless of the Big Game winner, it seems more people each year tune in to see the ad industry’s best and brightest.
Recent surveys find that almost one in five Super Bowl viewers say the ads are the No. 1 reason they tune in. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the funny, splashy TV ads that occur during the breaks, but I haven’t been able to watch the Super Bowl without a pen and paper for years. In preparation for Super Bowl LVI, the Madison+Main-iacs got together this week to take a look back at some of the best (and worst) ads of 2021.
My choice for the top ad of 2021 was stolen by Communications Specialist Kennedy Heidel, but my second place ad was a clever and humorous one-minute video from A&W. I have blogged previously about A&W’s colossal marketing blunder of the 1980s when they tried to market ⅓ lb burgers for the same price as ¼ lb burgers. Americans, as it turns out, are not smarter than a fifth-grader, and market research indicated that most consumers thought that a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder was bigger than A&W’s bigger burger. In October of 2021, A&W released a new marketing campaign in a glorious self-deprecating style.
Here’s what the rest of the Madison+Main-iacs thought:
Kent Brockwell, Communications Director: I love the concept of the #BetterWithPepsi print ads. So simple, so sneaky, so good. I still drink Coke, so maybe not effective, but it was very, very clever.
Caitlin Sherman, Junior Copywriter: “Let’s Grab a Beer” for Anheuser-Busch made me so emotional because it reminded me of what to look forward to after such a rough time with the pandemic and lockdown. They nailed it when they said, “It’s more than just a beer.” It’s a subtle, genuine way to reconnect.
Kennedy Heidel, Communications Specialist: Close your eyes and picture ketchup. The “Draw Ketchup” campaign for Heinz by agency Rethink Canada asked people to do just that — imagine and draw ketchup. The art behind it? It drew up some serious brand awareness.
Allison Nida, Account Supervisor: The “911” Apple advertisement instantly sucked me in – and is a unique way to market their watch in my opinion.
Art Webb, Creative Director: This Amazon ad gets me every time. Very cinematic and heartwarming.
Marita Cardenas, Account Executive: As a first-generation Asian American, I understand the idea of being straddled between two worlds. And living through a pandemic for this long, staying connected is key. Google knew exactly what they were doing with this ad, A CODE Story.
Leanne Pillow, Director of Business & Marketing: I’m one of those people who cries over commercials with even the smallest hint of sentimentality … so iPhone’s 2021 “Saving Simon” commercial had me happy-crying and then shocked-laughing.
Erin Rebmann, Senior Graphic Designer: I’m a sucker for anything inspirational. Toyota’s “Jessica Long’s Story” always brings happy tears to my eyes. I believe that everyone deserves to be loved, to be happy, and should never be underestimated. We can do anything with the right amount of love and support behind us.
Carissa Ghaffari, Senior Art Director: Norway’s Postal Service, Posten, puts out a holiday ad every year. They are often very cinematic and tell wonderful stories. This year was no different.
DerekFair, Senior Copywriter: Vroom’s “Dealership Pain” commercial was a 2021 favorite of mine. The spot instantly draws you in with the universal truths attached to traditional car buying then quite literally flips the script. Short, sweet, and borderline electrifying.
Our team is diverse in many ways. However, all 26 members of the Madison+Main team were unanimous in their choice of the worst ad of 2021. So without further adieu, we present the first-annual, highly coveted WHAT THE HELL WAS THE THAT? AWARD for 2021’s worst TV ad goes to Oatly, a purveyor of oat milk. The spot put CEO Toni Petersson out in a random field singing (terribly off-key) on a $75 keyboard. The song was about oat milk and he crooned, “It’s like milk, but made for humans.” It was weird but not in a good way. It was condescending and smug. It was anything but legendairy.
2022 has a lot in store for Madison+Main, including some great ads. Stay tuned in the next week or two for where you can listen or watch Super Bowl Monday appearances!