As a diehard Broncos fan, I was glued to my TV for Super Bowl 50 Sunday evening for more than Beyoncé and the $5 million dollar Super Bowl ads. However, between watching Von Miller strip the ball from Cam Newton in the first quarter and watching Von Miller strip the ball from Cam Newton in the fourth quarter, I noticed that a significant portion of the outrageously expensive commercials showcased animated characters, from a walking pink-colored lower intestine to an unholy Franken-creature called Puppymonkeybaby.
There were seventeen ads I counted that featured animation prominently in their Super spots, including 11 original characters, three trailers for animated films, two ads that used well-known characters to sell products, and one ad just reminding us that Pokémon is still awesome. Let’s look at some of the ads featuring animation that sparked the most attention.
Dorito’s – “Ultrasound”
This is the tenth and final year Frito Lay has used crowd-sourced ads instead of going with an ad agency to come up with their material. This oddly hilarious spot features a guy eating Doritos while his wife is having an ultrasound. We see the baby reacting to the dad’s snacking via the monitor as he teases the baby by moving the tortilla chip back and forth. Hilarity crowns as the baby does, thrusting itself right out of Mom after the chip she threw in anger away from Dad. Funnily enough, NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) has been protesting the ad, saying it wrongly “humanizes fetuses.” They did not, however, protest Xifaxan for humanizing bodily organs or Schick for humanizing razors. The animation was done by Steven Bronson.
Honda Ridgeline – “Sheep Sing Queen!”
It may not be the most revolutionary animation, but the ad that I enjoyed the most was this one. The sheep are crooning “Somebody to Love” after their owner drives away. When he comes back to drop off more sheep, he turns on the bed speakers and we hear Queen blasting. When he takes off again, the sheep finish the song in a triumphant, adorable scene. Animation supervisor for this was Jacob Bergman.
Schick – “Hydro Robot Razors”
This was actually one of two different anthropomorphic razor ads made by separate razor companies. Now, we don’t have reliable sourcing on who came up with the idea first, so we don’t want to spark a Bug’s Life vs Antz style debate here. This one shows a razor transforming like an Autobot to fight an antiquated “lube-strip” style razor. Eye-catching animation done by Visual FX.
Dollar Shave Club – “Zeke”
The second animated razor ad has a grimy old razor, “Zeke” talking to his owner through a mouth of filth and hair. The man’s wife is disgusted by the nasty device and tells her husband to throw him away. It’s mildly funny and I really do want to join the Dollar Shave Club, so there’s that. The creative director for this one was Matt Orser.
Marmot – “I’m not that kind of Marmot.”
Another cutesy pootsy animal ad—this one shows a marmot and an outdoorsy guy hanging out in the woods, swimming, running, jumping, etc. They are the best of friends and it ends with a really funny (although, apparently also controversial) ending when the man tries to smooch the little critter and the marmot says he is “not that kind of marmot.” Creative direction by Justin Moore of GS&P.
I actually found this poor little IBS-D ridden organ just trying to enjoy the big game endearing. The animation is nothing exceptional, but his design is more appealing than many slapdash syndicated characters out there today. Or maybe my years of stomach issues just made this ad hit too close to home. Animation done at Aardman by Nathan Love.
Mountain Dew – “#puppymonkeybaby”
Truly, words can’t express how bizarre this ad is. I was completely disturbed by it, and not in that gotta-keep-watching-it kind of way. I hated this spot from the first appearance of that freaky creature, PuppyMonkeyBaby, a being with a baby bottom and legs, monkey torso and tail, and a pug face. The beast is trying to amp up some lazy guys by saying “puppymonkeybaby” over and over, a ruse which works (of course) as the guys are all given Mountain Dew Kickstart energy drinks. The slogan “three awesome things combined” contextualizes the presence of the monstrosity, but it can never assuage the trauma my psyche has incurred by watching it. Executive creative director is Lauren Connolly.
There were also some super lame Super Bowl commercials, which I will list together here:
This weird ad about toenail fungus features Howie Long, Deion Sanders, and Jim Nantz getting pedicures with (bad) animation of a foot wearing a robe on its big toe (seriously) swatting away fungus.
Skittles – “The Portrait”
I found this ad featuring Steven Tyler ad and an animated art likeness of the rocker made of skittles to be boring and without a payoff. Tyler dislikes the piece and challenges it to sing higher and higher octaves until the picture cracks and skittles go flying. Meh—I don’t really expect more from Skittles, as I have never really cared for any of their campaigns—no, not even “taste the rainbow.”
Shock Top “Unflitered Talk”
So, this really annoying orange character on a bar tap spends the commercial being a jerk to some guy just trying to enjoy a beer. The idea here is having an unfiltered conversation, but it’s just uncomfortable.
The three trailers that played were:
The Secret Life of Pets
The Jungle Book
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
I really enjoyed the spots that blended products with well known characters this year:
WIX.com and Kung Fu Panda 3
The web design company teamed up with Kung Fu Panda 3 creators to make a really enjoyable 30-second spot. Po is funny in it and I left it wanting to check out their company, so what else can you hope from an ad?
Coke “Hulk vs. Ant-Man”
This commercial was so cool! Impressive, high production quality abound in this piece which shows Ant-Man stealing a coke from Dr. Bruce Banner’s lab. Of course, a chase ensues that resolves nicely, as most Marvel films themselves.
Last, but not least, is the Pokémon ad, which is advertising no specific product except Pokémon generally. No video game or trading cards are mentioned, but the concept and execution of the commercial are undeniably intriguing, if not vague.
Overall, it was a great Super Bowl for Coloradans like me with an enjoyable assortment of ads reminding us all how relevant animation remains—not just in children’s entertainment, but in adult oriented advertising as well.