Super Bowl Commercials 2014: Ads That Made Biggest Impact on Viewers

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

Stephen Colbert Makes Super Bowl Debut with Wonderful Pistachios. Wonderful Pistachios Returns to the Super Bowl with Two New Spots, New Campaign Theme,
Associated Press

Some say they only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. On Sunday, those folks sure had a lot more fun than you or I.

While the rest of us were bored into a stupor by the Seattle Seahawks taking an aluminum baseball bat to Peyton Manning's legacy, those uninterested in the game had just a merry old time. The game did not change for them. Who cares if Super Bowl XLVIII matched the third-biggest blowout in the nearly five decades of games played?

For them, the game amounted to this: Wait, was that John Stamos? And Bob Saget? Oh my. Why do they try keeping that Golden Retriever and Clydesdale apart? They're friends!

The commercial-lovers also, as always, got to bogart the best snacks while we were all trying to talk ourselves into this game becoming watchable. I mean, it was Peyton Manning. How could we have known that this was all a part of an elaborate troll to make people angry at themselves for calling in "sick" for work on Monday?

So, let's do a quick recap.

Football fans receive: Awful football game, secondary snack choice, endless talk of Manning's legacy on sports-talk radio and feeling as if we were catfished by this game.

Non-football fans receive: fun, better snacks and a full, more fulfilling life.

I really don't think this is a fair trade. But for those of us focused on the football game, here's a look at what went on as we complained in between bites of buffalo chicken dip.


Wha—Bah Gawd, That's Full House's Music

Maybe it's my age. Maybe being 23 and having watched roughly 6,421 hours of Full House as a child forced me to mark out like teenagers at a One Direction concert. Maybe this was all in my head, Full House was terrible and Bob Saget should only be known as the dude who narrates How I Met Your Mother.

Well, maybe you should stop it. Because this commercial from Dannon Oikos won the night and won the Super Bowl party for anyone relatively close to my generation.

If only they would have had Cory and Topanga pitching childcare safety in their new luxury fan next. Or Will and Carlton as backup dancers to Bruno Mars at halftime. Only then would those of us from the '90s have gone crazier.

There are many questions that come with Danny Tanner, Jesse Katsopolis and Joey Gladstone reuniting for a commercial, of course. When did they move out of the classic house and into a mansion together? Why is that lady kissing Aunt Becky's husband? Aunt Becky is OK, right? Do they make Joey sleep in the basement in the new house, too?

Whatever. Turn your brain off and be happy.


Golden Retriever Puppies? OK, You Got Me Budweiser

Overall, advertisements seemed more earnest this year. The sexually charged, "go here for the unrated version" commercials of years past were eschewed, seemingly as companies hoped your wallets were tied to your purse strings. 

At some points, it felt emotionally manipulative and totally unearned. You can't just throw a Sarah McLachlan song on, put a bunch of jumbled pictures together and expect our hearts to melt—unless it's a 2 a.m. commercial for the ASPCA or whatever, in which case it totally works. Every. Single. Time.

But when companies can mix the right level of emotionality and originality, it totally works. Hence this Budweiser commercial, which seems on the surface like it shouldn't work whatsoever. The Clydesdales are so-called classics. They just don't resonate with younger viewers. Budweiser skews older than college favorite Bud Light, but today's Bud Light drinker is tomorrow's Budweiser drinker—or so the assumption goes.

So, what do you do whenever you want to appeal to those young and old? Puppies. Always puppies. And two neighbors who are obviously destined to fall in love in an ABC Family movie sometime within the next six weeks.

But mostly puppies.


Coca-Cola Over Everything for This Ad

This shouldn't work. Remember that emotionally manipulative stuff? Yeah, this should totally go into that wellspring. On the surface, it's the type of all-is-one generalization that makes happy endings in all films without complete resolution. It's sappy to be sappy and to get people talking about the sappiness.

You know what? I. Don't. Care. I'm in. You got me, Coke—even if I'm only supporting this commercial because of the unquestionably xenophobic and frankly horrifying vitriol received after folks saw the airing. James Poniewozik of Time and others had great takes on this, both praising Coke for its willingness to step out on a limb and criticizing terrible human beings.

If you dislike the ad because it felt a bit too on the nose for you, fair enough. If you don't like it because "we speak English, this is 'Merica," go away. Please and thank you. And if you don't have an opinion, I implore you to ride or die for it just in the fight against intolerance and flabbergasting stupidity that makes us all look bad.


Stephen Colbert, Just Because

It's hard to go wrong adding Stephen Colbert to the mix anywhere. I've regarded his Colbert Report over the more oft-awarded Daily Show for a few years now, and any excuse to give Colbert, his show or one of my favorite snacks notoriety is a good thing.

Pistachios aren't exactly a game-time snack, and my hands tend to get a little raw plucking at the shell. As a Super Bowl commercial, the bald eagle in a suit was a solid wrinkle to an otherwise straight-forward setup in the first 15-second spot. 

Then, the hammer dropped when Colbert came back 15 seconds later. I'm not sure how much I would pay for a replica lime-green suit with "Wonder Pistachios" scribbled all over it, but it's somewhere between $1 and $6,000.

Plus, bald eagle in a suit. Again.


RadioShack?!?! LOL. No, Really, RadioShack!

Before Super Bowl Sunday, I was about 60 percent sure all RadioShacks were out of business. Not even being remotely facetious here. The electronics retailer has faced stiff competition in recent years as large, all-encompassing stores like Walmart undercut prices while selling mostly the same items. While the expertise of a RadioShack employee helps in deciding what to purchase, there's a cost-benefit ratio that RadioShack seemed to have lost in my mental cavities.

Well, guess what? RadioShack is still alive, still kicking and coming through with one of the best commercials of the night. The nostalgia button worked better for yours truly with the Full House ad, but you have to give it to RadioShack for being so unapologetically '80s.

It was like one big, giant, bad hair party, and everyone was invited. You had Alf. You had Cliff Clavin. Chucky was there. So was Hulk Hogan, brother. Everyone who was anyone in the '80s—at least those who were readily available for a quick paycheck—came through, took their store back and reintroduced RadioShack to the world.

Apparently, there is a RadioShack still open in my hometown. Who knows whether that will be the stop for yours or my next electronic purchase, but if the point of Super Bowl commercials is to raise awareness for your product, perhaps none did it better than RadioShack.


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