My Top 5 Super Bowl Ads of 2020

Another Super Bowl has come and gone. This was the first year watching the big game in my new house, with my new wife, and my new dog. We had a few friends over to watch Super Bowl LIV on a giant 75-inch TV in true 4K UHD quality — what a time to be alive!

From MTN Dew’s “Zero Sugar. As Good as the Original” Super Bowl ad.

2020 saw a slight departure from the past few years as brands moved away from striking an emotional chord with viewers by speaking out on social issues. With a few exceptions (Verizon’s “The Amazing Things 5G Won’t Do” had good intentions, I’m sure, but felt like it was exploiting first responders rather than honoring them), brands largely turned to comedy to capture viewers’ attention.

Working off the theory that American’s have short attention spans, brands also used a couple tactics to keep viewers engaged: using lots of star power by way of short cameo appearances and using multiple situations within a single spot. This led some ads to fall flat as there was simply too much going on and each spot seemed to lack a clear story arc.

Too many star cameos and lack of story arc aside, I still found plenty of good ads this year. Many of which I overheard people talking about at the office the next day. But I assure you, I have not let my colleagues influence my ranking of the top 5 Super Bowl ads of 2020. Here they are:

5. Cheetos — Can’t Touch This

The concept of not helping out because you have “Cheeto hands” is a rather hilariously true in itself, add in MC Hammer and you’ve got comedy gold!

4. Rocket Mortgage — Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa is a larger than life character on and off the big screen. So to see him head home to relax by removing his larger than life muscles and struggling to bench press the empty bar was not only cleaver, it was an impressive visual effect.

3. Jeep — Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is without a doubt my favorite Bill Murray flick so this was an obvious choice for my top 5. It was great to revisit some the sights and characters from the classic 1993 film; the fact that the Super Bowl happened to land on Groundhog Day made this the perfect lighthearted Super Bowl ad.

2. MTN Dew — Zero Sugar. As Good as the Original

The Shining is the greatest film of all time. And while this MTN Dew Super Bowl ad is not quite the same masterpiece as the Stanley Kubrick classic, it was thoughtfully done and maintained an incredible attention to detail, Bryan Cranston does a mean Jack Nicholson impression, and the green MTN Dew gushing through the elevator doors was a nice touch. As if that weren’t all enough, the :60 spot hits you with one more: Bryan Cranston dressed as the creepy twins. Awesome Super Bowl commercial.

1. Hyundai — Smaht Pahk

I’ve watched this one a few times now and it gets me rolling every time. Maybe it’s because I lived in Greater Boston for four years, but I just love watching a trio of Bostonians ripping on their awful accent. This was probably the commercial I heard talked about the most at work and I was happy to jump in with my own Boston accent. Not sure it’s going to move cars for Hyundai, but I’ll bet there’s a lot of people who learned about the Sonata’s smart parking feature for the first time. Well done.

Honorable Mentions

Tide gets a shout out for continuity for it’s Super Bowl Now, Laundry Later series of ads. Add in everyone’s favorite character from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and you’ve got a recipe for success and ad recall.

Again, maybe it’s because I lived just down the road from Foxboro for four years, but I loved Hulu’s Tom Brady fake out. Not in the top five because, well, it features Tom Brady. Enough of the Patriots; I think America is ready to move on.

Finally, I noticed Budweiser ran a brilliant ad revisiting its classic Wasssup! Super Bowl spot. This was an absolutely brilliant ad that featured an empty apartment filled with smart devices coming to life to say the iconic Budweiser catch phrase. The only reason it’s not on my top five? It only aired in Canada. Budweiser’s ‘Typical Americans’ spot was fine, but I think I just wasn’t up for the emotional angle this year.