The Game Within the Big Game

February 3, 2020 | blog | By Kim Smith

On one day each February, television audiences stop trying to avoid commercials and actually plan bathroom breaks to make sure they don’t miss them. Expectations are high. The brands that can kick it through those proverbial goal posts can score some points with fans and, if they’re lucky, make new ones. But enough puns, let’s get to the good stuff.

What did the LOOMIS creative pack think about this year’s ad lineup?

No doubt your social feeds will be filled with snarky opinions today about which brands used their $5.6M/30 seconds well … or not. I asked our creative team to weigh in and share thoughts about who did it best, which spots inspired us to be better, and which confirmed that spending a bunch of money to get in front of 100 million pairs of eyeballs isn’t always the best use of a media budget. As you might imagine, we didn’t always agree, but here are some highlights from our 2020 AdBowl commentary — we’ll try to keep the snark to a minimum.


This is what happens when you have a simple, streamlined product benefit (remember your passwords), a fantastic script, gorgeous art direction, tight editing, outstanding comedic timing, and spot-on sound design. The journey to the product name payoff is so relatable that you almost miss it — wisely, they include a catchy mnemonic at the end to help you remember which brand gets the problem and has the solution. Extra points for sonic branding.


An idiom can be a crutch, or it can be a springboard. This spot, introducing Little Caesar’s delivery, casts Rainn Wilson as the CEO of Sliced Bread Inc., who realizes someone is moving in on his “best thing” territory. As the business tanks, chaos ensues, leading to a button that pays off the concept brilliantly. Kudos to agency McKinney (Durham) who presented the concept during their pitch for the delivery business, and ended up producing it for the brand’s third Bowl appearance.

LOOMIS art director Zach Dominguez named Reece’s Take 5 from Hersheys the runner up — calling it a copywriters dream. Clever and fun, it pulled out every idiom in the book to acknowledge the candy bar’s position as somewhat unknown in the chocolate treat landscape.


This was a tough category, but LOOMIS graphic designer Mitchell Junkman’s vote went to Coke Energy and their talent payments to Martin Scorsese and Jonah Hill. Doesn’t appear they spent as much on the concept.

As Jonah Hill once said “Dude, your references are out of control, everyone knows that.” Zach found it cool to see Walmart build on their 2019 Superbowl commercials featuring famous vehicles, but wanted to change the category name to WE’VE GOT AN UNLIMITED BUDGET AND AREN’T AFRAID TO SHOW IT.

LOOMIS senior art direct Choong Lee wasn’t impressed with Michelob Ultra’s use of Jimmy Fallon and John Cena and found no humor in the former pro wrestler-turned-actor’s attempt to make working out fun for the late night host, and wished for a stronger ending and better link to the product. That said, this spot scores in the MOST FUN TO SHOOT category.


On the flip side, LOOMIS creative director Jim Green felt Amazon used their enormous production budget well, executing a funny concept that answered Ellen DeGeneres’ question about what people did before Alexa. They spent 90 seconds taking us back in time to 7 different eras to see how some of the more mundane requests typically asked of the smart device today might have been answered. Between media, talent, and production this cost Jeff Bezos a pretty penny (Jim would love to know exactly how much) but it was well spent on a solid showing.


Even the biggest brands don’t always want to drop a ton on production, and Jim went on to point out that McDonald’s has all the money to spend, but saved some bucks with their “Famous Orders” spot made up of a series of overhead shots showing food combos beloved by some famous names – some real and some of the more fictional kind. Set to a snappy acapella track, this spot did leave us with lots of questions beyond the production budget: did they have to pay the real people for the use of their names? Does Keith Urban really order 3 different coffees (why not just refill?) Do these people REALLY eat at McDonald’s?


New York Life has made heartstring tugging an artform, and this year’s entry was no different. Subtle, tender, and classic, the brand didn’t have to hit you over the head to drive its Love Takes Action message home – the action being buy life insurance for the people you love. Instead, it tickled your tear ducts and had more than a few of the pack welling up.

Zach got misty over Google’s “Loretta” naming it MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU DOWNLOAD TINDER OR BUMBLE AGAIN.


Okay, if not the best, then definitely the oddest. Rocket Mortgage teased their irreverent use of Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa ahead of time, but the pay-off was nothing like LOOMIS creative director Cecily Worthy anticipated. Home is Jason’s sanctuary, where he can really be himself, and be the most comfortable. But when the spot connects this with how Rocket Mortgage helps you finance the place where you’re most comfortable, the branding felt as weak as they portray Jason Momoa to be in real life.


Hyundai used their SB appearance to introduce the world to the Sonata’s “wicked smaht” auto park feature. Despite the Patriots sitting out this year, the team and the town just had to remind us they still exist. (No comment on Hulu’s tease that Tom Brady might announce his retirement, haha, funny joke, guys.) John Krasinkski, Chris Evans, and Rachel Dratch might seem like an odd trio, but they’re likable and the spot does a good job of showing the product in an appealing way. My question was, what happens when the drivers of the cars on either side of this smaht pahked car want to leave?


When it came to persuasion, our pack was swayed by (no surprise) food and beer. Cecily found Kellogg’s new pretzel Pop Tarts tantalizing, although Zach dubbed it MOST LIKELY TO BE AN APRIL FOOL’S DAY AD.

While LOOMIS associate creative director Eric Brule bought into Michelob Ultra Pure’s 6 for 6. Eric’s usually skeptical when brands use cause marketing tactics, but this one felt a little more realistic than most to him. The connection between purchase and cause matched up well and he predicted at least one purchase of Mich Ultra Organic next time he’s grocery shopping. Choong agreed, feeling that the brand did a good job of explaining their agenda, what to expect, and how to help with the initiative.


Microsoft rolled out their Katie Sowers spot early, but they still won this category, besting Secret’s attempt by a hundred yards. As the first woman coach in Super Bowl history, her story was inspiring and real – and didn’t have the insincere stink of the Secret Kickers’ forced performances. It’s authenticity for the win.

Additional kudos to Porche and Cramer-Krasselt for their HEIST spot. According to industry insiders, the team revised their rough cut on the feedback of a female staffer to make the spot less patronizing to the female driver at the end. The long-form is worth a watch.


Topping last year’s spot was going to be tough for the NFL, but they came close for their 100th anniversary with a parade of NFL stars encouraging Bunchie Young, the 2017 Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year to “take it to the house” in their Next 100 spot which aired just before kick off. The nearly 3 minute spot should also win for Best Use of a Mardi Gras Parade and Most Patriotic Moment as Bunchie pauses to gaze at Pat Tillman’s statue with sad respect. When he reaches the stadium in Miami, he’s met by a host of red-jacketed hall of famers (part of the 100 greatest in NFL history) and Chief’s superfan Magic Melba before he hits the field IRL for showtime.


Mitchell liked Planters tribute to Mr. Peanut with iconic mascots of branding attending the funeral — who doesn’t like the Kool-Aid guy, Mr. Clean, and Wesley Snipes? – although I might put this spot in the category of BEST BABY YODA RIP OFF. (Those eyes!!)


When it comes to flexing its American muscle, Budweiser nearly always leans in (despite now being owned by a Belgian company) and this year was no exception — with a twist. With craft beer threatening, the behemoth brand positioned itself as a challenger, playing its patriotic card to unite those “typical Americans” who prefer “typical beer.”


Eric’s vote for this category went to Bud Light for their Seltzer spots featuring Post Malone. The personification of the singer’s emotions just got him. “Light and refreshing! It says light and refreshing!” He’s a larger than life character and fit the spot perfectly. Lots of subtle details (like the matching tattoos on the team working “inside” Post) really pulled this one together.


There are always more than a few spots that make us go “huh?” and fill the Ad Bingo square that reads “who approved that one?”

Molly Ringwald in an avocado version of QVC? Ummmmm….

The Michael Bay ridiculousness played better in the extended cut for Hard Rock Hotel (below), but the :60 game cut was so frenetic and confusing, it had a few of our pack wondering what just happened.

Roman Coppola directed this four-spots-in-one but made us four times as confused as to what Heinz was trying to tell us. Proof that celebrity and A-list directors don’t guarantee an outstanding spot if the concept isn’t there.


Here’s a brand that got it right. Hands down, we were fans of how Jeep took advantage of the game airing on Groundhog Day by somehow convincing Bill Murray to recreate his role from the 1993 movie. Twisting this tribute with the original concept to perfectly capture Jeep’s unique position checked all the boxes for us. Eric noted how selective the comedy legend is when accepting projects, which made his appearance even more cheer-worthy.

KIM SMITH is a creative director at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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Kim Smith

at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.