We’ve picked the five best ads of last night’s Super Bowl. Now, it’s time for our somewhat less pleasant annual tradition—picking the five worst ads of the game.
In recent years, we’ve tweaked our methodology for picking the worst ads. There were plenty of stinkers last night from brands that aren’t known for great advertising—we generally give such brands a pass on this list nowadays. Rather, we focus on the most underwhelming ads from marketers who know better—brands that have done great work in the past and who had an off night.
That’s why you won’t find the American Petroleum Institute, or King’s Hawaiian, or any of last night’s lame video game ads on this list. Rather, you’ll see five major marketers who didn’t really show up to play—at least, not with these particular executions.
See our picks for the five worst ads of Super Bowl LI below.
5. Coca-Cola – Classic Love Story
Such a venerable Super Bowl advertiser, Coca-Cola aired nothing new on the game this year, choosing to air this anodyne product spot, along with a similarly disappointing (and also old) LeBron James :30 for Sprite. The marketer put its best work in the pre-game, running the well-known spot with “America the Beautiful” being sung in different languages. That ad, too, was old—it first aired on the 2014 Super Bowl—but at least it felt exciting and newly relevant.
4. Wendy’s – Cold Storage
Wendy’s is a fun-loving brand that does plenty of amusing advertising, particularly in social. But this spot—the brand’s first Super Bowl commercial in its nearly 50-year history—just didn’t deliver. Among all those jokes in last night’s ad, the guy taking the hair dryer to the frozen patties was just too much of a bottom-feeder.
3. KFC – Colonel vs. Colonel
This whole campaign is a bit sketchy, but usually the ads—with a rotating cast of colonels—have decent entertainment value. This one, with Billy Zane covered in gold facing off against previous colonel Rob Riggle, didn’t do anything for us. Whatever the secret recipe is for Super Bowl spots, KFC hasn’t found it.
2. Alfa Romeo – Dear Predictable
Everyone looks forward to what Fiat Chrysler will do in the Super Bowl. The company never releases its ads early, and they’re usually creatively strong. (“Born of Fire,” “It’s Halftime in America” and “Farmer” are among FCA’s classic recent Super Bowl spots.) Unfortunately, the three Alfa Romeo ads on last night’s game didn’t uphold that grand tradition. The worst of them, a spot called “Dear Predictable,” was, ironically, as predictable as they come.
1. T-Mobile – #UnlimitedMoves with Justin Bieber
T-Mobile aired some good ads last night—the Kristen Schaal spots were fun, and Martha Stewart/Snoop Dogg was solid, too. This Bieber commercial, though, was a travesty. The man just cannot charm an audience, no matter how hard he tries. (On the plus side, the ad did inspire one of the best tweets of the night, from a police force in Minnesota.) Biebs, is it too late now to say sorry?