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Super Bowl 51 ads, ranked from best to worst

Super Bowl 51 contained a phenomenal finish, the greatest comeback in NFL history, and the worst Atlantaing of them all. But: it also contained a few commercials worth talking about. This year, each commercial went for nearly $5 million per 30 seconds. This is insane. This is also great, because I can’t think of anything better than watching a company waste $5 million on a totally pointless ad. There were 62 of them this year; 56 were either pointless or outright sucked. I’ve reviewed some below.

1. Avocados From Mexico

This was one of the first ads of the night, and probably the most successful of a lean group. It made me laugh multiple times, is mildly inventive, and parodies the “stream everything” plague. It’s good!

2. Squarespace & John Malkovich

I wish Squarespace switched the pregame ad (quite a bit better) and this one, though John Malkovich in basically anything is a win. My generation knows this frustration in a different way. Registering for memberships or user accounts on sites where I can’t use some combination of my first initial and last name is infuriating. I get you, John!


Is this the best ad ever? Obviously not. This one likely flew over the head of a lot of folks, but it’s a direct reference to a series of ads that ran in the late 1970s/early 1980s aaaaand who cares the can said “BUUUUSCHHHHHH” and it’s funny.

4. It’s a 10 Hair Care

Bad hair. This one succeeds because I didn’t know what It’s a 10 Hair Care was prior to the commercial. Now I do!

5. Bud Light’s Ghost Spuds MacKenzie

Of all the dumb nostalgic references ads have made me sit through in the last few years, this one was at least:

  • Self-aware
  • Funny
  • Has a dog and not a person

Therefore, it was good. Too long, though.

6. Kia Journey

I had forgotten about this one until this morning. Your mileage will vary on how good this is or not, but I happen to really enjoy Melissa McCarthy. She’s the best thing going in just about any movie she’s in. This commercial is no exception, as it would’ve been useless with, say, Not Melissa McCarthy.

7-59. A bunch of stuff not worth watching

The AirBNB #weaccept ad was well-received by my side of the aisle, but it’s remarkably pander-y for a corporation with a six-man board of directors including five white dudes. Same with Audi. People seem to be going crazy over the celebrity yearbook Honda ad today. Celebrity fetishization: just not my thing.

In between those were a lot of ads that went in one ear and out the other. 62 ads seems like an appropriately inflated number of ads for the Super Bowl, doesn’t it? And tons of them are boring! As a PR executive, your two rules in building a commercial that costs $5 million dollars to air should be as simple as this:

  • Is it funny?
  • If not, is it emotionally resounding in some way?

If you can’t answer one or the other with certainty, you should be fired on the spot.

60. T-Mobile Justin Bieber

What the hell is Justin Bieber supposed to be here? Game show host by way of Steve Harvey? I don’t get why the guy is given a character of “look at these silly children” when he’s 22 years old. (I am 23, for the record.) This is a baffling advertisement.

61. LIFEWTR, “Inspiration Drops”

LIFEWTR is apparently laced with LSD. I hate to be That Guy, but has John Legend done anything worth caring about in 12 years?

62. American Petroleum Institute

Appropriately, this can’t be found on YouTube. Go find it yourself, if you so desire. (Expletive) this ad.

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