Best and Worst Super Bowl Car Ads

Christopher Walken for Kia

Some assignments are just too good to pass up. Somebody needed to watch the current crop of automotive commercials for Super Bowl 50, and who better than me? I love cars. I love commercials. And I love sharing my opinion.

This isn’t an in-depth look at every single commercial. Rather it’s a quick critique of some of the best and some of the worst. In no particular order, except for the one I saved for the end, here are the best and worst automotive commercials for Super Bowl 50.

2017 Honda Ridgeline ad

Okay, talking and singing animals are a standard commercial cliché, but I’ll be darned if this commercial doesn’t work on every level. A talking dog and singing sheep are a brilliant combination. The commercial shows how stunning the new Honda Ridgeline is and that it has available truck-bed audio. I want to watch this commercial, and more importantly, I want to hear what the truck-bed audio really sounds like. Plus, Freddie Mercury.

2017 Acura NSX ad

This is a mishmash of music and machine. Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil” is a strong song. The 2017 Acura NSX is a beautiful car. RWTD is a raw anthem. The NSX is all about sleek sexiness. It deserves something with a Latin infusion. There’s just nothing raw about the NSX. The extended version of this ad is a little better, which is why I shared it instead of the 30-second version.

2016 MINI Clubman ad

“This car doesn’t care what you call it,” Harvey Keitel proclaims at the end of the commercial for the 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman. The tagline pops up, “Defy Labels.” I kind of wish there were labels in this ad. Is that Serena or Venus Williams? [It’s Serena.] Who the heck are the rest of these people? I had to watch this spot three times before I remembered it was for the MINI Clubman, because I kept getting distracted. All this ad did was succeed in telling me I’m not hip enough to like this car. Oh yeah, and Harvey Keitel’s still alive. I thought he wasn’t for some reason.

Kia Optima ad with Christopher Walken

This is my personal favorite. Christopher Walken just embraces his weirdness in this commercial for the 2016 Kia Optima, the “world’s most exciting pair of socks but… a midsize sedan.” His diction and delivery are just perfect. Yet the spot also succeeds because the Optima is an able co-star. I didn’t forget the subject of this commercial.

“Punch it Richard — c’mon punch it.” Christopher Walken as a sock puppeteer just cracks me up no matter how many times I see the ad.

Hyundai Genesis ad with Kevin Hart

Hyundai Elantra ad with Ryan Reynolds

Hyundai has two ads this year. One appeals to women with Ryan Reynolds, while the other apparently appeals to dads who like technology with the usually funny Kevin Hart. I’m a dad who likes technology, but all I remember about the Kevin Hart commercial is feeling it was improbable bordering on stupid. I like the Hyundai Genesis (a lot). I even like the thought of the Car Finder app for the Apple Watch. But the commercial just leaves me thinking, “Way to waste Kevin Hart’s talents.”

Okay, now the Ryan Reynolds ad appeals to me because of the part where one Ryan tackles another. How’d they do that? And the line, “In my face!” was just brilliant. The commercial ends with the 2017 Hyundai Elantra stopping via its automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection while Ryan Reynolds is crossing the street with a bunch of dogs. Of course, the ad would have knocked it out of the park if he was walking a bunch of Ryan Reynolds, but that’s probably too much to ask.

Budweiser Drunk driving ad with Helen Mirren

Okay, let’s end on a serious message. Budweiser does a humorous ad with Helen Mirren that drives home a strong point, especially worth remembering with all the alcohol that surrounds the Super Bowl.

“The collective ‘we’ are dumbfounded that people still drive drunk,” says Mirren, as she sits at a table laden with a hamburger the size of her head and a bottle of Bud. The ad could have ended there and been perfect.

But then she lays into people who drive drunk with insults so classy because they have her strong vigor and they’re delivered in a British accent. “If you donated your brain to science, science would return it.”

Be safe this Sunday. Sit back and enjoy the Super Bowl in a responsible manner.

-Keith Griffin

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