Sunday is the Super Bowl, which, if you’re a football fan, means a chance to engage in some top-notch snacking while watching a sport you enjoy—or, if you’re like me and don’t really care about football one way or the other, a chance to still snack a lot while also watching some of the best ads of the year. For Super Bowl XLIX, brands paid a small fortune—$4.5 million, according to NBC—to lock up a single 30-second spot in the advertising lineup. That’s 120 times more than what an ad during the big game cost in 1967, at the inaugural Super Bowl, but times have changed.
This year, much like in 2014, many advertisers chose to release their commercials on YouTube or debut them on TV before the actual game rolled around. Some, like Doritos and Pepsi (both owned by PepsiCo Inc.), turned the prereleases into extensive marketing campaigns of their own. On Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” site, fans could vote for their favorite of 10 possible ads. Pepsi, which is sponsoring this year’s halftime show with Katy Perry, is wrapping up a months-long campaign that included more than 40 promotional events and, at last count, has led to 22 videos in its “Hyped for Halftime 2015” YouTube channel.
Will the best ads be the ones that have already premiered? Or are the greatest yet to come? You be the judge.
BMW: “Newfangled Idea”
Newscasters Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric reprise their classic 1994 Today Show episode on the state of the Internet—“What is Internet anyway? What, do you write to it, like mail?”—for BMW’s new electric i3 car.
“Famous person” Kim Kardashian isn’t afraid to satirize herself in this minutelong spot for T-Mobile’s generous rollover data policies. It might not break the Internet, but it’s a delightfully self-aware performance all the same.
Nationwide: “Invisible Mindy Kaling”
Mindy Kaling has some fun in this ad for Nationwide Insurance, stripping on a lawn, eating ice cream in the aisles of the supermarket, and strolling through a car wash after deciding that, yes, she might actually be invisible.
Budweiser: “Lost Dog”
After its massive success with “Puppy Love” last year, Budweiser returned to the cute-puppy formula for 2015. As AdWeek succinctly put it: “Sequels are tough. For every Godfather Part II, there’s a Godfather Part III.” Still, puppies.
GoDaddy: “Journey Home”
With a snarky nod to Budweiser’s Just Add Puppies tactics, website-building site GoDaddy released its own Homeward Bound-esque commercial online. But the irony ended up on GoDaddy—the spoof backfired and the company took down the ad to appease outraged animal rights activists shortly after it debuted.
Bud Light: “Real Life PacMan”
While Budweiser goes for sentiment, Bud Light is after adventure. In 2014, that took the shape of a two-part commercial in which a beautiful woman handed everyday guy Ian a beer and said, “If I give you this, are you up for whatever happens next?” This year, Bud Light is trying the up-for-whatever framing again, but with a whole new storyline (hint: real-life Pac-Man).
Skittles: “Marshawn Lynch Press Conference”
Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks running back whom the NFL last year fined $100,000 for not talking to the press (and is mulling another fine against now), makes a special appearance for his favorite candy brand in this clever Skittles commercial. In his words, it’s “more awesomer.”
Snickers: “The Brady Bunch”
Do you turn into the title character from Machete when you haven’t had a Snickers bar recently? No? How odd. Perhaps this isn’t the sugar-filled solution to your low-blood-sugar-induced angst, then.
Last summer, Always found itself with a smash hit in “#LikeAGirl,” a three-plus minute ad and mini-documentary on female empowerment by director Lauren Greenfield. (“We’re wasting our best filmmakers on tampon ads,” Amanda Hess noted.) For the big game, Always has edited the original spot down to 60 seconds.
Dove Men+Care: “#RealStrength”
Like Always (the brand), Dove chooses to go sentimental with its Super Bowl ad, with a montage of touching moments between fathers and their children.
Slow and steady wins the race, we’ve been told, and no time is that more true than when slow and steady gets a hold of a brand-new Mercedes-Benz en route to the finish line. Perhaps not the message Aesop intended, but what can you do?
Kia Sorento: “The Perfect Getaway”
Inception meets a holiday catalog meets some pretty smart screenwriting and directing in this Kia Sorento ad with Pierce Brosnan. Just remember: no explosions.
The most epic commercial of Super Bowl XLIX so far is the semi-dark and stunning broadcast debut from Mophie and director Christopher Riggert. Can anything save the people of Earth from the impending apocalypse? We’ll give you one guess.