Super Bowl ads 2020: Grading the best and worst of the game's commercials

Yahoo Sports

Super Bowl Sunday! It’s here at last, the national holiday when we’re forced to sit through football in order to watch so many beloved ads. For the eighth straight year, Yahoo Sports’ Liz Roscher (@lizroscher) and Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) are here to escort you through the dizzying array of celebrity cameos, awkward jokes and heartstring-tugs of this year’s contingent of ads, updating live as they air. (For a complete, highly spoilery rundown of ads shown before the game started, tap here.)

As always, we grade ads on a completely subjective, utterly biased, totally nonscientific basis, and all grades are final. Feel free to contribute your own takes below. Now ... on with the ads!

GRADE: A

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Ad

NFL, “Take It To The House”
Another in the line of starring-everybody NFL commercials, this time featuring a kid running basically across the country and right onto the field to start the Super Bowl. We’ll need to slow this one down to catch it all, but you caught sight of everyone from Jim Brown to Ndamukong Suh to Drew Brees to Jerry Jones to Ray Lewis, and so many more. A fun start to the game.

Universal Pictures, “Fast & Furious 9”
Haven’t these “Fast & Furious” guys wrecked all the cars by now? Like, literally all of them? Somehow they will find new cars to wreck in “Fast & Furious 9.” Cars rolling! Cars exploding! Cars being driven! It’s a smorgasbord of car activity.

Tide, “Laundry Later”
Charlie Day is the king of freakout acting. There’s no one who’s more fun to watch during a ridiculous panic episode. And he’s freaking out in like four different ads! He’s on stage, then he’s old, and he’s even pops up in a “The Masked Singer” commercial. That takes talent.

Rocket Mortgage, “Home”
Oh my god, why would Rocket Mortgage do that to Jason Momoa? Why would they do that to US?! That is TERRIFYING. That commercial should NEVER be shown on TV ever again and we should all forget we saw it… yet I know that’s impossible. It’s exactly what a Super Bowl ad should be: unforgettable.

Porsche, “The Heist”
Like a Porsche-centric version of "Fast and Furious," with the key difference being that these cars all stay on the road. Still, Porsches of all generations rolling at high speed through European vistas is a winner every time.

Hyundai, "Smaht Pahk"
It doesn't matter if Boston accents are overdone (they are), it's hard to dislike a commercial with so many likeable and funny people in it. Boston-area natives Rachel Dratch, Chris Evans, and John Krasinski all play up their accents, and honorary Bostonian David Ortiz even drops by. All they're doing is watching a car park itself, but who says every commercial needs to be a mini action movie? It's like a grown-up sequel to the Sully & Denise SNL skit, but Denise has kicked Sully to the curb and decided to date Captain America instead. Isn't that the dream?

Cheetos, "Can't Touch This"
MC Hammer's head popping out of various things to say "can't touch this" is honestly delightful, and it makes you wonder how he and the famous orange-fingered snack didn't hook up until now. Cheeto Fingers are a real thing, and they'll stain anything you touch. Who doesn't want MC Hammer's head popping out of a rolled up carpet the next time they're afflicted with Cheeto Fingers?

MGM, “No Time to Die”
Is it April yet? Because the latest James Bond installment looks really phenomenal. I’ll be watching the trailers over and over until the release date, thanks.

Dashlane, "Password Paradise"
Forgetting your password is a pain for everyone, but have you ever forgotten it at the worst possible moment? Like when you're trying to convince the grim reaper to let you into heaven? This poor dead man's pain is all too real. Most of us barely remember what we had for breakfast today, let alone what we wanted to be when we grew up.

Sabra, “How-I-Mus”
It’s rare for an ad to feature so many celebrities yet be so light on its feet. This one went by in a flash, but you still got Ric Flair, Urkel, one of the Spice Girls, Chester Cheetah, and Doug the Pug, and tons more. Anything that features Nature Boy is okay by us. Wooooooo!

Amazon Prime Video, “Hunters”
A TV about Nazi hunters in the US, starring Al Pacino? Sign me right up. A slow cover of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" gives the whole ad a creepy vibe, as if watching Nazis hide in plain sight isn't creepy enough.

Doritos, "The Cool Ranch"
This commercial proves one thing: the world needs a Sam Elliott and Lil Nas X buddy comedy. The image of Elliott defiantly yet coquettishly smacking his own butt to "Old Town Road" is one that will stay with me, but not in a bad way. The only thing that could have made this commercial better is if Lil Nas X had worn the phenomenal magenta mesh shirt cowboy outfit that he wore to the Grammys.

Turkish Airlines, “Step On Earth”
Sometimes the simple messages are the best: get out of your own little circuit and travel the world. And hey, if you used Turkish Airlines to do that, I’m sure they’d be very happy.

Amazon Alexa, "Before Alexa"
According to Amazon, before Alexa, we had to ask real human beings questions or do things ourselves like barbarians. How did we ever live like that, opening our mouths to expel words and using our *hands* to press buttons. Our HANDS!! Simply awful. Thankfully, Amazon is here to remind us that things are so much better now that Alexa can do those things while totally not listening or recording every single word we say. We're so lucky!

NFL, “Inspire Change”
The NFL gave Anquan Boldin a platform to talk about his cousin, who was shot to death by the side of the road by a plainclothes police officer. The commerical, which features footage of Boldin's family reacting to the news, is incredibly affecting, and Boldin's message is more important than ever.

Microsoft, "Be the One"
This commercal isn't new, but it's still fantastic. Katie Sowers is on the sidelines of the Super Bowl as a 49ers coach, is the first woman to ever coach in the Super Bowl. She's also the first openly LGBTQ+ person to coach in the Super Bowl. She's blazing trails, smashing glass ceilings, and inspiring young, football-loving girls everywhere.

Jeep, “Groundhog Day”
If you accept the fact that everything we love will one day be repurposed into an ad, you're going to love this one: Bill Murray (Bill Murray!) reprises his Groundhog Day role, with the twist that a Jeep makes even the same day a different day every single time. Any time you get one more shot at Ned Ryerson, you've gotta take it.

GRADE: B

Marvel Studios, “Black Widow”
If we hadn’t seen most of this footage in earlier trailers, this would qualify as a must-watch. (The first “Avengers” trailer aired during the Super Bowl, and it was a game-stopper.) Looks like a great movie, but nothing particularly remarkable here.

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar, "As Good As the Original"
Using the most famous and terrifying scene from "The Shining" is an interesting way to sell soda, since all I could think of during that commercial was "Hey, look, it's Bryan Cranston!" and "Someone save Tracee Ellis Ross, Bryan Cranston is trying to kill her!" It's memorable and ridiculous, and in the best way possible.

Hard Rock International, “JLo’s Bling Cup”
As if anyone needed a reminder that Jennifer Lopez can do anything, she’s kicking so much butt in this ad, chasing after whoever stole her bling cup. DJ Khaled apparently took it, but not before cramming his face inside a mask of Alex Rodriguez, for some reason? It’s all weird, but it’s colorful and fun and, best of all, JLo is in it. Why can’t she be in everything?

TurboTax, "All People are Tax People"
Dancing and taxes, together at last, as everyone has always wanted. Doing that dance, or even watching people do it, is certainly more entertaining than thinking about or doing your taxes. Then again, most things are.

Google Assistant, "Loretta"
Do you have a box of tissues handy? A man uses Google Assistant to make sure he doesn't forget his late wife, looking at photos and asking that disembodied voice to make sure he remembers important details about her. This ad is engineered to make you feel lots of feelings, and it succeeds. [sob]

WeatherTech, "Lucky Dog"
Featuring a dog in your commercial is always a good move, and since Scout the WeatherTech dog is cancer survivor, it's especially delightful. WeatherTech didn't try to sell a product this year, they just told Scout's story and asked people to donate to fund the technology that saved his life. (Here’s the story behind that ad.)

Michelob Ultra, “Patience”
Though we question whether anyone under the age of 35 can whistle the intro melody to Guns n’ Roses’ “Patience,” the fact that it’s Guns n’ Roses is good enough for us.

Toyota, “Remote Connect”
Anything that makes a harried parent’s life easier is worthwhile, especially a remote-unlocking car when you’re carrying basically your entire family on your way out the door in the morning.

SodaStream, "Water on Mars"
Credit where it's due: you have no idea where this ad is going until it gets there. Once it does get there, to the first water found on Mars being turned into fizzy water thanks to the SodaStream, try not to think about it too much. If you do, you'll start asking questions like: why is there a SodaStream on this mission to Mars? How could one of the astronauts on this mission mistake Mars water for regular water? Wouldn't it be, you know, incredibly gross and poisonous? How is that guy not dead the moment the water sloshes into his mouth? The answers? Lighten up, it's a SodaStream commercial.

Reese’s Take 5, “Rock”
Imagining overused cliches as real life things isn't new, but the execution in this ad is excellent. It's not all laugh out loud funny, but the guy watering his keyboard is a winner, and they saved the best for last: a dude walking around with his head stuffed entirely up his rear. Sometimes the simplest jokes are the funniest.

Michelob Ultra, "Jimmy Works Out"
Not every commercial has to be clever; sometimes they can just be fun. Michelob recruited John Cena, The Roots, Brooks Koepka, Usain Bolt, and Kerri Walsh Jennings to help Jimmy Fallon get in shape, turning every exercise into a funhouse game. Trampoline volleyball? Sign me up.

Pepsi Zero Sugar, "Zero Sugar Done Right"
Pepsi continues its tradition of using musicians in its commercials, and while this one won't blow you away, everybody needs a reminder that Missy Elliot is one of the GOATs and "Paint it Black" is a killer song. Between Missy and the red and black vinyl outfits, it feels like the beginning of a late 1990s music video, and I feel cheated that we don't get to see the end.

Budweiser, "Typical Americans"
Budweiser's 2020 Super Bowl ad won't stick with you the way "WHASSUP" did, but it manages to be both touching and clever — a relative rarity in this business. No clydesdales, no frogs, just typical Americans doing good things with an iroinic narration. If you teared up at this commercial trying to sell you the most basic beer in creation, don't worry: you're not alone.

Facebook, “I Wanna Rock”
Facebook's steering hard into "Groups," collectives that share common interests, which is probably a good plan because advertising "high school friends who yell at you for your politics" isn't a great marketing hook. The ad employs every variation of "rock" possible, including a couple of guest stars you could probably guess even without seeing the ad. (But no, not The Rock or Kid Rock.)

GRADE: C

Quibi, “The Heist”
Know what Quibi is? Little snippets of video. Because your attention span is short. So short. Tiny, even. Advertisers fear they'll lose you if they go any further than just a few seconds and--hey! Pay attention! Anyway, this was a teaser for a service that won't show up for two months.

Walmart, "Famous Visitors"
More famous movie characters come to Walmart to pick up their groceries, but this time they all come from outer space. The Mars Attacks aliens! The smart-mouthed pug from Men In Black! Bill from "Bill and Ted!" That's just the short list, which is the problem with this ad. There are too many of them. No one really says or does anything entertaining, so it's just 60 seconds of you saying "I know who that character is!" Maybe base recognition is the level we're at for commercials these days, but shouldn't we demand more?

Hulu, “Tom Brady”
This ad is perfectly fine for what it is: a bit of artsy fluff calling our attention to Hulu. But for the fact that it swiped attention from the rest of the NFL during Super Bowl week, and also because it gave the entire New England region heart palpitations, it gets the Gentleman’s C.

SquareSpace, “Winona in Winona”
The joke is that Winona Ryder is in a town named Winona. Get it? And then she's also making a website for it? Okay, maybe I don't get it.

Avocados from Mexico, "The Avocados from Mexico Shopping Network"
Molly Ringwald stars in this ad that's too bizarre to be cute, but that's somehow also too cute to be bizarre? The concept is a take on the Home Shopping Network, and while an avocado wearing a tiny hat is adorable, it's hard to tell what the point is — especially since you can't actually buy a tiny hat for your soon-to-be-eaten avocado, which feels like a missed opportunity. How is "avocados wearing tiny clothes" not the entire concept of this ad?

Pop-Tarts, "Fixed the Pretzel"
Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness is working hard to sell us pretzel Pop Tarts in this fake infomercial ad, and at one point utters the phrase "are you strugs to snack?" It's pretty cringeworthy, but Van Ness is charming, and the ad contains a lot of sequins and someone trying to put a pretzel into a toaster. The overall effect is clangy and campy, but on the plus side, now we all know that pretzel Pop Tarts exist, and we can ask the universe why they didn't exist before.

Illumination, “Minions: Rise of Gru”
This will be approximately the 84,974th movie to feature the Minions, and unfortunately they still look just as cute as they did 84,846 movies ago.

Heinz
Heinz is trying something weird by airing four ads at once, and it's a crazy, jumbled mess. It's not clear why they decided to make it so hard on themselves by putting four ads in a single commercial to sell their beloved ketchup, but at least they tried something different! It doesn't work, but it's different!

Bud Light Seltzer, “Post Malone”
The "little people in your head controlling your every move" trope is about as groundbreaking an ad concept as putting pepperoni on pizza, though tatting up all the little Post Malone Mission Control workers was a nice touch. Inoffensive, straightforward, and designed to run for months, if not years.

Little Caesars, "Best Thing Since Sliced Bread"
This commercial should have been 10 seconds of story and 20 seconds of new bread ideas. Sparkle bread and pet bread aren't enough, the world should have been treated to an litany of weird bread ideas. Phone bread? Bread pants? Bread car? Bread lamp? Sofa bread? Bed bread? Little Caesars denied us all of those and more. Thanks for nothing, Little Caesars.

Toyota, “Room for More”
The typical 2020 Super Bowl ad conception: mixing and matching familiar genres like samples. Docked a full letter grade for making an alien-orifice reference while we're trying to eat our damn nachos.

Procter & Gamble, “Together”
Like the chili that hit the fan, this is an ad that sprays everything in every direction: Sofia Vergara, Rob Riggle, Troy Polamalu and heaven knows who else. It’s like a Super Bowl commercial reality show.

GRADE: D

Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, "Six for Six Pack"
Michelob is using sales of six packs to transition regular farmland into organic farmland, but this meh, nondescript commercial looks more like a bad car ad and won't convince anyone to do anything — besides ask "do you know what that commercial was selling?"

Genesis, "Going Away Party"
John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen are adorable, but even they can't sell this really bizarre commerical concept. It barely makes sense, and there's a 20-second interlude in the middle during which Tiegen is insulting her own party guests while Legend is nowhere to be seen. The only enjoyable part is when the two of them interact, so why wasn't the commercial just that?

Pringles, “Rick & Morty”
The "Rick and Morty" crew is stuck in a Pringles commercial, which is a cute concept that gets completely wasted in this 30-second spot. Maybe you need to watch the show to really get it, which feels like too much to ask of your typical Super Bowl audience.

Coca-Cola, "Three Dots"
This is as big a flex as corporate America gets: Coke hiring Martin Scorsese and Jonah Hill in service of a way-overblown gag (what will those three dots say...?) You could watch “The Irishman,” or you could watch this ad 220 times. We'd go with “The Irishman.”

Planters, “Baby Peanut”
This one was apparently tabled in the wake of the Kobe Bryant tragedy, but it’s made its way back into the ad rotation ... and the result was a nakedly obvious grab for cuteness attention a la Baby Yoda.

Kia, "Tough Never Quits"
The Raiders' Josh Jacobs talks about growing up homeless with his younger self, but if you thought this commercial was going to end with the announcement that Kia would be donating money to a charity that's working to end homelessness, you're sorely mistaken. Donations like that are usually just for show, but at least they provide the illusion that an athlete's personal history is meaningful beyond selling cars. Kia didn't even bother.

Discover, “Yes and No”
Discover split up its 30-second ad buy into two 15-second spots, but they're both essentially the same: scenes from movies and TV shows saying "yes" or "no" about card benefits. And it's... fine. It's just fine. It's not innovative, it's not exciting, it's just fine. If it inspires you to do anything, it'll be to go and watch any of the 50 or so movies or TV shows they featured.

Audi, "Let it Go"
Arya Stark singing "Let it Go" is certainly a choice for your Super Bowl car commercial. The lyrics to the song make you think it's about letting go in the driver's seat, which is a common car ad theme, but then it's apparently about sustainability? It's all confusing, and since Maisie Williams could instead be kicking butt and cutting off heads, it seems like a waste of her — and our — time.

GRADE: F

Snickers, "Fix the World"
This ad is awful. According to them, dudes who ride scooters are a problem. People who "reinvent" milk are a problem. People over 50 who text sexy pics are a problem. Maybe Snickers should shut up and try to sell us some candy.

New York Life, "Love Takes Action"
There's room for all kinds of commercials during the Super Bowl, but maybe New York Life should have punched things up a little more before sending over their ad. It talks about the ancient Greeks' four words for love, which is nice enough, but there's no stirring graphics or personal stories. It feels like a collection of stock footage, which is bad for a Super Bowl ad, but exactly what you'd imagine an insurace company would do.

Olay, "Make Space for Women"
There's silly, and then there's nonsensical and cringey. Olay's aims are good, but my only reaction to this commercial is to hit the mute button.

NO GRADE

Donald J. Trump for President
Yeah ... we're not grading any political commercials. You can do that at your own Super Bowl party. The first Trump ad aired during the game focused on criminal justice reform.

Mike Bloomberg for President
As with the Trump ad, we aren't grading political ads. We figure you can handle that on your own. This Bloomberg ad doesn't focus on Trump, instead targeting the gun lobby and touting Bloomberg's credentials via a mother who lost her son to gun violence.

Verizon, “5G”
5G’s going to change our lives, technologically, but it’ll never replace human attributes like courage and determination. As Verizon is the parent company of Yahoo Sports, we’ll just let this one stand on its own as well.

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