Very few people can play in the NFL, fewer in a Superbowl, and even fewer win it 6 times. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have better records with Superbowl wins than most ad agencies. Very few agencies get to play in the big game, and so those who do, go all out.

As do the critics the day after. And while there are plenty of opinions of what were the best and worst ads of the Superbowl, and there is the AdBowl and the AdMeter ad nauseum.

We look at ads differently at The Next Wave. It’s about effectiveness. Do they make their clients more money than they spent? Will they create good will with their target market? Will they evoke new levels of respect for the brand? These are the things that count with us. And most of it stems from the creative brief- is the campaign on target? Does it hit the right buttons?

Looking back at Superbowl LI or 51, or 2017, or the one where Tom Brady pulled a win out of his rear end, there were a few spots that performed incredibly well.The rest, helped the agency make money, or stoked some egos in the ad world.

The biggest winner was 84 Lumber. While they never could have anticipated their spot would get the GoDaddy banned treatment, it helped build some pre-game buzz. And while they and their agency don’t seem to understand how their ad was perfect, they lucked into something without knowing it. At least, from our read of the after game dissections.

84 Lumber had never bought a Superbowl spot before. Their ad budget doesn’t compare to that of Home Depot or Lowes. They don’t have the stores, the online presence, or the top of mind awareness. To most contractors, they go with the store that’s most convenient, has the best price, offers the best support etc. They don’t pick their vendor by their politics- and if they did, Home Depot and 84 Lumber are probably both as Republican as they get.

But, all of a sudden, with their “Journey” ad, showing the hardship someone is willing to endure to get to the border and become an American- only to face a wall, and then find the door and the final message “The will to succeed is always welcome here” they’ve done something that clearly separates them from their competition- they’ve won over every roofing contractor we’ve seen in the country- where Spanish has become the first language on rooftops. They’ve given the anti-wall people, a place to support, and while the country may have elected Donald Trump, more people voted for his opponent. They’ve carved out a clear point of differentiation in a whole new space that up until now- advertisers were terrified to wade into. There is already pushback against UBER for not supporting the taxi strike in NYC over the immigration restrictions, and some are canceling their Tesla orders because Elon Musk doesn’t hate Trump.

They may have spent $15 million making and running the ad, but, 84 Lumber got the talk around the water coolers that they couldn’t have bought for 10x that amount.

Budweiser also played in that arena, telling the real life story of how their founder made his way to America to brew beer. Another beautifully shot spot, its payoff was “When nothing stops your dream” which speaks to the public on so many levels, and brings a new respect for the hard work and effort that gets you to the top of your game. They don’t call it “The King of Beers” for no reason at all.

Budweiser is normally known for horses and dogs, and talking frogs, for them to get back to their roots in 2017, was a reminder to all of the work ethic we ascribe to being our collective story.

So far we’ve centered our discussion on the big production, high dollar, epic mini-films, so the next spot is going to seem like it’s coming out of left field.

Mr. Clean scored by building on a universal truth- at least to women, that the perfect man cleans up after himself. How you add sex appeal to a household cleaner, that sits on a shelf with a bunch of other products that no one really has a deep emotional attachment to- is something only a master of the craft can do- and this spot nails it. No superstars, no hype, just straight concept, executed exquisitely. Payoff “you gotta love a man that cleans” is a line that only Mr. Clean can own.

Then there are the spots that tried too hard. Sort of like the Atlanta Falcons for three quarters.

AirBnB had a political spot that was probably the cheapest to make- and was political as well, but coming from a company that had just got hoisted by their petards for not renting to minorities, they didn’t have the credibility to make a case for inclusiveness. Nor is their brand mark well enough known to rest on its own. “#weaccept” isn’t based on truth. And the online version has “airbnb” under the logo- the broadcast version didn’t.

We loved the Audi ad for the cinematography, and it even had cars in it- but, for Audi to try to talk about pay equality was a leap they didn’t have the right to make. The concept was one we’ve seen before- different execution.

This space is already taken. “____ like a girl” was Always- and they did it without insulting women. Need a refresher on how it’s done?

Hiring celebrities to connect your brand is always a risky move. And while we may pay attention to the ad because you hired someone we know and like, be it Jason Statham and Gal Gadot:

Wix you still suck.

Or John Malkovich for SquareSpace– yes, John, you’re an idiot for not buying your own domain name- and Squarespace isn’t going to build you a better website-

We’re not sure what Merecedes AMG is thinking, but the Coen Brothers should stick to movies. Peter Fonda, Easy Rider, biker stereotypes and Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild are throwing a bunch of easy to reach ingredients into a spot that is so totally off brief for a very expensive sport car for the 1% The testosterone is all in the wrong place. I wouldn’t be surprised if AMG dealerships saw more people cancelling orders than buying them after watching this clusterduck of the uninspired.

However, if you hire Christopher Walken to be Christopher Walken, and throw in Justin Timberlake for giggles with a cute take on his song and your brand name- we might actually forgive you and feign enough curiosity to buy your drink one time and see if we like it.
You go Bai Bai Bai.

And for all of your brands that don’t have your spot on your own YouTube channel and tagged correctly, you are failing internet 101. Sign up for www.websitetology.com now.

One last spot that used its placement as creative leverage was the spot for Genius, directly following Lady Gaga. Crossing her music with Einstein playing it on violin, complete with his bare feet, and the tongue full frontal made us take notice. Beautifully shot. Nice job National Geographic.

There were other spots we liked – Honda’s talking yearbook- but, did it sell anywhere near what it cost to use all those celebrities? We doubt it.

What did we miss? What do you think?

Unfortunately, the Effies don’t do a separate break-out for Superbowl spots, and of course, the whole genre was defined by Apple’s epic 1984 spot. But, then again, in 1985 Apple did lemmings- showing that genius in a Superbowl is as elusive as playing in the big game itself.