Super Bowl commercial recap - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

The best and worst ads from Super Bowl 50

Super Bowl commercial recap - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolWith so much buzz leading up to Super Bowl 50 and record prices for national spots aired during the game, everyone was expecting brands to deliver some big breakout moments.

So how did they do? Well… meh.

“While there were some highlights, Super Bowl 50 didn’t seem to be the best year for ads. USA Today’s Ad Meter seemed to indicate this. Its top-rated commercial (Hyundai’s “First Date”) scored just 6.91 out of 10,” says prof Mark McNeilly. “At a cost of about $4.8 million per 30-second spot – and that’s not counting the cost of creating the ad – that’s unfortunate.”

“I wasn’t blown away by any of the ads like I have been in past years – or like I expected to be this year, given the $5 million price tag,” says prof Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra.

More than a dozen first-time advertisers made their Super Bowl debut this year, but nearly all fell flat. “I wasn’t impressed by the rookie advertisers – they didn’t deliver anything memorable,” says prof Arv Malhotra.

And while they couldn’t quite come to a consensus on whether Mountain Dew’s “Puppymonkeybaby” ad was the best thing ever or the stuff nightmares are made of, our profs all agree that the commercial generated a lot of buzz. “Hardly anyone says they liked it, but it’s all anyone wants to talk about,” says Kubowicz Malhotra.

Our marketing experts weigh in on Super Bowl 50’s biggest winners and losers: 

Biggest winners: Doritos, Audi, Snickers, NFL (“Babies”), Heinz, Kia
Biggest losers: Quicken Loans, SquareSpace
Question mark: Mountain Dew
Kudos: Budweiser got two shout-outs from Bronco’s quarterback Peyton Manning after the game. Nice brand placement!

Mark McNeilly- UNC Kenan-Flagler

Mark McNeilly, adjunct professor of marketing


Biggest winners: Hyundai, Pepsi
Most talked about: Mountain Dew
Honorable mentions: McDonalds, Colgate

Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra, associate professor of marketing


Biggest winners: Toyota, Doritos, Heinz
Honorable mentions: Budweiser, NFL
Personal favorite: Mountain Dew

Arv Malhotra - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Arv Malhotra, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar

Let’s go to the tape:  

Doritos – “Ultrasound”


Heinz – “Wiener Dog Stampede”


Audi – “Commander”

McNeilly: Audi shot for the moon and hit it with this nostalgic spot.


Snickers – “Marilyn”

McNeilly: Bringing in William Dafoe to channel Marilyn Monroe was a hoot and still got Snickers’ message across.


NFL – “Super Bowl Babies Choir”

McNeilly: The NFL did a great job looking back at the last 50 years of the Super Bowl. The “NFL Super Bowl Babies Choir” ad was a great way to tap into that same emotion.


Kia – “Walken Closet”


Hyundai – “First Date”


Pepsi – “Joy of Pepsi” & Halftime Show


Toyota – “The Longest Chase”


McDonald’s – “Good Morning”

Kubowicz Malhotra: The McDonald’s “All Day Breakfast” ad aired right before the start of the game. It caught my attention because it aired early, though it wasn’t included in the official Super Bowl ad list. The ad was a play on “Goodnight Moon” aimed at parents. I tweeted that I loved it and McDonald’s tweeted back – great social media execution.


Colgate – “#EveryDropCounts”

Kubowicz Malhotra: This was Colgate’s first Super Bowl commercial and they delivered a pro-social message in a very effective way. That’s particularly hard to do in this context where viewers expect slapstick, not serious messaging.


Budweiser – “#GiveADamn”


Mountain Dew – “Puppymonkeybaby”


Quicken Loans – “Rocket Mortgage”

McNeilly: This ad brought back memories of what caused the 2007/08 housing bubble and financial crisis …and they weren’t good ones.


Squarespace – “Real Talk with Key and Peele”


Check out our experts’ picks for the best Super Bowl ads of all time.