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Super Bowl ad winners and losers

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This photo provided by Kia Motors America shows a scene from the company's spot for Super Bowl 51. Melissa McCarthy humorously takes on political causes like saving whales, ice caps and trees, each time to disastrous effect, in Kis's 60-second ad to promote the fuel efficiency of its 2017 Niro crossover. This photo provided by Kia Motors America shows a scene from the company's spot for Super Bowl 51. Melissa McCarthy humorously takes on political causes like saving whales, ice caps and trees, each time to disastrous effect, in Kis's 60-second ad to promote the fuel efficiency of its 2017 Niro crossover. (Photo courtesy of AP/Kia Motors America)

NEW YORK — The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons during a nailbiter Super Bowl 51 — and there were clear winners and losers off the field, too.

Advertisers had to tread carefully this year in a divisive political climate. Some went for all out escapist humor like T-Mobile and Tide, while others tried to take a more serious tone like the American Petroleum Institute. With 30-second ads costing around $5 million, and more than 110 million people watching, it’s a huge gamble to advertise during the game even in a less politically charged atmosphere.

Here are the winners whose gamble paid off, and losers who struck the wrong tone.


P&G’s Tide ad featuring announcer Terry Bradshaw seemed at first to be part of the game broadcast. But when Bradshaw gets a stain on his shirt, he goes on an adventure featuring New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski and actor Jeffrey Tambor to try to find a clean shirt.

“It was just from the writing to the casting pure fun,” said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein.


Kia managed to touch on social issues without offending people by tapping Melissa McCarthy to take on causes like saving whales, ice caps and trees, each time to disastrous effect. Kia’s 60-second third-quarter ad promotes the fuel efficiency of its 2017 Niro car.


Two NFL ads aimed to appeal to all. The first ad, “Inside These Lines,” narrated by Forest Whitaker, showed scenes of football games and workers prepping a field. The narration stated: “Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there is more that unites us.” Another ad showed Super Bowl babies resembling NFL stars like Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to the tune of Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration.”


Budweiser managed to capture the pre-game buzz with its “Born the Hard Way” spot. The cinematic 60-second spot chronicles co-founder Adolphus Busch’s journey from Germany to St. Louis in 1857. He jumps off a burning steamboat and catches a glimpse of Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales mascots before meeting fellow immigrant Eberhard Anheuser. Some people took to Twitter to protest the immigration theme of the ad, but the ad was still one of the most watched ads ahead of the game.


The wireless carrier made a big splash during the game by buying up 3 minutes of airtime and stuffing its ads with celebrities. In one ad, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart discuss T-Mobile’s unlimted data plan with lots of innuendo about Snoop’s pot-smoking habit. Kristen Schaal starred in two other ad parodies of “50 Shades of Grey” that implied having a Verizon plan is like being punished — S&M style. And Justin Bieber and New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski danced in another ad for the brand.


An ad by a trade group sought to rebrand oil’s image, opening with the line that “This ain’t your daddy’s oil.”

The ad showed a series of colorful ways oil is allegedly used, including in spray paint and makeup. It said the “oil pumps life,” ‘‘oil runs cleaner” and “oil explores space” — unexpected phrases for many that drew some mockery on social media.

The American Petroleum Institute says on its website that it represents the oil and natural gas industry, including producers, refiners, suppliers and pipeline operators. Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor said its message didn’t get across.

“They’re trying to somehow emphasize environmentalism, but I don’t think they did it in a way that most consumers would find believable,” he said.


P&G’s ad sought to take a humorous approach to saluting the well-known halftime bathroom break. “I love you halftime bathroom break,” says actress Kathryn Hahn during the commercial. But not everyone found the “potty humor” appealing.


Snicker’s hyped up its live ad in the third quarter. The ad, set on a Wild West set, started with actor Adam Driver talking about the 21-3 score to prove it was live. But then things seem to go wrong and the set falls apart — on purpose.

“You ruin live Super Bowl commercials when you’re hungry,” the copy reads on screen.

“It went by so fast, I almost missed it,” said DiMassimo Goldstein CEO Mark DiMassimo. “I think the audience got it (but I’m) not sure it was worth the trouble of doing it live.”


Wendy’s sought to emphasize its message of “Always fresh, never frozen” in its ad which showed a meatlocker full of frozen beef and a worker trying to thaw it with a hair dryer to the tune of Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” Ad critic Barbara Lippert says the ad is unappetizing. “All it does is leave you hearing frozen, frozen, frozen,” she noted.


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