The Top 5 Car Commercials of Super Bowl LI

Well…THAT was a football game, eh? After spending the whole first half and most of the third quarter looking like they couldn’t find their collective backside with both hands, Tom Brady and his merry band of pigskin handlers mounted the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to win the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

Of course, even the most barn-burner of Super Bowls wouldn’t be complete without a cornucopia of new and clever commercials. And while there didn’t seem to be quite as many ads of the automotive variety as in years past, there were five that really stuck with us long after we turned off the telly. And before you throw a flag on the field for us not including the Hyundai spot, know that while we found it ingenious in concept and a refreshing roundhouse kick in the feels, we think it disqualified itself from the running by not explicitly trying to sell vehicles (or even show them, for that matter). Usually that’s a great thing, but not for getting on this list. Anyway, on with the show!

Honda, “Yearbooks”

Dreams and the idea of pursuing them have been Honda totems essentially since day one, so it wasn’t terribly surprising to see this year’s Super Bowl commercial built around the theme. What was surprising was the level of star power contained in these semi-animated high school yearbook photos: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Magic Johnson, Robert Redford and Missy Elliott all provide words of encouragement and visual proof that even the biggest stars had to start out somewhere…just like Honda’s smash-hit CR-V did.

Mercedes-Benz, “Easy Driver”

Even though it’s been almost 48 years since its U.S. release, Easy Rider remains the quintessential biker movie. So much so that the Mercedes-Benz ad – directed by no less than legendary Hollywood brother act Joel and Ethan Coen –begins in a desert biker bar that’s a sort of living shrine to the movie, including a jukebox that only plays one song: Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”

Alas, this paradise is shattered by some rich asshat in a new Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, who has parked in such a way to prevent any patron’s choppers from entering or exiting. Except it’s not some rich asshat, but Peter Fonda, co-creator and co-star (along with the late Dennis Hopper) of Easy Rider, and all is very much forgiven.

Alfa Romeo, “Riding Dragons”

Launching or re-launching an automotive brand in the U.S. these  days is a seemingly impossible task, and not just from a regulatory standpoint; you’ve also got to let people know you’re here. And buying 60 seconds of Super Bowl ad time is good, but if you don’t fill that time with something memorable, what’s the point?

Luckily for Alfa Romeo, their ad agency managed to craft something memorable, tapping into the optimism and unlimited potential of youth and how the new Giulia – particularly the hotsy-totsy Quadrifoglio – can help recapture those emotions.

Kia, “Hero’s Journey”

Defending Mother Earth is hard work. Well, maybe not quite as hard as Melissa McCarthy made it look in Kia’s spot for the big game, but it can take a lot out of you. Luckily, there are less involved ways to do your part to help the planet. Replacing your conventional car with a hybrid is one of them, as the ad helpfully points out, and based on what we’ve seen so far, the new hybrid-only Kia Niro crossover is a mighty fine choice.

Audi, “Daughter”

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that literally anything can be politicized and every issue exists in black and white absolutes and coming down anywhere in the middle will make you a pariah in the eyes of one or both extremes. That being said, we’re still not sure 100% sure why closing the gender pay gap finds itself in that deep fryer of friendship-ending, family-splitting rage. After all, American employers are already prohibited from paying one employee more or less than their coworkers solely based on race, religion, favorite pizza topping, whether they prefer Ozzy-era or Dio-era Black Sabbath, and the like…why should the parts that happen to have formed between one’s legs be any different?

Audi of America feels the same way, which is why they went to the trouble of producing this rather powerful and thought-provoking ad featuring a little lady soapbox racer and her S5 Sportback (which, rejoice, is finally available over here) driving dad. Ostensibly, its purpose is to announce the company’s compensation delta closure initiative, but it carries a message that stretches well beyond what it’s trying to sell. And isn’t that something all of the great Super Bowl commercials throughout history have in common?

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