Key points:

• Quirky, offbeat Super Bowl ads generate considerable social traffic in the lead up to the game and thereafter.

• Super Bowl 2021 lacking the ‘bizarre’ edge that Mountain Dew used to such great effect in 2020.

Super Bowl ads 2021
Hey Mountain Dew… you going again?

As bizarre as Mountain Dew’s ‘The Shining’ Super Bowl ad was in 2020, it was also superbly cast (Brian Cranston was an inspired stand in for Nicholson), brilliantly shot and completely offbeat.

There seemed absolutely no rhyme or reason to connect Mountain Dew with Kubrick’s film – but that’s the stock-in-trade of Mountain Dew ads over the years – their 2016 Super Bowl offering created a weird creature out of a puppy, a monkey and a baby.

Why? Who knows? But these ads seem to get the needle moving in the right direction.

The Super Bowl Shining ad caused social chatter to explode by 851% in the lead-up to the big game last year and directly after.

Before the ad featured as a teaser, the brand was pulling around 7,000 mentions on Facebook, but after it landed, that pushed through to well over 60,000. Clearly, off-beat works.

So did the current crop of Super Bowl ads hit such a stellar high water mark? Was there anything genuinely bizarre in there to get social needles jumping?

Check out our short list selection of Super Bowl ads for 2021 below (you can catch them all if you wish here). At a paltry $5.5 million for a 30 second ad, let’s hope they worked.

1.  Totally… not bizarre…
Wayne’s World reunion is just strange.

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey don the wigs once more to broadcast out of their familiar Illinois basement studio for Uber Eats. This one feels as if it relied too heavily on the pair’s old classic catchphrases. That’s a hell of a bill for Uber Eats, but maybe they clawed it all back in the half-time break.

2.  Jason Alexander gets trashed for Tide.

This one’s weird, but it isn’t in Mountain Dew territory, sadly. A well-loved Jason Alexander sweatshirt gets put through life’s wringer (excuse the pun) building it up for a big punchline that never really arrives (even though Jason Alexander does).

3.    Cheetos rack up an even bigger bill on talent.

As if the five and half mill for the ad spot isn’t enough, Cheetos went and spent even more on getting Ashton Kutcher to accuse his wife, Mila Kunis of stealing his Cheetos. Throw Shaggy into the equation singing his hit “It wasn’t me” and this is one hefty budget. Pleasant enough, but not a lot of belly laughs here.  

4.    Doritos land a little flat.

Pun intended. Matthew McConaughey stars as a flat (2D) version of himself looking for some way to fill out until hey presto – he discovers Doritos 3D. Queen’s ‘I’ve got to break free’ adds more zeroes to the bottom line alongside McConaughey’s fee. They would have hoped they didn’t follow the Cheetos ad. Pretty interchangeable – although shout out for the nice ending when the star fills out only to find himself caught in the vending machine.

5.    Ford hits all the clichés.

One thing the pandemic delivered in abundance is corporate platitudes. Isn’t the banality of 2020 COVID advertising behind us? Seemingly not. Ford gave viewers both barrels with its encouragement for Americans to ‘finish strong’. In amongst vaccines being dished out and lots of hugs, the voice over informed viewers that: “soon, we will be what we were – touching, loving, living.” Did they pay 10 mill for that given it’s a 60 second spot?

6.    GM goes one better with a 90.

Actually, GM goes one better with nice humour. But you’d expect that with Will Ferrell anchoring the ad. It’s a good idea to take on Norway (leaders in EV tech) and there are some cute moments in this one, not the least of which is Ferrell reluctantly falling in love with Norway only to discover that he’s in Sweden. Yep, this one works. Question: was there a continuity issue at the 18 second mark? Where’s the globe?

7.    And best use of talent goes to...

Using talent well is one of the hardest tricks in the ad game. This spot, featuring Ryan Reynolds, Diddy and David Beckham mixing up wacko cocktails for each other’s drinking (dis)pleasure is great fun. But as bizarre as the mixes were, bizarre the ad ain’t (and that’s what we’re looking for!)

8.    Hold everything! Mountain Dew to the rescue!

So were Super Bowl 55 viewers delightfully non-plussed by the latest Mountain Dew offering? Did the soft drink giant deliver the goods? Sadly, no. Pro wrestler John Cena counts to 35 as a teaser to promote the chance to win a million (or around 6 seconds of the value of the ad) by counting the number of watermelons in the spot and just when we’re going to get a nutso punchline/scene, we get a 3D animal made out of watermelons. It’s a little try-hard bizarre. Oh well.

Just as the game was a little lacking (congrats to Tom Brady et al), so too were the ads – at least on the bizarro-meter. And if bizarre means eyeballs and online activity, then that’s a lot of money spent for what Wieden and Kennedy Chief Creative officer, Colleen DeCourcy calls “The Roman Colosseum of advertising.”  

Let’s hope Mountain Dew get their gladiator game going again for 2022.

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