This year there was nary a crotch shot and barely any bare skin in a crop of of Super Bowl ads that instead went for pushing emotional buttons. Some critics say they pushed too far, leaving viewers creeped out and upset instead of wowed.
The big talker after the game was a Nationwide ad on preventable childhood deaths. It opens with young boy listing several things he'll never get to do, like ride a bike, get "cooties," or travel the world with his best friend. "I couldn't grow up, he says, "because I died from an accident."
Twitter erupted with surprised responses, some making fun of it. And while many said they supported the message, others said they were disturbed by the ad.
After the game, Nationwide issued a statement:
Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don't know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.
Another Nationwide starring an "invisible" Mindy Kaling also creeped out some when she tries to steal a kiss from Matt Damon only to discover she's not invisible after all. Nissan packed a punch with a story about a race car driver father who's always away from the house and narrowly survives accidents on the track. Several viewers pointed out that the singer of the background track himself also died in a car accident. And a PSA shown only in St. Louis jarred other viewers with its depiction of teenage heroin use while a cheery-sounding song plays in the background, albeit with dark lyrics.
But when ads weren't busy making our skin crawl they were trying to get under it and into our hearts with several tear-jerkers, many of which focused on fathers.
Dove got plaudits for its ad showing fathers being involved in their kid's lives with the tagline "strong dads care." Toyota ran a spot called "My Bold Dad." McDonald's went broader with it's spot "Lovin'" promoting a campaign where customers can pay for their food by demonstrating an act of love, like calling their mom or hugging a friend, instead of with cash.
A few ads bucked the trend and found their own way of hitting the epic arc that viewers have come to expect from Super Bowl spots. Budweiser stole the show again with a puppy and Clydesdale spot, this one called "Lost Dog." Smartphone battery pack maker Mophie envisioned the apocalyptic repercussions of what would happen if God's phone ran out of juice. And Dodge entertained with a series of portraits of 100-year-olds sharing their heartfelt, funny and true bits of accumulated wisdom.
But overall this was one year where the action on the field may have actually surpassed the advertising sideshow happening between plays.