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The best (and worst) Super Bowl commercials, according to R.I. experts

A scene from the E-Trade babies pickleball commercial during Super Bowl LVIII.E*Trade

Last night’s Super Bowl had a little something for everybody.

Taylor made it to Vegas. Usher was da bomb. And we saw an overtime classic that confirmed the Kansas City Chiefs have built a dynasty.

But what about the ads? I asked a few of Rhode Island’s top marketing and advertising gurus to weigh in with their favorite and least-favorite commercials from the big game.

Jesus had quite an ad budget this year, but the best ad of the night was the return of the E*Trade babies playing pickleball. “It’s basically tennis for babies, but for adults” sounds like something you’d read on a Frog & Toad bumper sticker and will have both outwardly enthusiastic pickleballing boomers and upper-middle class millennial picklers - two key demos for the Morgan Stanley subsidiary - feeling like they’re in on the joke.


On the other end of the spectrum, State Farm’s action-packed spot with the Governator had me thankful that I use AAA for my home and auto insurance.

Steve Rosa, (add)ventures

There’s no greater victory for a Super Bowl in Las Vegas than a sports book ad starring Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl champion gets everybody’s attention whether you love him or hate him. Vince Vaughn’s deadpan delivery expresses what millions of NFL fans whose teams were beat by Brady think: “Tom Brady has won enough.” BetMGM hedged its bet with a cameo from Wayne Gretzky. That’s two G.O.A.T.s and a “Dodge Ball” champ if you’re keeping score.

Squarespace hired acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese to direct and do a cameo. The end result was confusing at worst, underwhelming at best. It was long and meandering. Love the director, but his vision overwhelmed the brand. There was no room to deliver a call to action or even to remind people what Squarespace does. Only the aliens will be remembered, which makes it a waste of money.


Michael Silvia, Duffy & Shanley

Dove, Google, and Pfizer were in a league of their own, treating us like we have a brain. And a heart. Dunkin’ made the room LOL with “Touchdown Tommy on the Keys” and Matt Damon’s, “Howdya like them donuts? I’m so sorry.” Pluto’s “Couch Potatoes” was memorable and dumb, in a good way. And remember how Apple’s “The crazy ones” made you feel proud to own an iMac? Same for me with my VW. Plus, how can you not love Neil Diamond?

As for the worst ad, Bass Pro Shops has a boat that costs $5 a day. They knew this was the Super Bowl, right? This ain’t the golden age of advertising. On the bright side, there was no “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty” ad this year.

This was mostly a night of mediocrity and clichés, although there were some that were smart and impactful. The best of the best for me were the “He gets us” ad showing feet washing, the NFL ad promoting the international players’ development program, and “Stand up to Jewish hate.” All of these ads displayed inclusiveness, humility and service to others.The worst was the Dunkin’ ad. Star-studded, said nothing, and in some ways, was the height of cultural appropriation. Even Fat Joe’s appearance couldn’t give this any street cred.

Michael Masseur, RDW Group

We’ve all admired a good (or bad) mullet at some point in our lives. And now we know that Kawasaki’s new Ridge off-road vehicle is akin to rockin’ the classic coif: “All business in the front. All party in the back.” And if driving one comes with a sweet mane, I’ll take two please.


With a couple of exceptions, most of the commercials featuring celebrities fell flat. They lacked creativity, humor, or any moments that made them memorable. Some real missed opportunities in my opinion.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.