Now that we’ve looked at what lessons the good commercials had to offer us from the Superbowl, it’s time to look at the bad and the ugly – almost as much fun to review! 

It took me a while to choose which commercials to include in this post because there were FAR too many on my list of bad and ugly. I’ve managed to narrow it down to ten, so let’s do a countdown! 

#10 Volkswagen’s Get Happy

I didn’t like this commercial, but it’s not for the reason you’re thinking…


There was some controversy about this ad ahead of the game when it leaked out, and people thought that a white guy doing a Jamaican accent was offensive, although from what I read, Jamaicans were more upset that they weren’t promoting Jamaica in the spot.  I’m not going to offer my opinion on that here, but I do think that the accent missed the mark – if I’d been on the creative team, I definitely would have chosen to go with Bobby McFerrin’s "Don’t Worry, Be Happy" instead. The Jamaican accent and background song just didn’t make much sense, particularly when selling a German car – unless the car somehow transported people to Jamaica directly. 

The spot was obviously meant to be funny, and although I understood what they were going for, I felt like they missed the mark and an opportunity to be more memorable. 

#9’s Wolf

So, this commercial started out promising…

I love the message that takes the drama out of car-buying – good, smart message. But the part with the wolf? That’s just weird. A wolf-mother threatened by someone holding her cub in no way conveys the usual drama & hassle of car buying, not even in a funny sort of way. It’s just…awkward. Of course, it’s not *quite* as awkward as last year’s spot with the small head growing out of the guy’s shoulder, but it’s still pretty strange.

#8 Beck’s Sapphire

Oh, this commercial…

First of all, was anyone else wondering who copied who between this and Budweiser’s Coronation beer? Secondly, while I’m a big fan of "No Diggity" and using a remixed version (even if it has no relevance to the beer or the brand), WHY oh why is there a singing, swimming fish being used in an unironic way? It’s just flat out not good. 

#7 Got Milk: The Rock

 I secretly (and now, not so secretly) love "The Rock." So I was happy to see him in a Superbowl commercial…until it got going. I suppose the message that milk is more important than saving lives is a reasonable one for a milk commercial, but it would have been far more effective to show that The Rock was unable to really be a super hero without milk (or even start out with a tiny skinny guy who morphs into The Rock after drinking some milk). I’m all for a willing suspension of disbelief, but it was really too much to believe that a super hero would walk by all of those people in the pursuit of milk. I mean, honestly. 

#6 M&M’s Love Ballad

I always want to love the M&M’s commercials, but more and more lately, I just really dislike them.

I really wanted to like this one – who can resist a good Meatloaf song? – but it just ended up being a little creepy. 

#5 Doritos Goat 4 Sale

C’mon Doritos, get it together!

The message I get from this commercial is that eating Doritos is loud enough to drive a person crazy. Not exactly the way you want your brand remembered. And if you, as a consumer, *really* loved Doritos, why would you buy a goat that would compete with you for eating them? Doritos other Superbowl commercial was better (grown men will even dress up for a tea party to get Doritos), but still a bit of a miss in my book. 

#4 Axe Lifeguard

I’m not even sure where to start with this commercial. Someone pointed out in a comments forum that they weren’t really clear on what was being sold in this commercial – Axe or a trip to space.  That’s one miss right off the bat – confusing the audience is never a good idea.  I don’t mind the use of the astronaut, since the new scent is called "Apollo," but it’s a huge, strange non-sequitur from the beach scene. Again, something where the body spray turned a person INTO an astronaut might have been more effective, but this just seemed too confusing and strange. 

#3 Bud Light’s Lucky Chair

There were two commercials with the same theme, this and the "Journey" commercial, but this one was definitely in my top three worst of the Superbowl…

I flat out hated these commercials. They were creepy and have nothing to do with the brand. I’m not sure if Bud Light was attempting to connect with the location of the Superbowl (voodoo/New Orleans), but it ended up being too dark and strange. Sure, the idea of using all of the strange things fans do because they believe their superstitions affect the game is a good one, but there are many many better ways to do that – and more ways to include the brand.  This is the kind of commercial that might give you nightmares. 

#2 Gildan’s Getaway

You finally found a tee shirt that you love, and you’ll do anything to hold on to it – great message. This commercial? Bad execution. Gildan forgets that a large percentage of the Superbowl viewing audience is female (and often women are the ones buying clothes for their guy), and unfortunately, this spot comes off as offensive. Like the Bud Light commercial, there are SO many better ways that they could communicate their message than to use a drunken one-night stand. 

And, my number one bad & ugly commercial is…

#1 Go Daddy’s Perfect Match

Go Daddy really outdid themselves this time. I normally dislike their commercials, but this was the first time I felt physically ill watching one.  The concept is a good one – the match of style and beauty with intelligence and substance, but the execution is nauseating. Supposedly, the commercial is targeting small businesses (Danica Patrick says so herself), but I don’t know how this spot would be effective with that market.  

It’s been said that there’s no bad press, and sure, everyone is talking about this ad. But if it results in people actively choosing to use another web hosting company, or pulling their current websites from Go Daddy, than it’s doing more harm than good for the brand. I will say that Go Daddy has consistently aligned themselves with a certain message and feeling over the years, and have really committed to it – but unfortunately, that message is "hey, look at us, we’re raunchy, racy and sometimes a little bit gross!" and I don’t know many businesses, small or otherwise, that would trust their brand to that. 

Lessons for Lawyers

So what can the legal industry learn from these? 

  • Before releasing your marketing activities out into the world, make sure the execution is tight – you want to ensure that people are getting the right message about your brand, and aren’t confused about who you are or what you’re selling. 
  • People are willing to stretch their imaginations to make a connection to a point, but make sure the metaphors you’re using in your messaging aren’t tenuous. 
  • Never accidentally undercut your firm or your brand because you’re going for a laugh, or a clever message – really think about what you’re saying to people, overtly and subtly. 
  • Know your audience – I say this year after year, and it always holds true – understand who it is that you want to be your clients, and find out where they are, online, in print, etc. Make sure that if there are also other audiences in those spaces, that your message won’t accidentally offend them or damage your brand – they may not be your target, but they could influence the purchasers of your services. 
  • This is an obvious one, but don’t be gross. I don’t think business law firms are in too much danger of crossing that line, but I’m including it for good measure. 

Because there were so many ads this year to think about, I’m giving you a bonus post next week on those that were forgettable – because there were many on the list of commercials that I don’t even remember seeing! Stay tuned…

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.