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Breaking down the best Super Bowl commercials of 2021

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USA TODAY Sports Columnist Nancy Armour joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down USA Today's top rated Super Bowl LV advertisements.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, I'm going to have a little bit of a confession to make to you all. I did not watch the Super Bowl last night. But apparently, I didn't even miss much. But I did spend time on YouTube watching all of the commercials. So we have USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour joining us now with a ranking of some of the best commercials during the big game. So Nancy, before we dive into the list, how hard do you think it was this year for companies. you know, to make advertisements during the Super Bowl, which is happening during a pandemic and after a year of such serious social unrest?

NANCY ARMOUR: You know, it was really difficult on two different fronts. Number one, you have the logistics of it. Several creative people talked to us about the fact that they couldn't have many people on set, that they had to-- you know, if they had multiple people in an ad, that they had to separate them. That's why you didn't see a lot of people on camera at the same time. You saw some ads filmed outdoors.

But then also, in terms of the messaging, you know, last spring, we saw a lot of these we're all in this together ads. And we reached a point that that kind of got old. And so it was a challenge for companies before the Super Bowl to walk that line of, OK, do we make another heartfelt promotional ad like that? Do we go funny? Do we not touch on the pandemic at all?

And I think the resounding thing that we saw is that the companies that were most successful went with funny. You know, it's been a tough year, and so we all needed things to laugh about. And I think companies realized that that was a way for them to go.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, so let's get to the list. And also a quick note, we have a producer saying that he didn't watch the game either, and he doesn't know who won. So just a spoiler alert for everyone at home-- the Bucs won, and it was actually a blowout against the Kansas City Chiefs. So let's get to the list right now.

We have Rocket Mortgage at the top, and we're gonna talk in a second about why this one is interesting. I want to play a quick clip from that commercial that hit the top spot.

- Can we even afford this house?

- I'm pretty sure we can.

TRACY MORGAN: Pretty sure? With Rocket Mortgage, you can be certain, not pretty sure.

- What's the difference?

TRACY MORGAN: Let me show you. I'm pretty sure these are poisonous. I'm pretty sure these are parachutes.

- Mine has a sandwich.

TRACY MORGAN: That's fine.

Pretty sure you do not run.

I'm pretty sure you can take Batista down.

DAVE BATISTA: You're on.

- OK, I'm pretty sure this is trending.

TRACY MORGAN: I'm pretty sure these hornets aren't the murdering type.

I'm pretty sure we can make it.

[SCREAMING]

- Certain is better.

- Let's go with certain.

TRACY MORGAN: Good choice.

- When you're buying a home, "pretty sure" isn't sure enough. When you need to be certain about how much home you can afford, Rocket can.

DAVE BATISTA: Hi, neighbor.

TRACY MORGAN: I'll hold the dog.

- Not again.

KRISTIN MYERS: So comedian Tracy Morgan helping Rocket Mortgage really clinch that number one spot there in that commercial. Nancy, why do you think this one-- as you were mentioning, humor was important. There was others on the list that I thought were actually hilarious. Why this commercial? What about it do you think helped it win the top spot?

NANCY ARMOUR: Well, there are two things, and we can get into the whole coordinated campaign in a second. But I think, you know, humor-- again, this was funny. I like the sly little nod to the, you know, horrors of the last year. One of the things that we were all concerned about was murder hornets.

KRISTIN MYERS: Murder hornets, yes.

NANCY ARMOUR: And they make a little nod to that. The other thing that we saw that worked across the board for companies was celebrities. They appeared in almost 60% of the 57 ads. And so here you have not only Tracy Morgan, but you have Dave Batista, who was a WWE star and is now an actor in "Guardians of the Galaxy." So you have this kind of crossover with humor, celebrity, a little bit of a nod to the pandemic, and it just kind of hits all the bases.

KRISTIN MYERS: OK, so let's talk about number two on the list because that also goes to Rocket Mortgage, also featuring Tracy Morgan.

NANCY ARMOUR: Yep.

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's take a look at that commercial and then we'll chat that on the other side.

- We both love this place. Now what?

- I'm pretty sure we have everything in order.

TRACY MORGAN: Pretty sure? With rocket, you can be certain, not pretty sure.

- What's the difference?

TRACY MORGAN: Well, let me show you. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's all of them. Maybe not.

I'm pretty sure this won't hurt.

- [INAUDIBLE]

[GRUNTS]

TRACY MORGAN: Pretty sure that's a figment of our imaginations.

[DEMONIC SOUNDS]

I'm pretty sure we can park in Joey Bosa's spot. That spot works, too.

I'm pretty sure they come in peace.

[SCREAMING]

- Let's do certain.

- Yeah, certain is better.

- When it comes to home buying, "pretty sure" isn't sure enough. Find the right mortgage with a local broker and Rocket technology. When you need to be certain, Rocket can.

TRACY MORGAN: Come on.

JOEY BOSA: It wasn't me.

KRISTIN MYERS: So again, "pretty sure" versus "certain" helping Rocket Mortgage secure the number two spot. Nancy, how rare is that for a company to get not just the top spot but also the second spot as well? And why do you think, given pretty much a fairly similar commercial-- "pretty sure" versus "certain"-- that viewers didn't mind and wanted to make Rocket Mortgage the number two spot as well?

NANCY ARMOUR: It has happened before that the same company has had the top two spots. In fact, there was one time-- I believe, Budweiser had the top four spots one year. But it is rare. This is the first time since 2007 that has happened, so 14 years. But Rocket Mortgage was really smart about this. You know, we've often seen companies pitch their commercials. But Rocket Mortgage did a very coordinated social plan. So within 15 minutes of the game ending last night, Tracy Morgan got on Twitter and Instagram and said, hey, here's the highlights of our ad. Make sure you go to Ad Meter and rate it. And that was amplified by Dave Batista, the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose owner, Dan Gilbert, founded Quicken Loans, which is the parent company of Rocket Mortgage. The Detroit Lions amplified it. Rocket is based in Detroit. Larry Fitzgerald and Rickie Fowler did the same thing. They're also endorsed by Rocket Mortgage. So they had a plan that really spread it out. Even if you didn't watch the Super Bowl, you might follow one of these other brands that is, all of a sudden, talking about this ad. And you could question whether it's stuffing the ballot box, but you still had to go for your ballot to count. You had to rate all 57 ads. So it's not as if people just went, rated Rocket Mortgage one and two, and then got out of there.

KRISTIN MYERS: Right.

NANCY ARMOUR: They had to go through all of the ads. But to me, this was a really smart move. It's all about getting eyeballs and attention for your product and for your ad, and Rocket did it better than anybody else.

KRISTIN MYERS: OK, so Nancy, I really want to quickly get to the number three spot because it's actually my favorite commercial. And it features the very handsome Michael B. Jordan.

NANCY ARMOUR: Yes.

KRISTIN MYERS: So let's take a look at that one.

- It's just flawless, isn't it?

- I think so.

- Yeah.

- I mean, I literally couldn't imagine a more beautiful vessel for Alexa to be inside.

[MUSIC PLAYING - BRUNO MARS, "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING"]

Alexa, how many tablespoons are in a cup?

MICHAEL B. JORDAN: There are 16 tablespoons in a cup.

- Babe, food just got here. Why you cooking? Who's that?

- Alexa, turn on the sprinklers.

- Honey, I already ran the sprinklers. Things are getting way too wet around here.

- Alexa, dim the lights.

--know who you are, but I'll save you a seat.

- Alexa, lights up. Alexa, lights up.

- Add bath oil to my shopping list.

- Alexa, no. Don't do that.

- Read my audiobook.

MICHAEL B. JORDAN: I was in his hands. I was being changed.

- Yeah.

MICHAEL B. JORDAN: --realized that I was also kissing you.

- Honey, other people have to use the bathroom around here, too.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm sorry. I'm, like, crying. I found it funny even the second time watching it now. I'm surprised. Why did that not get the number one spot? What is it that these rankings are based on? I thought this commercial was hilarious--

NANCY ARMOUR: I did, too.

KRISTIN MYERS: --and also very well-timed. Everyone's been talking a lot about Michael B. Jordan.

NANCY ARMOUR: Yeah, and I think, you know, what I love to see-- and I saw this a lot on social media last night-- was, for so many years, a lot of the Super Bowl ads have used sexism, misogyny, or whatever you want to call it, whether it was the Cindy Crawford Pepsi ad, GoDaddy.com, those types of things. And this really turns it on its head, which is smart by Amazon, given that about 50% of the NFL fanbase right now is women. And it's also-- the husband's reactions are just hilarious. And Michael B. Jordan even said that in the story that we did on this ad, that that was the part that he found the most entertaining was watching the husband react to the scenario.

As for why it didn't do better, I think, number one, Rocket Mortgage had that coordinated campaign, but also, this aired in the fourth quarter, when the game was already well out of hand. So if you hadn't watched it online-- if you weren't watching the game, if you'd already turned off the game-- you might not have seen it.

KRISTIN MYERS: Again, well out of hand because, I want to repeat here, the Bucs won against Kansas City Chiefs, for anyone that does not yet know. Really, really quickly, Nancy-- I have, like, 10 seconds. Which commercial did you dislike the most from last night?

NANCY ARMOUR: For me, it was Oatly, and that ranked last in our Ad Meter tally. It just-- I thought it was strange. I thought the song was dumb. But you know what? It was also successful because it got a lot of people talking about how awful the commercial was, and there's no such thing as bad publicity.

KRISTIN MYERS: Yeah, well, we don't show last place here on Yahoo Finance, so everyone will have to check that out at home on your own. Check out that Oatly commercial. I also didn't like it. USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour, thanks so much for joining us today.

NANCY ARMOUR: Thanks for having me.