This wasn't a truly great year for Super Bowl ads, but it was at least a somewhat heartening one. The Bowl's ads have so often gone in for ads rank with overdone gags, with irritating sexism, and with returns to dumb tropes like the nagging wife.
But in recent years, that's been changing. Most of the ads this year were about being a better person, on some level. Even renowned provocateur GoDaddy went with an ad about a small businessman working through the Super Bowl to live up to his dreams.
However, the Bowl also lacked a big, breakout ad hit. Mostly, it coasted on familiarity, with cute animals and celebrity cameos popping up everywhere. That said, there were 11 ads that cut through the clutter and struck us as the best.
1) Snickers, "The Brady Bunch"
What sets it apart: This seems to be the consensus favorite of viewers on NFL.com, too. It's not hard to see why. It extends a familiar campaign, introduces some fun celebrity cameos, and pokes fun at a pop culture trope almost everybody knows. Also, it has Danny Trejo holding an axe.
2) Loctite Glue, "Positive Feelings"
What sets it apart: Um, have you seen it? This is the strangest use of a Super Bowl ad buy in quite some time. It seems like a spoof for most of its running time, but it keeps going and going... and then you realize these people really are that excited about glue. It's some kind of masterpiece.
3) Jeep, "Beautiful Lands"
What sets it apart: If worst comes to worst, go for broke on beautiful images. Jeep turns its ad for one of the most American of events into a celebration of beauty all over the world, making "This Land Is Your Land" an anthem for all nations.
4) Wix.com, "It's That Easy"
What sets it apart: Lots of ads work in old NFL players, but this one has a bunch of great puns, including my favorite joke of the night: a party-planning service called Franco Harris' Immaculate Receptions.
5) Always, "Like a Girl"
What sets it apart: This one is only so low because it's basically a cut-down of a viral video. But it's still a video with a powerful message and some great stuff in it.
6) TMobile, "One Up"
What sets it apart: Chelsea Handler is far from my favorite comedian, but I enjoy the weird game of oneupsmanship she and Sarah Silverman play here, and the way that every strange thing they mention gets a simultaneous sight gag.
7) Kia, "The Perfect Getaway"
What sets it apart: Of the many, many car commercials, this was the one I had the most fun with, thanks to its neat gag of Pierce Brosnan trying to change up the story, while the narrator keeps tugging it back on track.
8) Disney, "Tomorrowland"
What sets it apart: There are a lot of movie trailers in this game, and most of them had fun footage. But it was neat how Disney chose to focus its spot on this risky summer venture, instead of sure-thing Avengers: Age of Ultron.
9) Budweiser, "Lost Dog"
What sets it apart: This would be higher if not for the damn wolf. Because, c'mon. That was so stupid. But I can't help but love that little dog.
10) Squarespace, "Dreaming With Jeff"
What sets it apart: This is the only ad with Jeff Bridges going, "Ohmmmmmm." That sets it apart.
11) Jublia, "Tackle It!"
What sets it apart: Is this the "best" ad of the Super Bowl? Not even a little bit. But c'mon. You sat up a little when you saw this one, if only for the sheer grossout factor. Here's an ad aimed at the 9-year-old child in all of us, the one that can't get enough of gross stuff like toenail fungus. And it was right in the middle of America's biggest game. Wonderful.