The Definitive Best Super Bowl Ads of 2013

Tonight, as football fans gorged on pizza and beer, Superbowl commercial fans gorged on ads, and Hulu was there to serve a heaping helping of this year’s “big game” ads in the Hulu’s Toyota AdZone. As the confetti settles in New Orleans, and junk food settles in our stomachs, let’s take a look at this evening’s most liked ads.

Wild Card: Cars.com: Wolf

A car-buying couple misses the drama they used to have before discovering Cars.com. So their salesman puts them between a wolf cub and its snarling mother. Baby animal trend officially established for 2013.

Wild card: Hyundai: Stuck
A clever ad about how I feel very day on every single road there is.

What? I live in Los Angeles.

Wild Card: NFL: Sandcastle
Just hilarious.

15: Oreo: Whisper Fight
A cowboy-style bar fight breaks out in a library, and everybody whispers. What’s the fighting all about? Whether the cream or the cookie is the best part of the Oreo. We say the cookie. Or do we?

14: Dorito’s: Fashionista Daddy
There were two Dorito’s ads in AdZone, and this one got the most Likes. While not as entertaining, original, funny, or as inventive as the “Goat 4 Sale” ad, this one does have men in women’s clothing. So it’s got that going for it.

13: Grande Papi
This is exactly how I feel when I go out with my 4 month-old son strapped to my chest. We look so awesome. I stalk through the grocery aisles, feeling like a member of some kind of baby SWAT team, with my adorable kid and all my gear. Taco Bell captured the essence of proud daddyhood in this ad, and Hulu viewers rewarded that effort with Likes.

12: Kia: Space Babies
A fantastical super-bowl style ad that has nothing to do with the Kia Sorrento. Beautiful to look at, and babies.
Downside: voice-activated service requires driver to call out its unwieldy name: “Uvo”.
Upside: Baby animal trend perpetuated.

11: Audi: Prom
Dad’s Audi inspires courage in a lonely teenage boy. In this spot, Audi makes being a loner look cool and daring.
The awesome shot of the Audi’s illuminating headlamps as the engine growls to life is now a familiar staple of the Audi Super Bowl ad.

10: Milk: The Rock in Morning Run
An entirely awesome ad, and my personal favorite of 2013. To me, this is a pitch-perfect over-the-top Super Bowl ad. Tons of action and hyperbole, and the product is still front and center.

9: Jeep: America Will Be Whole Again
Continuing their “patriotic” theme from last year (minus the crumbly spokesman), Chrysler hit us with a heavy 2 minute spot about our heroes returning home. Viewers across America responded positively.

8: Skechers GORun 2: Cheetah
A running shoe commercial where a man outruns a cheetah. Nothing groundbreaking (we had a cheetah ad last year), but we all got a kick out of seeing the runner exchange a fist bump with the gazelle at the end.

7: GoDaddy: Perfect Match
A big hit with our software developers (all of whom are more attractive than “Walter”), this ad featured Israeli model Bar Refaeli smooching a nerdy guy… for a long time. Popular (I assume) for shock value, this ad lip-smacked its way into our top 10.

6: World War Z: Big Game Spot
A 30-second condensed version of the trailer, this ad opened World War Z to an audience who may not be familiar with the acclaimed zombie novel. Fans of the zombie genre have been hungry for this one, and this spot whet their appetites even further.

5: Fast & Furious 6 (Fast 6): Trailer
The ad that made me laugh the most this year was oddly enough, not supposed to. This short teaser for the sixth installment of the franchise following a group of street-racing thieves (who apparently become superhuman) grabbed a lot of attention in this year’s AdZone.

4: Budweiser: Brotherhood
So, I cried at a beer commercial tonight. That happened. Every year Anheuser-Busch airs an ad featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales, and quite frankly I’ve always found them to be on the boring side. These are just horses, where’s the beer? But this year, I was moved by the story of a young man raising a Clydesdale, only to send the horse far away to be a part of the famous Budweiser team. Their reunion at the end brought a tear to my eye, and I suspect, to many others. A sentimental ad from Bud comes in at number 4.

3: Volkswagen: Get In. Get Happy.
The always-upbeat tall white guy in the office, made more emphatic by his Jamaican accent, brought laughs to everyone at my Superbowl party. In advertising, happiness is a pretty good thing to sell, and Volkswagen nailed it. They didn’t try to play on the success of last year’s ad, they just went for it. Hulu viewers responded by giving it the 3rd most Likes in this year’s AdZone.

2: Taco Bell: Viva Young
Hauling out an old chestnut of a concept that worked well for Six Flags, Boost Mobile, the movie Cocoon, and the Jackass series, Taco Bell hit a home run with a group of senior citizens partying into the night.

1: Ram Trucks: Farmer
In a two-minute stunner, Dodge changed everything we’ve come to expect from a Super Bowl ad. No music, no explosions, no famous actors, just a somber monologue from radio legend Paul Harvey, accompanied by striking gritty visuals of farmers at work. Dodge extended a hand of respect to its customers with this ad, with its carefully metered pace and honest tone. Resonating with viewers across America, this unique spot grabbed our attention, and the number one slot in this year’s AdZone.


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Q&A With
Gadi Amit

Founder, New Deal Design

Gadi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” - a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gadi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Gandi Amit

Found New Deal Design

Gandi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” -- a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gandi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Jonathan Miranda

Emerging Strategy Principal, Salesforce

Another expectation among younger generations seems to be personalization. How are you seeing this play out in media?

Jonathan: If you go into the world of advertising and marketing, customized, personalized advertising is more important than ever before. There’s a realization that eight years of funny commercials that we’ve showed everybody probably for the fourth time, doesn’t work anymore. So there’s a lot of companies moving towards specialized advertising.

How does this type of personalization translate to personalizing content beyond advertising? Who’s going to predict what people will want to watch, and do it first?

Jonathan: It’s not about being the first to predict what people want to watch. It's different. It’s about getting viewers to browse. You want to show them the value of all of the money Hulu has spent and the great range of TV and film for them to choose from.

Q&A With
Julie DeTragila

Head of Research & Insights, Hulu

Julie: There are vast differences between the way under 35-year-olds watch TV and over 35-year-olds watch TV. I grew up in a world where there were maybe 10 channels, and my viewing changed as technology and options changed. Younger viewers started from a really different place. Everything has always been on-demand. Anything they ever wanted to see was available to them, and they therefore have different expectations for TV.

How so?

Julie: One of the things we found with Gen Z is that they really want to be immersed in something for a long time. They want to have content that they can live with for a while; it’s like this long, seamless storytelling. They’ll knock off a couple episodes a night and it will last a couple of months. And then they’ll re-watch it a million times over.

What other shifts have you seen happen-with Gen Z but also more broadly-with the rise of streaming?

Julie: For years, television had to deliver a specific rating. Shows had to appeal broadly or else they wouldn’t survive. And those days are long gone because, with streaming services, shows can reach hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people and still be considered successful. There’s more experimentation with the types of content; we’re not locked into an hour, a half hour, a comedy, etc. The industry can create really niche shows to appeal to niche audiences, but also simultaneously create big, broad experiences that are shared by millions.

Q&A With
Larissa May

Founder, #HalftheStory

Your work focuses a lot on Gen Zs who, for better or worse, are dubbed “digital natives.” How do you think a generation of digitally native audiences view digital content differently than older generations?

Larissa: I think for young people digital content is a way they’re able to explore their own identities through the story... They want to see themselves and their stories in the content that they’re engaging with.

Tell us a little more about this digital content as Gen Z’s form of self-reflection.

Larissa: Digital content is sort of like a currency. I find that young people want to watch things that their friends are watching so that they can have conversations about it. For example, with Euphoria, young people were just kind of in love with the characters. It was very timely and a bit provocative, and then there was a way that they could see themselves in these stories and connect with their friends about the topics and ideas in the show.

And then also they could almost embody these characters in their own life. I really do think that the TV shows that young people are buying into are actually influencing their culture and their trends and even their language that they’re using.

Q&A With
Richard Frankel​

Global Creative Director, Spotify

What does the future of personalization look like?

Richard: I think it’s all down to trust. We're going to see more opportunity on platforms like Hulu and Spotify where the user trusts us.

That’s really interesting. Another area we wanted to explore is podcasts, and their relationship to video. For example, the show Homecoming is an adaptation of a podcast; the podcast Office Ladies is a spin-off from a TV show. Why do you think the two formats work so well together?

Richard: Anything at all that drives conversation in pop culture, and TV does a lot of that, is worthy of consideration in a podcast environment. Any of these conversations can become multiple audio streams that evolve with experts, interviews, and all kinds of narrative threads that can flesh out characters, or narrative development, or whatever's happening in those shows.