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Less sexism, same great taste!

Our Super Bowl XLVIII ad panel noted more optimism and patroitism, fewer cheap jokes and sleazy sight gags this year. Advertisers spent $4 million per 30-second spot to pitch their brands, employing celebrities — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danica Patrick, Stephen Colbert, David Beckham, Laurence Fishburne — and puppies. “Maybe it’s the uptick in the economy, but a lot of the ads seem to play to a less cynical mindset,” said Aaron Stern of gyro.

Which ads were most effective?

Our panel

Pasquale “Pocky” Marranzino, chairman/chief executive, Karsh Hagan; Glenn Morey, president, Morey Evans Advertising; Janet Robinson, film studies instructor, University of Colorado at Boulder; Chuck Silverman, longtime creative director, LA, Chicago, Denver and agency owner; Aaron Stern, executive creative director, gyro; Mike Sukle, creative director/owner, Sukle Advertising; Greg Wagner, University of Denver and former creative director, Leo Burnett USA.

Budweiser “Puppy Love”

A Lab puppy falls in love with a Clydesdale, to the tune of “Let Her Go” by Passenger. When the puppy is sold, the horse jumps the fence to run after the beloved pup. Reunited, they’re “Bestbuds.”

From the panel: Robinson: “The marketers realize that no one can resist a puppy, especially when it falls in love with a Clydesdale. Yet there is something ambiguous about the ad. Sound and image are mismatched. It’s a sad, sad song. The melancholy song undermines the “cuteness” of the story.” Wagner: “Following its emotional “Brotherhood” which topped the charts last year, Budweiser’s traditional Clydesdale spot looks to be another winner. We all love the majestic Clydesdales and the story continues with a new pal for the big steed: an adorable puppy. Is that fair? From bonding with his trainer to bonding with a puppy? Yes, all’s fair in love and Super Bowl Admeter wars (more than 24 million hits on YouTube). Tugging at the heart strings in a classy way makes for an effective ad.” Stern: “Not the most conceptual/original idea, but sweet and memorable, all about appealing to the masses.”

Jaguar “Good to be bad”

Sir Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong, and Tom Hiddleston as British villains in a high-speed chase through London, describe themselves and the attributes of the new F-Type Jaguar.

From the panel: Wagner: “An impressive cast of ‘British villains’ led by the evil Sexy Beast himself, Ben Kingsley. “We’re more focused. More Precise. Always one step ahead. With a certain style, an eye for detail.” Kingsley’s strong delivery of the last line “Oh yes, it’s good to be bad” will be a memorable tag for the Jag.” Robinson: “The high production value, directed by award-winning British director Tom Hooper, with movie stars, helicopters, etc. make this ad worth watching. The irony lies in the fact that Hollywood has become so politically correct that the only “acceptable” villains are the Brits, who, in reality, are our biggest allies.”

VW “Wings of Man”

As dad clocks 100,000 miles in his VW Passat, he tells his little girl that every time a VW hits that magic mark, a German engineer gets his wings.

From the panel: Wagner: “Shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Funny scenes of the VW crew sprouting wings all over the plant. This spot really communicates the VW benefit of vehicle longevity in a surprising, entertaining way. Its silly humor lifts the brand to new heights, and gives the famous VW “Little Darth Vader” 2011 Super Bowl winning commercial a run for its money. Love the punch line: “Yeah, Dad, and when a Volkswagen hits 200,000 miles, I’m sure rainbows shoot outta their butts.” Jimmy Stewart would be proud.” Silverman: “Missed opportunity, a rainbow at the end.”

Newcastle “If we made it”

A faux campaign, online only, joking about not being able to afford an official spot.

From the panel: Stern: “By far the most brilliant campaign of the Super Bowl and it’s not even an official sponsor. For a small beer brand to essentially hijack the conversation from huge brands like Bud is not only a case-study in the making, it’s a testament that a simple well-executed idea with almost no paid media will trump the millions of dollars spent on a mediocre idea any day. Also, a great parody of the absurdity of Super Bowl ads while paying tribute to the tradition.” Sukle: “Newcastle didn’t buy time during the game but certainly outdid many advertisers who did. I love this kind of thinking.” Wagner: “This rant by a funny actress is a huge hit on the Internet. Anna Kendrick stars, comes off as genuine because she’s not “beer commercial hot.” Newcastle’s getting Super Bowl buzz without ever appearing in the game. Smart marketing.”

Bob Dylan Chrysler

All American scenes, from Marilyn to James Dean, with Bob Dylan narrating. “Let Switzerland make your watch; we’ll build your car.”

From the panel: Marranzino: “Americana. Not bad.” Stern: “After my initial disappointment that Dylan, the one-time voice of counterculture, appeared in a Super Bowl ad, I like the sentiment and the cause — American-made is always going to be a noble undertaking for any company. Especially cars.” Sukle: “The previous Eminem spot was so much better. It was smart. This was just a bad sequel.”