5 best (and worst) Olympics TV ads

In case you haven't noticed, there have been a few advertisements running during NBC's coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

And because these Olympic weeks are all about competition, I changed my usual viewing patterns during some prime-time broadcasts last week to actually pay attention to the commercials — to All. Of. The. Commercials — and then rank the top and bottom five that I saw.

The Best

5. MC Hammer for 3M's Command wall hooks . Yes, this one is sort of dopey, deriving from the '80s pop rapper's catch phrase, "Hammer time." But that, and smart, subtle touches throughout, are what I like about it. A dad is setting up his college-age kid in his dorm room, and just before a nail gets pounded into a wall, MC Hammer pops out and says, "Stop hammer time."

4. United Polaris business class . This one made my eyes go wide with wonder and envy. The format is unoriginal — P is for this quality, O is for that quality, then L, then A, etc. — but the text is pretty good: "A is for access to everything, including the aisle…. S? So long, jet lag."


3. GE's factory tour . This one features humor that actually makes the ad's point, about General Electric being an "industrial company that's also a digital company." The teen son of a touring family asks about a robot he spies. "That's not a robot," the tour guide replies. "That's my coworker, Earl. He builds jet engines — with his human hands."

2. Ashton Eaton and Brianne Thiesen-Eaton for Visa (and Best Buy). The American-Canadian decathlon-heptathlon couple compete to be "first" in a series of domestic scenes, from him being first to cry at a movie they're watching to her, at the end, being first to sign off on the conversation they're having using tablets they paid for with Visa. It's light, nimble and likable all the way through.

1. Google Photos as a digital storage solution . A problem we've all experienced, being unable to take a crucial photo because our phone is out of memory, gets deftly dramatized. Over and over, viewers see the "Storage Full" screen message pop up just as the skydive is happening, Sasquatch is spotted, etc.

The Worst

5. McDonald's McNuggets.Ray Kroc's little restaurant chain that could is pushing its deep-fried chicken-'n'-batter bites, hard, and the two ads it's running, a lot, are almost good. The one with the McNuggets doing a tumbling routine captures the scary excitability of gymnastics announcers, although I'm not sure parody was the intent. But all 10s for the foodstuff's floor routine? Not even Simone Biles tallies perfect scores.

4. Retiring hipster couple with pig for Chase . This ad tries way too hard to make the point: We meet the couple as he wears rose-colored pants and she is walking, on a leash, what I presume is a pot-bellied pig. "You live life your way," says the announcer. Their way includes health-code violations: They bring the pig indoors and perch it on her lap for the meeting with the banker. Um, no.

3. Delusion-based orange ads.First we had flame-haired Jesse Tyler Ferguson, of "Modern Family," chopping carrots . An orange cartoon rabbit suddenly appears on his countertop — not for the carrots but to hector the actor about his retirement planning and to tout an outfit called Voya. Next came the beer Blue Moon, brewed with the flavor of oranges. To dramatize this, the spot shows a rainfall of oranges , then says, "There's inspiration all around. You just need to know how to see it."

2. Brad Paisley for Nationwide . Fade in on the country superstar pretending to write a verse to go with the familiar Nationwide ("is on your side") musical theme. He sings those new lyrics — with which he "assisted," according to Ad Age — and he plays guitar. Paisley is bartering the very idea of himself as a songwriter, which seems more personal, more elemental, than just letting one of your songs be used.


1. Chevy focus groups . These ads seem to be the ones in heaviest rotation during the games, and they grow more insufferable with every repetition. In various set-ups, a focus-group facilitator type leads dim-bulb people ("not actors," the screen says, although aren't we all?) to the realization that Chevy vehicles are pretty good nowadays, according to various awards. But even though these folks were especially selected for TV ads, they still manage to reinforce everything bad I've come to believe about focus groups. "Thanks for blowing our minds," says a woman whose mind is way too easily blown.

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