This Sunday's Super Bowl marks the occasion when the leading creatives in the advertising game put their best game face on for us. Which commercials will be the most memorable, most emotional, the funniest, the most technically astonishing? And would viewers even be able to remember the products being sold?
To view the commercials, click through our gallery -- you can advance by hitting the next button in the upper right.
A little girl competes in a soapbox derby race while her dad, in voiceover, contemplates the world into which she was born -- one in which women are valued less than men -- and how that world is changing. An emotional testament to girl power (especially to those sitting behind a wheel), and to pay equality in the workplace, to which Audi has pledged its commitment. Agency: Venables Bell & Partners.
2017 Lexus LC and LS: "Man and Machine"
This extended cut of "Man and Machine" (featuring just the LC model) stars dancer Charles "Lil' Buck" Riley, with vocals by Sia ("Move Your Body") and narration by Minnie Driver. Masterfully done. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund. Agency: Team One.
Hyundai: "A Better Super Bowl"
The automaker's ad was not available prior to broadcast, because it was actually shot during the game, to be aired right after the final play. And it was worth the wait: American service members stationed at a U.S. base in Zagan, Poland, were allowed, via satellite, to "attend" the Super Bowl game in Houston, with family members, and their reactions made us forget, or not care, that the ad was to sell a car, because it was selling something better.
If celebrities' yearbook photos could talk, they'd tell us to continue to chase our dreams. This clever ad's FX bring authentic high school yearbook pictures of TV, film, sports and comic book legends like Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Magic Johnson, Stan Lee and Steve Carell to life. Directed by Angus Wall (who won two Oscars for editing "The Social Network" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), Honda's clever ad - part of its "Power of Dreams" campaign - also showcases the CR-V 20 SUV, though the car being sold seems secondary to the concept of pursuing dreams, as told by some notables who've certainly achieved theirs. Agency: RPA.
Alfa Romeo: "Riding Dragons"
Living our dreams gets another call-out in this Alfa Romeo commercial in which flying on the backs of dragons is not just a childhood dream, but a lesson for adulthood (and car ownership).
Alfa Romeo: "Mozzafiato"
While "Riding Dragons" was a standard pitch to childhood remembrances transferred to the thrill of car ownership, "Mozzafiato" -- starring the Alfa Romeo Giulia -- is much more pitched to our desire for esoteric or unusual experiences, with photography, editing, music and sound effects that transport us to another realm, that take our breath away. Bellissimo.
Buick: "Not So Pee Wee Football"
The automaker's "That's Not a Buick" campaign continues with this goofy take on kids football, featuring Cam Newton and supermodel Miranda Kerr. Agency: Publicis Groupe's EngageM-1.
Ford: "Go Further"
With Ford transitioning from a mere automaker to a "mobility company" (through a mix of smart technologies, electric and self-driving cars, car-sharing and ride-hailing apps), their whimsical commercial shows the ignominy of being stuck - and the joyous freedom of getting un-stuck. With Nina Simone's jaunty "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," and the dulcet tones of narrator Bryan Cranston. Agency: Global Team Blue.
Mercedes Benz: "Easy Rider"
Mercedes-Benz skipped last year's Super Bowl, but now they're back, courtesy of the Coen Brothers, who direct this comical scene at a biker bar with none other than Peter Fonda (and a Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster). Is it heresy that the Easy Rider himself is sporting four wheels and not two? Agency: Merkley and Partners.
Kia: "Hero's Journey"
Melissa McCarthy stars as a wannabee eco-warrior whose efforts to save whales, trees, polar icecaps and the like run afoul of gravity and the laws of physics in the most slapstick fashion. Fortunately she has a Kia Niro hybrid crossover vehicle to ferry her in comfort from eco war zone to eco war zone. (The ad? It doesn't compete against her stunning performance as Sean Spicer on last night's "SNL.") Agency: David & Goliath.
Michelin: "I Need You"
The Michelin Man makes a cameo in this simple and heartwarming spot showing families in South Africa, France and China reuniting, safely, thanks to Michelin tires. It's part of the tiremaker's global "Caring" campaign. Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day NY.
Weather Tech: "Tech Team"
Weather Tech jumps into action when a driver spills a cup of coffee. Now if only such rapid-response teams could intervene with people who text while they drive. Agency: Pinnacle Advertising.
Beer and Wine
Budweiser: "Born the Hard Way"
Budweiser proves you don't need puppies or Clydedales for an emotional ad. And in today's political climate (where the idea that an immigrant is of questionable value to the United States is raised by certain people in the White House), the commercial is a sharp, patriotic jab to the gut. "Born the Hard Way" is a 60-second story of immigrants, namely one Adolphus Busch, a brewmaster from Germany who makes a perilous journey to America in the mid-1800s. Confronted by anti-immigrant bias and overcoming tremendous adversity, he manages to work his way to St. Louis, where he joins forces with another immigrant, Eberhard Anheuser. The rest, as they say, is history.
Directed by Chris Sargent and filmed in New Orleans, the commercial reminds us that, yes, immigrants -- including brewmasters -- are who have always made America great. (And it's a message that has caused some controversy, with some calling for a boycott of Budweiser.) Agency: Anomaly.
Bud Light: "Ghost Spuds" (Extended ad)
The spirit of Spuds MacKenzie escorts a lonely beer drinker on a "Christmas Carol"-like journey through parties past, present and future. Agency: Weiden & Kennedy.
Michelob Ultra: "Our Bar"
Belly up to the bar, but not to hoist a few; it's to set the bar higher for ourselves, challenging ourselves physically and rewarding ourselves (with some lower-carb beer) for our efforts. An inspiring ad that just might get a few people up off the couch, spurred on by camaraderie and the theme song from "Cheers." Agency: FCB Chicago.
Busch Beer: "Buschhhhh"
The "Busch Guy" wants you to enjoy the great outdoors with a cold (and very loud) can of fizzy Busch beer, in an ad that falls flat, even with the bird call. Agency: Deutsch New York.
Yellow Tail Wine: "Kangaroo & Ellie"
While Anheuser-Busch's beer competitors are locked out of the Super Bowl broadcast, purveyors of wine are welcome! Yellow Tail's ad makers are no doubt hoping that "Wanna pet my roo?" (spoken to comely model Ellie Gonsalves) becomes a catch phrase, though the relative paucity of actual kangaroos in America leads us to suspect it's a double entendre. Those naughty Aussies!
Avocados from Mexico: "Secret Society"
There is something that Freemasons, the Illuminati and those guys in charge of Area 51 know that we shouldn't: Avocados from Mexico are delicious and good for you! Fun, but the commercial's humor is a little thin compared to the hypnotic teaser that Avocados from Mexico released just a few days ago featuring comedian Jon Lovitz, which is so visually scrumptious we want more, more! Agency: Omnicom Group's GSD&M.
KFC: "Georgia Gold"
Two Colonel Sanders (Billy Zane and Rob Riggle) are crammed into one 15-second commercial for KFC's Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ. But only one is gold-plated. Alas, when it comes to the ad, all that glisters is not gold. Agency: Wieden+Kennedy.
Wendy's: "Cold Storage"
Last month Wendy's Twitter account scorched a troll who questioned the fast food outlet's claim that their beef is never frozen. Now the war between Wendy's and other burger joints is heating up, in a Super Bowl ad in which the other guys' frozen beef patties are given a real roasting, courtesy of Foreigner and a hair dryer. Agency: VML.
McDonald's: "There's a Big Mac For That"
There are three sizes of Big Mac, one for everyone in your Super Bowl viewing party (even the guy only interested in the halftime show!). The boisterous, drum corps-infused music is a great accompaniment. Agency: We Are Unlimited.
Throwing Skittles at your true love's bedroom window late at night is certainly better than pebbles. They taste better, and they're more fun to share. Agency: Omnicom Group's Adam & Eve/DDB.
Wonderful Pistachios: "Ernie Gets Physical"
John Cena is the voice of Ernie the Elephant, who appears to be taking this New Year's resolution about getting into shape a little too hard. Agency: Wonderful Agency.
Snickers: "Ruined Commercial"
This must have been what the Golden Age of live television in the 1950s was like. The live commercial, starring Adam Driver, makes clear why broadcasting without a safety net is dangerous. Fortunately there is always chocolate. Agency: BBDO New York.
King's Hawaiian: "False Cabinet"
King's Hawaiian dinner rolls are so popular they'll disappear ... through the wall? Does not make us hungry. Agency: Levit Agency/Gartner.
LIFEWTR: "Inspiration Drops"
Pepsi is launching its new premium line of bottled water with electrolytes, to the tune of John Legend's "Love Me Now." Directed by two-time Oscar-winning art director Robert Stromberg ("Avatar," "Alice in Wonderland"), the commercial demonstrates how a clear liquid can add color to our lives. Agency: R/GA.
Bai: "Big Game Ad"
Seeing Christopher Walken, after his hilarious Super Bowl ad last year ("Walken Closet"), joined by Justin Timberlake, did not prepare us for the letdown of what the ad actually asked of them -- which was, hardly anything at all.
Sprite: "As Seen on TV"
LeBron James will not tell you to drink Sprite. You're just gonna have to come to that conclusion your hot, thirsty self. Agency: Wieden+Kennedy New York.
Wix.com: "Chef Felix"
Action stars Jason Statham ("The Transporter") and Gal Gadot ("Wonder Woman") deftly take out some Eurotrash thugs at a smart restaurant, while enterprising young chef Felix - using wix.com to create a website - is oblivious to the mayhem in this grin-inducing nod to over-the-top action films. A two-minute "director's cut" (that's more Gal Gadot, in case you wondered) was also posted online. Agency: Internal.
Wix is also sponsoring a contest, with a prize of $50,000. The catch? You have to post Felix's picture as the profile photo on your Facebook page. Way to go, Wix - promoting individualized and disruptive webpages with customizable add-ons while also asking people to make all their Facebook pages look the same.
Squarespace: "Calling Johnmalkovich.com"
John Malkovich has been delighting stage and screen audiences for four decades - longer than there have been domain squatters, which didn't even exist before the web. And neither did the plaintive wail, "Get out of my name!" Agency: John X. Hannes.
GoDaddy: "Good Morning"
The Internet -- as personified by a happy-go-lucky dude who, we hope, has no association with hackers -- wants your stuff, and GoDaddy wants to help you build a site to sell it. This shaggy dog of a commercial basks in Internet memes, not to mention cats on Roombas. Agency: Bullish.
Nintendo: "Nintendo Switch" (Extended Cut)
The game machine maker hasn't scrimmaged with Super Bowl advertisers until now, and their first commercial is a bouncing celebration of how every moment of the day is an opportunity to play. In addition to promoting the Switch, a combination home console and portable gaming system (on sale next month), the ad shows glimpses of the games "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe," and "Splatoon 2." Music: "Believer" by Imagine Dragons. Agency: Leo Burnett/Deutsch Inc.
Evony - The King's Return: "Battle of Evony" (Extended Cut)
It's kind of hard to believe that a mobile SLG game would be as thrilling as the lavish commercial produced to promote it, in which armies separated by era and continent converge on a mythical battlefield, the assault led by George Washington (Aaron Eckhart), King Arthur (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Empress Wu Zetian (Fan Bingbing). But with the music of Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" as accompaniment, the lump in the throat grows, and we're hooked. Agency: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.
World of Tanks: "Teensy House Buyers"
A TV show parody from game developer Wargaming.net, whose World of Tanks proves unstoppable. Another ad promotes "Real Awful Moms," who really so deserve to have a tank drive into their house. Agency: Mekanism.
Mobile Strike: "Arnold's One Liners"
The Terminator is back with the mobile game introduced at last year's Super Bowl, and this time he's brought his pithy, immortal catch phrases with him. It's good to see you again, "baby." Agency: twofifteenmccann.
Tiffany & Co.: "Lady Gaga"
Yes, guys, you've been warned: your significant others who are watching the Big Game with you will get to see -- among the car and beer ads -- a reminder that Tiffany HardWear is now on sale, in Tiffany's very first Super Bowl ad, featuring Lady Gaga (the face of their "Legendary Style" campaign), showing in 10 markets. It's also their first TV commercial in 20 years. Agency: In-house/Grace Coddington.
The movie spots set to air during the Super Bowl are for the most part recuts of recently-released trailers.
Paramount: "Ghost in the Shell"
Paramount: "Transformers: The Last Knight"
Universal: "The Fate of the Furious"
National Geographic Channel: "Genius"
For the upcoming TV series "Genius," about Albert Einstein, the physicist and amateur violinist (played by Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush) is seen picking up a violin and strumming a tune -- Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Sweet! Agency: McCann New York.
Hulu: "The Handmaid's Tale"
A new series based on Margaret Atwood's classic novel about a future America transformed into a theocracy in which women are second-class citizens whose primary purpose is child-bearing. Science fiction, we hope.
Netflix: "Stranger Things: Season 2"
20th Century Fox: "A Cure for Wellness"
20th Century Fox: "Logan"
Intel: "Brady Everyday"
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has more screen time than just his performance on the field this Sunday - he also stars in this winking commercial about Intel 360-replay technology, in which multiple HD cameras help generate a rich, 3D viewing experience. Now let's get a referee to judge on that five-second rule! Agency: McGarryBowen.
You may be driven to extremes to get out of a cellphone contract, but wasting a perfectly good car seems a little drastic. Agency: Droga5.
Justin Bieber, Rob Gronkowski and Terrell Owens show off their end zone moves. Agency: Publicis Seattle.
A second T-Mobile ad features TV's unlikeliest couple -- Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart.
T-Mobile also had a pair of ads featuring Kristen Schaal -- one, in which a phone call to Verizon customer support turns into a highly-charged exercise in sado-masochism; another, "Punished," was a play on "Fifty Shades of Grey," in which a sadist explained "punishing" data charges.
Google: "Google Home"
Like the Michelin commercial, this is a heartwarming montage of homecomings and reunions - with the help of the Google Assistant's voice-activated speaker.
TurboTax: "Humpty Fall"
The most Pythonesque of this year's commercials shows the reactions -- horrified, sensationalized, befuddled -- to the gruesome injuries that have befallen Humpty Dumpty after his nosedive off a wall while he was using his smartphone to do his taxes. Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Portland.
H&R Block: "Future"
Jon Hamm stars in this visually striking ad that touts IBM's Watson as a vital component of your tax preparations. Agency: Fallon.
Mr. Clean: "Cleaner of Your Dreams"
Proctor & Gamble is buying its first Super Bowl commercial for Mr. Clean, and for once viewers will not be able to complain that Super Bowl commercials only crassly exploit the female body. Now, there is a cartoon guy in tight pants wielding a mop with abandon. Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto.
Persil ProClean: "Science of Clean:" 10 Dimensions"
When there are forces in public life that seek to discount or dismiss science, it's gratifying to know that Bill Nye is there -- along with the Persil ProClean guy (all of them).
Terry Bradshaw must contend with that most distressing of broadcasting faux pas, a stain on one's shirt. Fortunately, after much huffing-and-puffing, Jeffrey Tambor, and his washing machine, bring a calming resolution to the matter. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi.
Febreze: "Bathroom Break"
Can you make a coy, funny or presentable commercial about bathroom odors? We don't know, even after Febreze's pre-halftime break ad. They also gifted us with an extended cut online, as if we need a deeper whiff. Agency: Wieden + Kennedy.
It's A 10 Hair Care: "Great Hair"
Several commercials skirted the political zeitgeist, but It's a 10 Hair Care went straight for the jugular: "America, we're in for at least four years of awful hair." And if America's hair is a zero-sum game, then it's up to the rest of us to make up for it. Agency: Havas Edge.
84 Lumber: "The Journey"
The construction supply company's first Super Bowl ad is an emotional tale of a Latin American mother and daughter embarking on a long, difficult journey. The 90-second commercial posted online before game day was actually only the start of the story; its conclusion was to air during the game, until Fox rejected the ad because it depicted the characters confronting a border wall.
The associated website, journey84.com, is now hosting the entire 5-minute film (also embedded above), featuring content "deemed too controversial for TV." And what was thought too brazen to air? Perhaps the notion that the journey could continue beyond a wall -- and the conciliatory message, "The will to succeed is always welcome here." Grade: A. Agency: Brunner, Inc.
Airbnb: "We Accept"
A message of inclusion and acceptance, which doesn't actually sell Airbnb accommodations, but does go far in celebrating our differences. And isn't that expansive vision what travel is all about? Agency: TBWA Chiat Day.
Turkish Airlines: "Widen Your World"
Morgan Freeman, the new face (and voice) of Turkish Airlines, adds to this year's plethora of commercials with an anti-isolationist viewpoint, inviting us to "widen our world" with curiosity and a sense of wonder.
NFL: "Inside These Lines"
In a divisive political climate, one thing red and blue can agree on is the gridiron, where the lines that surround us allow a platform on which our differences may shine, bringing out the best in ourselves.
Last year the NFL produced an ad featuring Super Bowl babies, the offspring of congratulatory fans born nine months after their favorite teams' championship victories. This year, tykes are back, but in the guise of famous Super Bowl superstars like Bill Belichick, Mike Ditka, Michael Irvin, Joe Namath and Von Miller. Come on, National Football League, you can't get away with adorable cuteness every year ... can you? Agency: Grey New York.