The Super Bowl is great at bringing out some creative commercials — there are lists all over the place of the best Super Bowl ads. However, we don’t often get commercials that speak to the farming community or highlight what we do to help feed all of those people who are watching the big game (not to mention during the other 364 days of the year). It is exciting to see food production and other pieces of agriculture featured, and while sometimes they get it very right (for proof, take a look at our list of the best ag-related Super Bowl commercials), sometimes companies and other organizations get farming so very wrong.
Some of the folks on this list won’t surprise you — entities like PETA and Chipotle have been targeting modern agricultural practices and our farming community for years. Others on this list probably just got too sucked up into their marketing agency’s pressure and went off the rails that way. Often, a commercial or ad campaign is more a one-off misstep that (hopefully) was a short-sighted money play rather than rooted in larger philosophical spite against some in the farming community. Thankfully, no matter the motivations behind these Super Bowl ads, we have YouTube to preserve all the messy details. Anything from the past decade or so is easily accessible today and will be in the years to come.
Here are our picks for the five worst Super Bowl commercials made in recent years. After watching each video, decide which ad you thought was the absolute worst and did the biggest disservice to modern agriculture and our ever shrinking number of hard-working American farmers. We wish none of these had ever aired.
2019 – Bud Light Corn Syrup
Bud Light dished out $5.3 million to let everyone know that they do not brew their beer with corn syrup — oh, and called out Miller lite and Coors Lite for doing so. After this ad aired, corn farmers across the country united in uproar and started a movement to boycott Bud Light. But there were legal issues here, too, because after Anheuser-Busch got sued, a judge ruled the brewer could no longer use the “no corn syrup” label. It was a marketing campaign fail on so many levels, and the ad is no longer available on traditional platforms like YouTube.
2018 – PETA’s Redemption
This PETA advertisement shows a man enter a Catholic Church and go straight to the confessional. He confesses to the priest that he is part of the “meat industry,” and he is the guy who came up with the term “free-range.” He admits that is a lie because, despite what the word depicts, the animals are just stuffed into large warehouses instead. The priest tells him to stop lying and say a few Hail Mary’s. Not only does this ad go too far in its anti-ag message, it also criticizes the Catholic Church.
2021 – Chipotle’s Change the World
For years, Chipotle has criticized and undermined farmers and ranchers, bullied them for using modern breeding techniques and for treating their animals with medications. However, during their 2021 ad they tried to reverse those actions with this ad campaign.
2021 – Oatly’s Wow No Cow
This was the ad that really marked the start of Oatly’s financial collapse. In it, CEO Toni Petersson “sings” a tune about his company’s dairy-alternative products, but it was widely criticized for being juvenile and ultimately turned a lot of people off from the brand. The company went public in 2021 at a trading price of $22.46, but as of early 2024, is on life support at $1.15. Tack on a marketing ban in the U.K. over Oatly’s “green” claims, and it’s little surprise that Petersson was replaced as CEO in 2023 when the stock first fell below $2 (yet remains on the board of directors).
2019 – Michelob Ultra Organic Beer
This calming commercial from Michelob Ultra is meant to aspire the “healthy” beer consumer. If there is an opportunity, you know marketing consultants will jump at it. But let’s be clear: alcohol of any kind is a carcinogen, classified on the same level as arsenic and asbestos. Hey, it’s totally your call if you decide to drink, but it’s disingenuous to suggest that any beer is actually “healthy,” at least not in comparison to most foods you can buy at a grocery store — and being organic certainly doesn’t make it any more so.
2020 – Impossible Foods Spelling Bee
Impossible Foods’ CEO Pat Brown has long said he wants to end all animal agriculture and replace traditional burgers with his unique type of plant-based patties. So to see an ad from the company that targets the yuckiest sounding (yet completely natural) bodily functions of mammals is no surprise.
Which one would you rank as the worst Super Bowl ad for farmers?