Unabashed sentimentality took the unofficial Super Bowl trophy for advertising brilliance on Sunday, with draft horses and pickup trucks both putting a lump in America's collective throat.
Budweiser's touching pocket narrative of an equine farmer reunited on the streets of Chicago with the Clydesdale he nurtured from birth for the beer's signature draft horse team was a run-away hit with viewers and critics alike.
New York ad agency Anomaly married the heartwarming imagery with Fleetwood Mac's sorrowful "Landslide" for the 60-second spot that went to invite a real-life newborn Budweiser foal via the brewer's Twitter account.
USA Today said the Budweiser ad took first place in its online reader-voted Ad Meter survey of Super Bowl commercials.
"Weepy, sentimental, nostalgic," wrote Kim Wheaton of Advertising Age in an instant analysis of the night's 50-plus commercials on the industry journal's website (www.adage.com).
"I don't care. This is everything I want from a Budweiser Super Bowl spot."
Viewers were still going onto Twitter to admit to shedding tears when Ram, the pickup division of Chrysler, weighed in a few minutes after Budweiser with a solemn ode to rural America created by Texas ad agency Richards Group.
It married spectacular photography of the Great Plains with late conservative broadcaster Paul Harvey's 1978 essay "So God Made a Farmer" -- and never revealed until the final few seconds that it was selling a truck.
"From the second it started to the last frame, I sat silent and mesmerized," tweeted Rick Liebling, an expert on the relationship between culture and creative advertising at New York ad agency Y&R.
Patriotism figured in another Chrysler spot, this time for Jeep, that celebrated the homecoming of American soldiers from Afghanistan.
The Super Bowl is the single most watched event on US television, easily pulling in more than 100 million viewers, and this year CBS was selling 30 seconds of ad time for as much as $3.8 million.
"This is the ultimate spectacle of sports," said Andrew Billings, director of the University of Alabama Program in Sports Communication. "This is the pinnacle of the ads industry."
But big-budget advertisers' best-laid plans to generate and sustain social media buzz got waylaid by the 34-minute partial blackout that hit the Superdome in New Orleans in the third quarter of the game.
That freak incident got people tweeting about the blackout instead of the ads, although Oreo made the most of the moment with an Instagram of its iconic cookie and the slogan: "You can still dunk in the dark."
While Pepsi indulged in the luxury of its spokeswoman Beyonce performing the half-time show, Coca-Cola invited viewers to go online and select the ending of its commercial, a Technicolor race through the desert for a bottle of Coke.
The winner climax -- the bus-driving showgirls in pink won out over the cowboys and the bikers -- was aired just minutes after the Baltimore Ravens' victory over the San Francisco 49s.
Many of Sunday's ads were released in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, including one from Volkswagen that some thought "racist" for depicting a cheerful Beetle-driving white office worker speaking in a Jamaican accent.
With Apple sitting out this year's game, the field was clear for Samsung, its arch rival in the smartphone market, to declare itself "the next big thing" with wise-cracking Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd plus a LeBron James cameo.
Fellow comedienne Amy Poehler managed to fit herself into a front-loading washing machine for electronics retailer Best Buy, while Israeli swimsuit model Bar Refaeli made out with a ruddy-faced geek named Walter for GoDaddy.com.
"That was disgusting," was one typical reaction on Twitter to the latter, but the website hosting service had nothing to complain about -- the backlash only helped get its #thekiss hashtag trending for a good part of the first quarter.Budweiser Super Bowl advert