It’s that time of the year again—a time to sit back, and meticulously unpack the biggest television day of the year. A day that, for so many reasons, has inspired the hopes and dreams of many—and invariably disappointed many more.
So, let’s pick through the adventure that was, and see what we can learn. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, this list is substantial, but not exhaustive—and it’s organized it into 4 categories: “Nailed it,” “Got the job done,” “Meh,” “Huh?” and “Actually hurt the brand.”
Because we like to keep it positive around here, let’s start off with the duds, and work our way up.
Actually hurt the brand.
Conceptually, it’s understandable what they were trying to do. 50 years ago to the day, a (now) universally-admired public figure said some inspiring words. “Why not hitch our trailers to that?” they thought.
This. This right here is why.
It’s always a gamble to posthumously cherry pick quotations—particularly in advertising. And while they might have been able to pull it off had they taken Verizon’s approach (see below)—they just couldn’t help placing their comically-large badge front-and-center—in ham-handed glory.
Moreover, they took the words from an MLK sermon that goes on to warn against the dangers of irresponsible consumerism—even using cars as an example. All-in-all, this never should have happened—but it did. And Ram is catching the backlash it deserves.
This feels like a solitary writer’s unfiltered free association—set immediately to music and performed.
So many questions: Why are the Vikings turning back? Because they see the words “Tonight’s Matchup” on their display? What does that mean? Are they there to pillage and destroy—or are they playing a game? The metaphor is muddled and inconsistent.
Also, if we’re supposed to interpret it in football terms—the Vikings are FROM Minneapolis. They wouldn’t have been rounded up from all over the place, and certainly wouldn’t have crossed a body of water to get there.
I swear, I am not biased by my Vikings fandom. They did not get under my skin. I’m not mad. Don’t look at me right now.
Diet Coke Mango
This is probably meant as part of a series—showcasing each of their new flavors. And, it’s probably going to be more effective in the long term, in getting the word out. The restrained tone is actually kind of refreshing—especially when compared with the rest of the category. But, as a standalone ad for the Super Bowl… :/
Of all the Super Bowl commercials of 2018, this one sure was the Peyton Manningest.
The only spot this year containing a ‘political’ message. While it hasn’t been unusual to see large companies take a position on social issues these days, one would hope to see a more engaging presentation. Also, would Cobain have approved of this?
If you’re going to use Steven Tyler, I guess it’s advertising law that “Dream On” plays in the background. And for midlife (or later) crisis positioning, depicting a car that literally reverses the effects of time is a bit on-the-nose.
Since its release, this spot has been sharply criticized for its cavalier charitable impact calculations. But aside from that, Stella’s ad differs from other ‘give back’ Super Bowl spots, as it features a celebrity asking us to make a separate purchase—of something we probably don’t need—in order to contribute to their charity.
Compare that to Hyundai’s ‘Hope Detector’ spot, which praised Hyundai owners for something they had already (albeit unwittingly) done.
Also, Matt Damon is boring.
They effectively introduced a novel use for their product. In that respect, this ad did the job. Creatively, though—it left something to be desired. Especially with the talent of Bill Hader at their disposal.
These spots have been consistently good—but the beverage maker seems to have, inexplicably, saved their weakest idea for the biggest stage of the year. Oh well—dilly, dilly. I’m sure the next one will get them back on track.
Coke for Everyone
A little sappy, a bit clichéd. But, it’s brand-consistent and features the product. So there’s that.
Got the job done.
Toyota Free to Move
Time-worn formula, but well-executed with a strong brand tie-in.
Relatively safe—but still cute and warm. Pitch-perfect for an enormous global consumer brand.
Lexus / Black Panther
These film / brand marriages are always such awkward affairs. In that respect, Lexus (and Black Panther) have overwhelmingly succeeded. They managed to promote each other in a believable way (save for that absurd moon roof jump) without losing their own identities.
I enjoyed it—but I’ll admit to having an unusually high tolerance for weirdness. It’s not an earth-shattering concept, but was executed with style, and kept my attention while delivering the goods.
OK idea—charmingly sold by Chris Pratt.
This would have been so much better if it had happened before K-Mart’s infamous “Ship my pants” campaign. Kind if wish this had happened INSTEAD of it. Oh well… Best part: how he says “Feb-reze” at the end…
Made a point, entertained, and didn’t exploit the old people. It’s harder than it sounds, and they did it with grace.
No, it’s not Shakespeare—though he too favored crude humor now and then. Sometimes, a simple message and a quick football-to-the-groin is all you need.
What makes this work the most is also its biggest hazard. Danny Devito looks, in reality, like an M&M. How many people will now envision Danny Devito the next time they put one in their mouth? Is that really what Mars wants? Is that what anyone wants?
Fun idea. Jeff Goldblum is always great, and clear brand tie-in. The movie clip at the beginning was gratuitous, but didn’t hurt either.
Solid. Not quite Super Bowl fare, though.
This was a well-executed tribute ad—striking the perfect balance between story (most of it), and brand (almost none). Compare to Ram’s attempt above. The allourthanks.com url was a nice touch.
This is Sprint’s strongest work in recent memory—although it’s a bit disappointing we had to wait for the Super Bowl to see it. With a value-based message (heretofore weakly expressed), the cold logic of machine learning is an oddly approachable creative direction.
The ‘dumb face’ comment was an unfortunate distraction, and would have been better left on the cutting room floor.
It’s not the first time Budweiser has publicly congratulated itself for aiding relief efforts by bottling/canning water instead of beer. But that actually strengthens the meaning of this year’s spot—by placing it within the context of an enduring commitment. Well-executed, with an air of authenticity.
5. Doritos / Mountain Dew
I’ll be honest—this was not one of my personal favorites. But, it deserves top honors for 3 reasons:
1. It pleased the crowd.
2. It was a seamless collaboration between complimentary brands (let’s not overstate this—they are both owned by PepsiCo), and
3. It was quintessentially Super Bowl—an audiovisual onslaught featuring celebrities placed in non-traditional roles.
Lots of star power, and plenty of fun. Rebel Wilson causes discomfort with her overzealous use of the word “bush.” What’s not to love?
3. Australia Tourism
I’ll say this. It’s much more enjoyable to watch knowing it’s not going to be a real movie.
2. NFL / Manning + Beckham
It was a good idea, that could have gone very wrong if either Eli or Odell had decided to half-ass. Thankfully for all, that didn’t happen. The choreography was meticulously handled, and both players very obviously bought in. Score one for bromance.
The clear winner of Super Bowl 2018. A novel creative concept, connecting a couple of fundamental truths:
1. that clothes tend to look incredible on TV, and
2. that most of us enjoy guessing the sponsor of Super Bowl commercials, before they’re revealed.
It also lends itself to endless iteration, AND EVEN makes the product memorable—something even the most-loved spots frequently fail to do. The David Harbour casting choice put the cherry on top.
So there it is! Have we learned anything? Maybe!
Overall, this year featured plenty of solid work, a few gems, and a veritable lake of mediocrity.
What worked this year:
• Humor – this just in: people like to laugh!
• Heartstrings – related: everybody gets the feels sometimes.
• Solid connections between brands, their messages, and their audience – if it makes sense, we get it!
• Inauthenticity – don’t try to use MLK to sell trucks. Good grief.
• Confusion – it sounds funny / makes sense to you, but will the audience connect the dots?
What’s your take on the Super Bowl lineup? Do we make a valid point? Are we off our rockers? Let us know—we’d love to chat!
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