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5 Million dollars for 30 seconds. That was the going rate for an ad in this year’s Super Bowl. Despite reports of declining ratings throughout the NFL season and 2017’s game drawing a smaller audience then 2016’s game, this was the most expensive a 30 spot has been. While many big name advertisers bowed out of the game, choosing to allocate their funds elsewhere, many other advertisers happily agreed to run 1, 2, or even 6 different ads in hopes of reaching what many feel is the largest audience for one event all year.
Leading into the game, it already felt much different this year. The political landscape, the turmoil the NFL has dealt with all year, general growing unrest, and the spotlight placed on brands today makes using the Big Game as your moment to be edgy and controversial fell on deaf ears. Many in the advertising community, me included, expected a very sterile approach to the game. Tradition, nostalgia, unified approaches, and safe were the adjectives I expected to see used when describing the ads.
Come Sunday at 6:30 EST, that is what we received. However, a few brands stood out, a few brands fell completely flat, and a few raised some feathers will disjointed, disconnected from reality commercials. Without further ado, my 2018 version of the Super Bowl Ad Report: The Nice, The Crap, and The What Were You Thinking.

The Nice:

With such a vanilla display from most brands, the bar was set relatively low, but one brand absolutely dominated the Big Game.

Tide:

Proctor & Gamble and their agency Saatchi & Saatchi made a very smart and calculated move. Coming off some very bad press for P&G’s Tide brand (a TidePod shot anyone?), the brand took the opportunity to leverage a few things in their run of spots during the Big Game.
First, P&G used its variety of brands, of which have advertised in the Super Bowl previously and saw those as an opportunity to tie in nostalgia, to promote one of their flagship brands. Additionally, P&G made another calculated move, by finding something that ties EVERY ad during the game together, and use that to add mystery to their own ad. What do I mean? The first ‘Tide Ad’ spot mentions that typical Laundry Detergent ads have stains on their shirt to promote the product, and a Tide Ad is one that has clean shirts. They then instruct you to find other ads that have clean shirts and they are Tide Ads also. This puts the user on a scavenger hunt, carefully eyeing other commercials. At first, this didn’t work, but when Tide started to pop up in what looked like other people’s commercials to then hijack it with ‘Its a Tide Ad’ and move on, this put all consumers on the hunt.
They tied in other P&G brands such as Old Spice, Mr. Clean, and even non P&G brands to tell this message. By the end of the night, it felt like all ads were ‘Tide Ads’ and that was the exact thing they were going for. Using David Harbour from Stranger Things was also a very nice homage to nostalgia feel. Thought out the whole way through.
Well done Saatchi & Saatchi, and well done Tide.

Amazon:

While Amazon is still winning the connected speaker war against Google (and now Apple, in what feels like the latest entry in history), they continued to outpace Google with a genius concept, humanizing Alexa, the voice assistant powering the Echo. Google’s Home doesn’t have a name, Amazon’s does and they used that humanization to drive home a very human point; sometimes we lose our voice.
The commercial outlines what would happen if Alexa actually lost her voice and even stars Jeff Bezos. The ‘replacements’ they select were genius, from Gordon Ramsey absolutely owning the guy asking for a recipe for grilled cheese, to Cardi B refusing to play country. It was just well done, fun, but generally will surely have people asking more ridiculous questions to Alexa.
Others who did a descent job but do not warrant a specific writeup:
– Jeep: Just one of their ads was strong, the one where the Jeep drove across the river and up those ridiculous rocks like it was NBD. Yea… well done. The rest were snoozers.
– Winter Olympics: I would have given this a writeup but it feels like a house ad, since NBC is covering the Olympics and there were about 200 different spots for this. Volume doesn’t constitute success.
– Mountain Dew: Another Super Bowl, another announcement of ridiculous Mountain Dew flavors. It was funny, but felt SOO cliche.

The Crap:

These are the ads that well… were just terrible. No other words, except the ones listed below.

Persil:

Yea… They are another laundry detergent brand and I bet you forgot they had an ad right? That is because it wasn’t long after Tide’s and it was TERRIBLE. Your generic white guy holding the bottle saying how it gets shirts clean. Not only is this a brand we still never heard of, but the ad belonged during daytime TV, not a Super Bowl. Non memorable. It is not even worthy of vanilla, it is more like imitation vanilla. They got absolutely DOMINATED by Tide. $5 milly = down drain. (see what I did there??)

Dodge:

Did they even have a good ad amongst their seemingly 500 different spots? Their first ad including Dr. King’s speech will be covered below, but the rest of their ads were just horrendous. An honorable mention might be for the Vikings ad, but it was very tough to realize it was actually a Dodge commercial.

NFL:

Did we really need 5 commercials leading up to a awkward rendition of Dirty Dancing? NFL… you hired the wrong Manning brother for your ad. Eli just didn’t seem funny and the ad felt so forced. Too much buildup for such a poor delivery.

Australia:

The Dundee ad… really? Nothing says we love stereotypes like using one of our oddest famous characters. What looked like a movie ad the whole time, failed to deliver anything worthwhile for a traveler looking to go to Australia. Heck, Delta did a better job of selling Australia after the spot ran, when they barraged Twitter with ads related to going to Australia.
This section could have gone on forever, including Pepsi being extremely scared to say anything new after last year and insert brand you already forgot had an ad here.

The What Were You Thinking

This really is only one spot… The MLK Dodge ad. Seriously… how did this make it past the cutting room to not only be an ad, but the FIRST ad out of the gate for Dodge. I am not an expert on civil rights, but pretty sure MLK’s message wasn’t that of buying more vehicles. Just out of touch for today’s landscape and a very poor idea. Nothing about that would have been successful. Stuffing a bunch of African American people into an ad with MLK overtop doesn’t make Dodge seem like a civil rights hero brand, it makes them seem even more out of touch.
There you have it. Tide dominated, Amazon widened the gap, Dodge was a waste of space, and others did ok. Let’s hope the Oscars and other events produce some better spots.

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