Welcome to the 2018 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl LII is done, the Eagles are Super Bowl champions, the City of Brotherly Love is alive with, umm, celebration, and it’s time to reveal our judging panel’s (me and Office Dog) favorites from this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads.
Note that, while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, our honors may stray wildly from the standard Super Bowl advertising accolades. Our goal is to recognize the Super Bowl ads that stuck, the ads that sucked, and the ads resonated with the person who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the entire show (from the viewpoint of an advertising guy who worked Super Bowl promotions in bars for 15 years). So, without further non-poetry…
The A For Execution But… Award
The NFL spots featuring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. were pretty dull and forgettable, until we finally got the spot where the New York Giants quarterback and receiver reenacted the Time of My Life scene from the movie Dirty Dancing as part of their touchdown celebration. That spot was pretty entertaining and the two players nailed the re-creation of the scene. However, coming on the heels of a season marked by dull games, concussions and serious injuries, a confusing rule book, inconsistent discipline, and lower TV ratings, and ad celebrating touchdown celebrations did little to help the image of the NFL. While it may have helped people forget all the league’s bad press over the last several years for a minute, it was ultimately a big ball of silly that will be quickly forgotten the next time the NFL fumbles on a disciplinary ruling, rule interpretation, or player health issue.
Budweiser spent $5 million to remind America that, not only do they make a dying brand of beer, but they also have a heart and use their canning lines to can water, which is delivered to disaster zones. Now, make all the “Budweiser is pretty much water anyway” jokes you want, but the bigger laugh comes from Budweiser spending who-knows-how-much to produce this nice ad that ultimately plays up their skill at putting water in cans.
The Office Dog Honors Award
This award honors the best use of animals (preferably monkeys) in Super Bowl ads. However, monkeys seem to be passé in Super Bowl advertising these days and, apparently, so are dogs or animals in general. In fact, thanks to ads for, and tie-ins with, the new Jurassic World movie, it appeared dinosaurs were the new monkeys. So, of all the dinosaur ads, Office Dog and I liked the Jeep ad featuring Jeff Goldblum the best. The spot had just enough of the trademark Jeff Goldblum weirdness that we all haven’t gotten sick of yet, while also showing (and this is crazy) actual features of the Jeep Wrangler (you know, things that might actually help sell a Jeep Wrangler).
The WTF Award
Dodge Ram Trucks gave us what they hoped would be an epic spot, featuring Vikings driving around in a Dodge Ram truck, hauling their Viking ship with a Dodge Ram truck and sailing their Dodge Ram truck across a stormy sea, all to the accompaniment of Queen’s We Will Rock You. The spot ends as the two Vikings in the cab turn the truck away from the big city after looking at their Sirius XM satellite radio and seeing the words “Tonight’s Matchup.” Of course, the super at the end of the spot directed you to go online to “Watch The Full Story” which absolutely no one in America has done. I’ve watched the spot four times and I still don’t know what they were going for other than a lame tie-in to “EPIC ADVENTURES.” I think they were trying to be funny and show Minnesota Vikings fans going to the big game, but you had to look too long and too hard to find that, which made this spot empty, not edgy. Throw in another Ram trucks spot that used a voiceover of a Martin Luther King sermon and I’m simply not sure what the hell Ram Trucks was actually going for here.
The Best Olympics Ad that Wasn’t An Olympics Ad
Early in the game, Toyota rolled its “Good Odds” ad, which celebrated the achievements of ParaOlympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft. Following Woolstencroft from being born with no feet to ParaOlympic gold medal winner, all while showing the decreasing odds of someone winning a Paralympic gold medal as the ad reached its climax, this spot was comparable to the NBC Winter Olympic ad featuring skier Mikaela Schiffrin that had run only minutes before. Throw in an overwrought tagline (Start Your Impossible) and a Toyota logo, this ad pulled on the viewer’s heart strings. But, it did absolutely nothing to sell Toyotas.
Best Schizophrenic Super Bowl Advertiser Award
On top of their weirdly incomprehensible epic Vikings spot, Dodge Ram Trucks tried to tie together freedom, serving your fellow man and big pickups to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. Granted, use of MLK’s sermon was licensed by his family, but pairing the epic vikings spot with a trying-too-hard-to-make-people-stop-and-think spot like this one was a waste of a lot of money on two spots that had absolutely nothing to do with each other and ultimately didn’t even hammer home the same tagline. Given their performance the last few years, I think the creative process for Chrysler Dodge goes something like, ‘We’ve got two great, but distinctly different, creative concepts! Let’s do them both for the Super Bowl and split test later!” And that’s not the best way to sell product.
The Please, For The Love Of God, Go Away Award
Doritos and Mountain Dew have been trying to create buzzy, edgy Super Bowls ads for years and this year was no exception. Starting with an ad featuring actor Peter Dinklage lip-synching Busta Rhymes to sell us on the fiery flavor of Doritos Blaze chips, and followed by Morgan Freeman doing the same thing to Missy Elliott to sell cold Mountain Dew (#fireandice get it?), these spots were more pointless pap from these brands that won’t help sell soda or snack chips. While not as egregiously bad as PuppyBabyMonkey, it’s time for both of these brands to find a new approach.
Best Pointless Use Of A Pointless Celebrity Award
For my money, there’s no better way to discourage consumption of your candy than bringing in Danny DeVito (he was so good in, ummm, Twins. Yea, that’s it) as the human face of that candy. But that’s exactly what M&M’s did! Throw in Danny DeVito/human M&M asking people on the street, “Do you want to eat me?” (everyone said no) and this spot did nothing to make one crave M&M’s. I’m also guessing all of America cheered when human M&M Danny DeVito was predictably run over by a bus in that wacky-for-the-sake-of-being-wacky conclusion to the spot.
Avocados From Mexico also deserves some mention here for not only pointlessly throwing Chris Elliott (cue the millennial irony) in their ad, but for also rolling out the wacky mass scream concept that was done to death in Super Bowl advertising at least 20 years ago.
The Water Cooler Winner
There was no debate on this one and it was pretty obvious in the middle of the third quarter who our Water Cooler Award Winner would be. Amid a sea of mediocrity, most of whom were trying just too hard, Tide’s ads (starring David Harbour from Stranger Things) are what everyone is going to be talking about around the office water cooler on Monday. By going meta and spoofing just about every popular genre of Super Bowl ad and brand category ever, while not overdoing it, Tide made some of the wittiest Super Bowl ads we’ve seen in quite awhile. Plus, as the Tide ads ran early, the spots had you watching just about every other ad afterwards in hopes that it too might turn out to be a Tide ad. And they did it with :60s, :30s, :15s and even segment sponsor mentions. Nicely done!
So, there ya’ go…my take on the Super Bowl ads for 2018. Some good, some bad, some creative, some cliché. Feel free to leave your thoughts, picks, pans, favorites and failures in the comments. And, until then, when does the 2018 football season start?