Super Bowl Commercials: Reviewed
By Ryan Coleman
The Super Bowl is a combination of sports, entertainment, and popular culture merged into one evening of opportunity for companies everywhere. With just over 100 million viewers tuning in, Super Bowl LIII allowed businesses to show America what they had to offer. Millions of dollars spent and a Super Bowl game later, people across America sit talking about the different advertisements offered. Some worked, some didn’t. Below, I ranked the different advertisements into tiers based on their creativity, talkability, and overall success. Keep in mind, I couldn’t write about all of the commercials but all publicity is good publicity; some companies just publicized better than others.
Bud Light/Game of Thrones: Perhaps one of the most discussed commercials of the evening was this crossover as bold as Infinity War. Viewers received a surprise when HBO hijacked this Bud Light advertisement by including imagery from their most popular current show. There was no Season Eight footage or specific trailer involved, but HBO knows that Game of Thrones is their bread and butter. This was just a stealthy way of reminding everyone that it’s coming back.
The Washington Post: In the era of negative rhetoric surrounding the media, this commercial was a refreshing take on journalism and knowledge. This “power of knowing” ad was simple yet chilling. With Tom Hanks’s narration, this advertisement extends beyond just the company it represented, and carried the relevance of our current political climate. Go journalism!
Google: With two different spots throughout the game, this behemoth of a company nailed it. Their brand was well represented in both commercials with the feeling of their year in review videos. Both commercials included a hopeful tone that left me inspired and feeling better about the world with one showcasing the translation of language, and the other featuring the military.
Microsoft: In the same vein as Google, Microsoft also presented an uplifting and inspiring commercial featuring advanced game controllers for those with physical disabilities. It was inspiring to watch the children play with such happiness and illustrated the future of representation in the media (and technology). The world is quickly advancing, and Microsoft offered a promising look at the potential of technology.
Hulu: There was not a more shocking commercial than the Season 3 teaser trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale aired by Hulu. By starting out with positive and soothing images and noises, along with the line “it’s morning again in America,” viewers were lead to believe this was just another uplifting beer commercial. But halfway through the short thirty-second clip, it all took a turn for the worse. It was bold of Hulu to air an advertisement for The Handmaid’s Tale due to the Super Bowl’s typical target audience, but with high risk comes a high reward, and this commercial absolutely hit its mark.
Budweiser: A dog, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and promoting eco-friendly practices, what more could you ask for? Budweiser has slowly moved their brand away from “drink our beer because it tastes great” to “drink our beer because it is created in an eco-friendly way.” It is an interesting change but Budweiser executed the shift well.
Bumble: This was a solid commercial that was a step in the right direction, given the surprising lack of women featured in Super Bowl commercials. While almost half of the 108 million people who watched the 2018 Super Bowl were women, only about a quarter of Super Bowl ads have starred women, according to NBC. While I was a bit surprised that a bumble commercial ad aired during this game, Serena Williams is powerful and moving and this appealed to the growing female audience watching football. It may have been a risk, but I think it payed off.
Audi: Arguably the commercial with the best enthymeme, Audi had a simple yet humorous commercial that was exciting for the future of cars. Not only did Audi represent “a car from heaven,” but they also promised how one third of all new Audi models will be electric by 2025. With its sleek design and fancy style, the future of this car company is exciting.
Pepsi: This giant soft-drink industry is second to none...oh wait, except Coke. The use of big celebrity endorsements like Steve Carell and Cardi B energized the campaign, but the commercial itself asked “Is Pepsi okay?” reminding viewers how Pepsi is, and seemingly always will be, living in the shadow of Coke.
Stella Artois: Again, celebrity endorsements are huge in this era, which is why this commercial was successful. It was mildly creative and the target audience was spot on. Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges were fun to watch. But it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.
Doritos: Chance the Rapper and the Backstreet Boys! What a duo. This commercial was energetic and Chance even spit some verses. The end was basically all the advertisement needed when Chance said “the original, now it’s hot.” Doritos used a very over-the-top strategy to advertise something so simple. It was quite enjoyable though.
Disney: Three different advertisements happened Sunday night for some of the most important upcoming movies that Disney has to offer. Avengers: Endgame pre-kickoff, Captain Marvel during the game, and Toy Story 4 immediately after the game, the combination of the three threw everything at the viewers they could. The fact that this wasn’t everything that was talked about Monday morning meant it did not particularly hit home. And the combination of three movies might have been too much for people to handle.
T-Mobile: Four different ads aired in four different quarters for this cell phone company, but nothing really stuck. All four commercials were quite similar and they did not really offer any deals or reasons to switch, a moderate sense of humor was used and only time will tell if it will particularly pay off. My prediction? It won’t.
NFL 100: While this commercial featured the legends of the game, and may have been the most popular commercial of the night, what did it have to offer for the future? A main theme of the marketing campaigns during the Super Bowl included looking ahead. The NFL 100 commercial entertained, but there were few up and coming stars of the game included, besides Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley who made brief appearances. What does this game have to offer in the next five to ten years? The game itself was difficult to watch and all this commercial did was celebrate the past history of the game.
Bon + Viv Spiked Seltzer: Remember this advertisement? Neither do I. And it was the first advertisement of the actual Super Bowl! It was weird and uncomfortable and everyone forgot about it by the time the third quarter came around.
Turbotax: A creepy robot child is not something that advertises the simplicity of doing taxes. Furthermore, it kind of took a step back from what other commercials based their marketing on: the advancement of technology. I don’t think many individuals will want their taxes done by Turbotax anymore after seeing this
Amazon: While they used a celebrity endorsement and a dog, the two keys to a successful commercial, the story of Harrison Ford and his pet was basically “hey, sometimes we don’t do what you want.” It was cute but did not really put a good light on Amazon Alexa and its services. Amazon was trying to comfort its customers but really they just expressed how technology isn’t always the answer.
Burger King: I mean, it was different and...interesting? People talked about this commercial but it didn’t do much to promote viewers to run and get a burger. Andy Warhol was interesting but in the long run this is not going to do much for the company second to McDonald’s.
Turkish Airlines: No matter what kind of commercial Turkish Airlines offered, they need to reevaluate their target audience. What kind of people watching the Super Bowl are going to stop what they’re doing to book a Turkish Airline flight? No one. And the commercial wasn’t even that great!
The Super Bowl came and went and left a trail of new commercials behind. Unlike past Super Bowl commercials, companies avoided controversy and mostly focused on how we are advancing as a society, and what the future has to offer. There weren’t any particular stand-outs this year but some companies laid the groundwork for the year to come. Important movies are coming out this year as well as a season finale, promises were made and there is optimism in the air.