Super Bowl

Super Bowl Ad Review: We Laughed, We Cried, We Cringed

By Published on .

Credit: Tide

So that happened. The 2018 Super Bowl spots were generally either silly or sincere—and all of them played it safe. If there are any major takeaways, it's that brands were largely disinclined to make any kind of statement other than "everyone is a special snowflake." We wish we could say the same in return.

See how 4,000 marketing pros rated the ads for entertainment but also effectivness in Ad Age's first Super Bowl Ranking with Morning Consult.

Amazon, "Alexa Loses Her Voice"

Lucky Generals and D1

The most surprising thing about this ad full of surprises is that Jeff Bezos has a decently compelling screen presence and can actually sort of act. Pretty funny for a terrifying boss. That's our main takeaway, anyway. Also, it would be excellent to have Cardi B as the voice of Alexa at all times.

Current mood: laughing

NFL: "Touchdown Celebration"

Grey NY

To celebrate its newer, more lenient rules regarding end-zone celebrations, the NFL put out this spot to combat its "No Fun League" rep. Here we get Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. recreating the iconic climax to "Dirty Dancing" set to its theme song, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Not since the Super Bowl shuffle have we so enjoyed seeing these big lugs boogie.

Current mood: laughing

Tourism Australia, "Dundee"

Droga5

Imagine being tasked to make an ad for Australia: You're instantly battling icons, from Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee to, uh, Paul Hogan slipping "an extra shrimp on the barbie" to, er, Yahoo Serious. It speaks volumes about the state of moviemaking that the spot's head-fake premise is so plausible. You call yours an ad? Now, this is an ad.

Current mood: laughing

Sprint, "Evelyn"

Droga5

This genuinely amusing ad suggests that when our robots gain sentience they may not be as vengeance-bent as the droids on "Westworld." But they will tease us without mercy (albeit without much skill either). If it's in the interest of ostensibly saving us money, we'll take it.

Current mood: laughing

Febreze, "The Only Man Whose Bleep Don't Stink"
Grey New York

Brands invite trouble when they create their own hashtags, but Febreze no doubt gamed every possible way #BleepDontStink could go awry—and stuck with it anyway. For taking a common expression and making us think of it in new ways, Febreze comes off just as fresh as we all wish, well, our bleeps did.

Current mood: laughing

Tide, "It's a Tide Ad"
Saatchi & Saatchi

Tide gets uber-meta in this suite of four increasingly funny spots. Banking off his "Stranger Things" lovable everyman Hopper, David Harbour riffs on commercial clichés, hangs out with Isaiah Mustafa (we missed you, buddy!), marvels at a majestic Clydesdale and grinds like Mr Clean. One thing he definitely never does is eat a Tide pod. Mmmm, Tide pods.

Current mood: between smiling and laughing

Doritos and Mtn Dew, "Doritos Blaze vs. Mtn Dew Ice"
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Some things about 2018 are actually good. We may have to wait till 2125 for the final season of "Game of Thrones," but at least we can see the Dink lip-sync ferociously to Busta Rhymes' verse in (ugh) Chris Brown's "Look at Me Now." Then we get Morgan Freeman, the coolest man alive, slaying Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On." Bonus: Both rappers get cameos here.

Current mood: smiling

Toyota: "One Team"

Saatchi & Saatchi

A priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Buddhist monk all go to a football game. It sounds like the setup to a joke. Instead it's the set-piece for this delightful spot that deftly delivers the message of togetherness—without beating anyone over the head with it.

Current mood: smiling

Blacture: "Be Celebrated"

McKinney

Rapper Pras is using the Super Bowl to launch Blacture, a new media platform for black culture that celebrates, in his words, "black excellence." In this ad, the Grammy-winning founding Fugee attempts to pique curiosity with some startling imagery: He appears onstage in an empty ballroom, wearing black tie, blindfolded, with duct tape over his mouth. He removes them to the tagline "Be celebrated. Not tolerated." It got our attention.

Current mood: smiling

Quicken Loans: "Translator"

Huge

Keegan-Michael Key's anger translator was so beloved that he made an appearance at President Obama's final White House Correspondents Dinner. Here he's back, but without the anger (or the edge), to deftly de-jargon pretentious waiters, deliberately obfuscating Tinder profiles and, of course, the mortgage process. Frankly, we wish we could take him everywhere.

Current mood: smiling

Lexus, "Long Live the King"
Walton Isaacson

Lexus injects a healthy dose of badass into an ad slate that otherwise leans either silly or sincere. "Black Panther" fans have to wait until Feb. 16 for the film to come out, but this spot—complete with actual film footage and a snip from Run the Jewels' soundtrack—should tide them over 'til their king descends from Wakanda.

Current mood: smiling

Bud Light, "Ye Olde Pep Talk" and "Bud Knight"
Wieden & Kennedy

Sure, the "Dilly Dilly" stuff is silly silly, but it's so pliable it's taken quick root in the vernacular. Now we finally get some kind of logical connection between the knights, their Dillies and Bud Light. OK, maybe "logical" is a stretch, but here we meet Bud Knight in an execution that is consistently on point. Now Bud just needs to turn the slogan into sales.

Current mood: smiling

Jeep: 'Jeep Jurassic'

DDB Chicago

In making so many different ads for one game, Jeep is betting that something will stick with everyone. We're never not happy to see Jeff Goldblum at any age—and this spot will appeal to all generations of "Jurassic Park" fans even at the risk of reminding us how old we're getting.

Current mood: smiling

Avocados From Mexico, "#GuacWorld"
GSD&M

Avocados From Mexico returns for its fourth consecutive year with yet another smart-funny bit of lighthearted fun. The brand plays up the versatility of avocados here, with a nod to that millennial darling, avocado toast. As Gen X-ers, we love Chris Elliott just for showing up—and perhaps even more for not really ever having a reason for being there. Pass the guac.

Current mood: smiling

Wendy's, "Iceberg"
VML

This commercial throws so much shade, we need a glass of iced tea. Wendy's pulls no punches here and we love it for it. After telling us that McDonald's publicly claims its burgers are flash-frozen, the ad reminds us that "the iceberg that sank the Titanic was frozen, too." Oooh. Need some aloe for that flame-broiled burn, McD's?

Current mood: smiling

E-Trade, "This Is Getting Old"
MullenLowe

Some things in life will always be true: Saving money is boring. And old people doing young people stuff is hi-lar-i-ous. To the tune of "Banana Boat Song (Day O)," these oldsters sing about the misery of still having to punch a clock: "I'm 85 and I want to go home." It's a nice spoonful of sugar for some tough medicine: More than a third of Americans have no retirement savings.

Current mood: smiling

Intuit, "Giant Skip Ad"
Phenomenon/Passion Animation Studio

Finally a Super Bowl ad that admits no one actually likes ads.

Current mood: smiling

Kia, "Feel Something Again"

David & Goliath

Steven Tyler returns to the Super Bowl (last seen there in a Skittles ad), this time to reclaim the glories of youth. While Aerosmith continues to exist, against all odds, Tyler has emerged as something of a national pervy-great-uncle/magician. Also, he looks more and more like my mom every year. This is getting weird. But the ad works.

Current mood: smiling and a bit confused

Ram Trucks: 'Icelandic Vikings'

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

The Vikings may not be in the Super Bowl, but that's not stopping them from trying to get to their home stadium—-by truck and by boat. The highlight here is the resurfacing of a rare amped-up BBC performance of Queen's "We Will Rock You." The punchline takes a bit of deciphering, but it turns out these warriors are forlorn about not getting to do battle. Because, get it?, the Vikings aren't in the Super Bowl.

Current mood: smiling and confused.

Squarespace: "Make it Happen"

In-house

Delightfully weird and mildly confusing, this spot trots out the millennial sentiment that "there has never been anyone just like you," only in a creepy tone and with Keanu Reeves inexplicably standing on a rolling motorcycle. Like last year's John Malkovich spot, this manages to be both compelling (the music helps) and slightly unsettling. It's unclear what it all has to do with Squarespace, though we're not sure we care.

Current mood: smiling, but confused

TurboTax, "Thing Under the Bed" and "Noise in the Attic"
Wieden & Kennedy

By anthropomorphizing well-known bogeymen, this spot charmingly works to dispel the fear of taxes. The monsters are endearing, it turns out! Nothing to be scared of here. Now if only TurboTax would put out a similar spot to quell our crippling fear of inexorable decline and death. Hey, pass the guac!

Current mood: between meh and smiling

Michelob Ultra, "I Like Beer"
FCB Chicago

Move over, Pratt. The real star of this ad is the song. If there's any justice in the world, Tom T. Hall, who wrote the 1975 waltz featured in this spot will soar to the top of the charts this week. Heck, make him next year's halftime act—he'll only be 82, roughly the average age of the American TV viewer. Also the auteur of "Harper Valley P.T.A.," Hall's as American as they come. Bottoms up!

Current mood: smiling

Michelob Ultra, "The Perfect Fit"
FCB Chicago

Who doesn't love Chris Pratt? (Other than Anna Faris, maybe.) Handsome, funny, handsome, fit and handsome, the "Jurassic World" star should be able to parlay this high-profile beer spot—his first—into some real success. We kid, but it's testament to Pratt's likability that he outshines the ad's mediocre premise and downright lame punchline.

Current mood: meh

YouTube

Hook

YouTube has a message for cord cutters: For just $35 you can stream more than 40 channels of live entertainment over your set top box. Will anyone actually pay $35 for YouTube TV? The ad ran between the coin toss and kickoff and by the time the game started we had forgotten it aired.

Current mood: meh

Jeep: 'The Road'

FCB Chicago

"The road is someone else's idea," this ad reminds us. "The road always ends." A stirring call to adventure, this spot urges us outdoors and off the beaten path. We're in. Who's driving?

Current mood: meh

Universal Parks and Resorts, "Peyton Manning: Vacation Quarterback"
In-house

Note to self: Next time Peyton Manning invites us to a Universal theme park, tell him we're holding out for an invite from pervy uncle/magician Steven Tyler.

Current mood: meh

Persil ProClean, "The Professional"
DDB New York

This spot would have been way more fun if the titular professional emerged from the TV more like the girl in "The Ring." Here, this old visual trick offers nothing new aside from the straight-man reactions of the game watchers: "What was in those brownies?" Maybe the creative team actually should have spiked them.

Current mood: meh

Wix.com, "Rhett & Link"
In-house

We first learned about Rhett and Link when our kids showed us clips from their YouTube show "Good Mythical Morning," so we feel slightly ahead of the curve. Mostly, we're trying really hard not to type the word "influencers." Ach. Damn. Anyway, these dudes are charming enough and the ad actually shows us what Wix.com does. Utilitarian, if not especially riveting, fare.

Current mood: meh

Coca-Cola, "The Wonder of Us"
Wieden & Kennedy

A diversity play, but less bold than 2014's multilingual "It's Beautiful" spot: Everyone is a special, unique snowflake! Except when it comes to Coke: We all drink the same thing! To be sure, Coke wants to evoke that one time it taught the world to sing in perfect harmony. And the subtle nod to the transgendered community with "them" was a nice touch. But this is a millennial pander. Also the tagline, "Taste the feeling," could really alienate the synesthesia community.

Current mood: meh

T-Mobile, "Little Ones"
in-house and Laundry Service

We wonder what Kurt Cobain would make of this. Set to a lullaby version of "All Apologies," the spot reminds us that babies aren't judgmental. Maybe he'd take a line from his own song: "I wish I was like you/ Easily amused." Maybe he'd switch to Sprint. We love the full-throated embrace of tolerance and equality here. We're just not sure what it has to do with T-Mobile.

Current mood: meh, but also confused

Pepsi, "This Is the Pepsi"
In-house

Why make a new commercial when you can just do a greatest-hits mashup of all your golden oldies? Pepsi leans into the nostalgia angle with this quick-moving trip down memory lane. Hey, remember that Pepsi spot with Cindy Crawford? With Britney? With Michael (wait, didn't they accidentally set him on fire)? Well, the gang's all here. Everyone, that is, except Kendall.

Current mood: mildly confused

Budweiser, "Stand by You"
David

AB InBev goes for the do-gooder vibe in this disaster-relief spot for Budweis—uh, America. Emotionally much more manipulative than the Stella Artois spot, here we have a soupy cover of "Stand by Me" to convey that in times of trouble, the beer brand—and the everyday Joes who work there—are there for you. For this we sacrificed Clydesdales?

Current mood: confused

Turkish Airlines: 'Five Senses'

This beautifully shot ad makes us suddenly desperate to visit Turkey. It also makes us desperate to never see Dr. Oz again.

Current mood: confused

Diet Coke: "Groove"

Anomaly Los Angeles

Just because "I can" doesn't mean "I should." This spot, starring Australian actress Hayley Magnus, was originally shot as a quick social media video. It's possible it should have stayed that way. The no-doubt adorkable Magnus dances in mismatched rainbow socks in front of a mango-hued wall as a way to explain the "why" of Diet Coke Mango. The goofy-sexy shimmy is more awkward than compelling, though, and does little to entice us to try the new flavor.

Current mood: confused

WeatherTech, "American Factory"

Pinnacle Advertising

If we didn't know what WeatherTech did before this ad, we certainly still don't know now. We do, however, know that they have—again—chosen to lead with a lily-white manly #MAGA jingoism, which will no doubt resonate in the red states. So, good for them?

Current mood: mostly confused

Toyota, "Mobility for All" and "Good Odds"
Saatchi & Saatchi and Dentsu

We're not crying, you're crying. Toyota looks beyond cars and into mobility of all kinds. "When we're free to move," the tagline concludes, "anything is possible." Case in point: the inspirational story of eight-time Paralympic gold medalist Lauren Woolstencroft. Toyota, an Olympic and Paralympic sponsor, does the everyone's-a-special-unicorn messaging better than the rest.

Current mood: sobbing (but in a good way?)

Hyundai: "Hope Detector"

Innocean

This wasn't the ad Hyundai had planned to make, but due to security concerns about filming in real time at the game itself, this is where it landed. It works. In this moving ad, real-life Hyundai owners are pulled aside as they arrive at the "Super Bowl Experience" at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and are greeted with real cancer patients. The purchase of their car, these game-goers learn, helped to fund pediatric cancer research. Tears and hugs follow.

Current mood: sobbing

Verizon, "Answering the Call"
McCann New York

Verizon doesn't just tug at your heartstrings here, it practically reaches down your throat and rips them out. This touching homage to America's first responders is a message that absolutely anyone can get behind, and Verizon works in its reason for being there in a mostly seamless and organic way.

Current mood: sobbing

M&M's, "Human"
BBDO New York

If you didn't see the garbage truck coming a mile away, then this is the commercial you deserve. M&M's is going the KFC Colonel route of late, first with David Cross voicing the new caramel-filled iteration of the candy, and now with Danny DeVito as the human incarnation of the red M&M. It's a time-honored tactic: Tap a celebrity with good will to carry your flaccid ad into the end zone.

Current mood: mad

Ram Trucks: 'Built to Serve'

Highdive

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the speech played here 50 years ago tonight. The words alone—a rousing call to service for all citizens—are blazingly powerful. Layered over images of everyday heroes (and Ram trucks) the message feels co-opted. We're grateful to hear his voice tonight. It's just too bad it's being used to sell pickup trucks.

Current mood: mad

Jeep: "Anti-Manifesto'

Arnold Worldwide

Commercials that brag about being un-commercials are somewhat tedious. The meta execution on the Tide spots tonight was spot on (pun not intended but we'll keep it). This just feels overly smug and pleased with its anti-commercialism (which, of course, set the automaker back $5 million).

Current mood: mad

Pringles, "Wow"
Grey New York

The wacky-for-the-sake-of-wacky ad is a worn-out trope, and this one breaks no new ground. The ad's stagehand yokels are slack-jawed wacky types. Bill Hader is tediously bug-eyed and wacky. Together they stack Pringles to create new flavor combinations, which isn't going to make Pringles themselves taste any less like a cereal box.

Current mood: mad

Stella Artois, "Taps"

Mother

Stella is to be lauded for teaming with Matt Damon's water.org to bring a global crisis to our attention. But just because a spot highlights a worthy cause doesn't mean it has to be so anodyne. The solution? Buy beer mugs! Sorry, "chalices." Stella's word, and it's distracting. (It did remind us to rewatch Danny Kaye in "The Court Jester": It's the chalice from the palace, after all, with the brew that is true.)

Current mood: confused and a little mad

Groupon, "Who Wouldn't"

O'Keefe, Reinhard & Paul

Tiffany Haddish landed this spokesgig when she effused about Groupon during her "Girls Trip" press tour. This spot feels like two commercials in one. First we get Haddish, who is funny and super-watchable. Then we get...a cheap hit-in-the-nuts gag. Groupon blew $5 million to gain the attention of 100 million people to show them an "America's Funniest Home Videos" outtake?

Current mood: mad

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