Super Bowl Alert: Big Game delivers boring commercials, low viewership
The audience looks to be the lowest in a decade, and the ads didn't fare much better
Good afternoon Super Bowl junkies,
I'm Jeanine Poggi, Ad Age's senior editor, here with the final edition of our Super Bowl Alert. This morning is a fog, with neither the game nor many of the commercials, proving especially memorable. I'm trapped in a blur of 1990's pop culture and robots (seriously what was up with all the robots? More on that later.)
Mediocrity is the word Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker uses to describe this year's crop of Super Bowl ads in his complete review of all the national commercials that aired between the coin toss and end of play. I couldn't agree more: in an effort to avoid any sort of controversy, Super Bowl advertisers played it safe with many jokes that fell flat and weak attempts to try to win over hearts with nostalgia. (I must admit, in some cases, like with Doritos' hip-hop version of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," it worked).
Still, there were a few gems, like Amazon Alexa's "Not Everyone Makes the Cut" and Bud Light's surprise commercial with HBO's "Game of Thrones."
NFL scores with its ad
On the field, the game was also a snooze, but the National Football League made up for it a bit with its commercial celebrating its 100th anniversary. The ad, featuring more than 40 current and former NFL players, won USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter.
In other rankings: Verizon's Super Bowl ad, "The Team That Wouldn't Be Here," was the most popular in terms of attention and conversion analytics metrics across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and search engines, according to iSpot.tv. It was also the most-watched Super Bowl ad on YouTube through 10 p.m. ET on Sunday.
And over at Twitter's #BrandBowl, Planters' Mr. Peanut had the highest percentage of all brand-related tweets during the game, while the Bud Light/Game of Thrones ad garnered the most tweets-per-minute.
But not the ratings…
Super Bowl LIII pulled the lowest overnight rating for a Big Game since 2009 and it's very likely it will come up short of 100 million viewers, Anthony Crupi reports.
Despite the mediocre turnout, Super Bowl LIII brought in $382 million in advertising, according to Kantar Media's preliminary estimates. This would be the third largest amount in history, trailing only the 2017 and 2018 games.
Excluding unpaid promotional spots from CBS and the NFL, the game had 37 minutes and 25 seconds of national air time from paying sponsors, which is the least amount since 2010. Meanwhile, network promos ran for just under 10 minutes, the second highest volume in history.
Mercedes-Benz spent the night on Twitter posting some "real talk" to promote its A-Class vehicle, and one of its tweets got a little too real.
"If this game weren't in my stadium, I would have driven away by now," the company wrote. Of course, Super Bowl LIII took place in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The automaker later deleted the tweet.
Elsewhere on Twitter, a beer war brewed after Bud Light aired a series of ads attacking Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in their products.
Miller Lite took to Twitter to thank Bud Light for giving it some publicity during the Super Bowl, since it hasn't aired an ad in the Big Game in over two decades (Bud Light parent Anheuser-Busch holds the exclusive beer rights to the game).
Hey Bud Light, thanks for including us in our first Super Bowl ad in over 20 years. You forgot two things though... we have more taste and half the carbs! #itsmillertime— Miller Lite (@MillerLite) February 4, 2019
And parent company MillerCoors defended itself against the attack saying its products do not contain high fructose corn syrup, while making the claim that some A-B products do.
At MillerCoors, we're proud of our high-quality, great-tasting beers. We're also proud that none of our products include any high fructose corn syrup, while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do. And Miller Lite has fewer calories, fewer carbs and more taste than Bud Light. pic.twitter.com/GeUUXqnSpc— MillerCoors (@MillerCoors) February 4, 2019
The National Corn Growers Association also expressed their displeasure at Bud Light.
.@BudLight America's corn farmers are disappointed in you. Our office is right down the road! We would love to discuss with you the many benefits of corn! Thanks @MillerLight and @CoorsLite for supporting our industry. https://t.co/6fIWtRdeeM— National Corn (NCGA) (@NationalCorn) February 4, 2019
Vegans were irate after Hyundai made fun of the non-meat-eaters in its Super Bowl ad. The spot stars Jason Bateman as an elevator operator who compares car shopping to things like jury duty, a colonoscopy and attending a vegan dinner party (complete with a beetloaf).
PETA, as well as other organizations, berated Hyundai for its ad.
ICYMI: The trend of 2019 is taking the elevator UP to vegan dinner parties (& an Earth, heart, & animal-friendly lifestyle). Instead of buying a car from people with outdated ideas, we suggest a vegan Smartcar by Mercedes. Great mileage & acceleration, turns on a dime. #SuperBowl https://t.co/nA3UDjRLrE— PETA (@peta) February 3, 2019
Hyundai responded by saying it loves vegan food and posted a recipe for beetloaf.
We actually love vegan food and are glad it's going more mainstream. pic.twitter.com/pZJqRfmhXY— Hyundai USA (@Hyundai) February 4, 2019
Another ad that received backlash is the Washington Post's spot (narrated by Tom Hanks) that highlights the importance of journalism in America and honors journalists who have died delivering the truth. Frederick Kunkle, union leader for the Post, tweeted his displeasure at the newspaper paying around $5 million for a 30-second ad, saying the money should be spend on its employees.
1) The Post is now paying, say, $5M/30 seconds to tout journalistic freedom during one of the glitziest and – given the NFL's knee-taking protests and concussions – more controversial sports events in our country #superbowl #wapostrong— Fredrick Kunkle WaPo (@KunkleFredrick) February 2, 2019
2) While I too am extremely proud of the Post and its legacy, this seems like an especially infuriating expense for a company that has: a) tried to take away health care insurance from part-time employees b) moved everyone toward riskier forms of health insurance #wapostrong— Fredrick Kunkle WaPo (@KunkleFredrick) February 2, 2019
Andy Warhol came back from the dead in Burger King's Super Bowl commercial. The home of the Whopper used film footage of the artist unwrapping and eating a burger for its ad. (Fun fact: he initially suggested unwrapping McDonald's instead.) Jessica Wohl writes about how the ad came together.
It seems the new celebrity this year was AI. Robots or smart devices were the stars of plenty of Super Bowl ads this year, including ones from TurboTax, Pringles, Michelob Ultra and Sprint. The messages were predominantly pro-human, and even Amazon's ad promoting Alexa was a reminder about the very real fears surrounding these devices.
From field to stage
Skittles skipped the Super Bowl and instead put on a one-day show in New York City. Brian Braiker attended the musical starring Michael C. Hall and called it a "self-referential absurdist thriller."
You can relive last night's commercials (we don't blame you if you don't) with commentary from industry experts and Ad Age's editorial team.
And for a full look at all the marketers that aired national spots in Super Bowl LIII check out our Super Bowl ad chart.