The broadcast of Super Bowl LII could have easily been called The Meta Bowl for all the self-referential advertising that aired on the four-hour-plus program. The most notable example was Procter & Gamble’s Tide campaign, which easily won the night, with the hashtag #itsatidead trending by the end of the evening.
The detergent brand and its agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, created a series of ads starring actor David Harbour, of the Netflix show Stranger Things. In each spot, Harbour crashed ads for other P&G brands or appeared in fake ads to point out the clean clothes worn by the actors. One spot parodied pharmaceutical ads and in another, Harbour crowded out the Old Spice man on horseback.
Like most years, Super Bowl ads were heavy on starpower. Two favorites on social media were the lipsynch rap battle between Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage and actor Morgan Freeman created by agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and Amazon’s star-studded auditions to replace the voice of Alexa with candidates that included rapper Cardi B and Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, created by Amazon’s in-house agency. Both ads had gotten significant attention when they were released online ahead of the game.
But there were plenty of other star-powered spots, including a series of beer ads created by FCB Chicago for Michelob Ultra featuring actor Chris Pratt getting in shape for the next installment of Jurassic Park. In the last spot, which got the best reception in social media channels, he’s joined by a number of sports stars.
Emotional appeals always have a place in the big game, but humor is the most common feeling plumbed in Super Bowl advertising. This year, though, heart-tugging appeals had a higher profile and were better received by the viewers sharing opinions on social media.
Toyota’s Super Bowl presence, created by Dentsu in Tokyo and Saatchi & Saatchi, included a spot featuring mobility solutions for the disabled and elderly and another spot featured Paralympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft. Hyundai’s spot, created by Innocean, also focused on charity in a spot that introduced car owners to cancer survivors helped by donations made with every car sale.
The Super Bowl had always steered clear of controversy and causes until recently. Advertisers are increasingly taking on causes as part of corporate social responsibility efforts and last year many advertisers chose to tackle the country’s polarized political environment head-on. This year, many came back and others joined them.
Mobile carrier T-Mobile was quite up front on its diversity and equality pitch. The ad, created by agency Laundry Service in four weeks before the game, softens up the message with visuals of babies, but clearly draws a line: “Change starts now. Are you with us?” is asks.
Not all efforts were well received. Fiat Chrysler found controversy with an ad for Dodge Ram trucks that used excerpts from one the Rev. Martin Luther King’s speeches. The reaction online didn’t wait until the end of the game. On the other hand, a Toyota ad that featured clergy from many different religions joining on the stands of a football game got a much warmer reception.
Ironically, the car ad many social media observers singled out was defiantly anti-message. In a spot from Arnold Worldwide, Jeep simply showed its Wrangler model crossing a stream, explaining that was all that needed to be said.
Let the music play
It seems like only yesterday that rock stars were complaining about their music being used in commercials. But this year music was everywhere in commercials, especially when trying to bring out emotions.
A spot early in the game used a version of The Pretenders’s “I’ll Stand By You” to underscore a pitch by insurer MassMutual. Another used Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” as part of a spot to promote Anheuser-Busch’s efforts delivering canned drinking water to disaster areas.
But out of all the ads of the night, the most memorable song-and-dance number was an ad by Grey New York for the National Football League, featuring a team that wasn’t even in the big game, the New York Giants. After a series of teasers throughout the game showing quarterback Eli Manning shooting the breeze with his teammates, the players all broke out into a dance number set to the climactic number from Dirty Dancing, complete with Manning lifting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
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