The Super Bowl LII Ad Recap: 5 Highlights And One Big Question



The Big Game is one of marketing’s biggest nights of the year. Here’s what we observed.

The Super Bowl is … well … the Super Bowl of advertising. It’s one of the most important nights of the year for brands that have gambled on multi-million dollar TV spots, and a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity for other brands to capitalize on our nation’s shared cultural moment. Here are five big highlights from the Big Game—along with one big question for marketers everywhere.

Tide Achieves a New Kind of Ubiquity

Advertising pundits were quick to name Tide as the big winner of the Brand Bowl, which was a win the company needed following several weeks of unfortunate headlines around the youth culture’s biggest obsession since the fidget-spinner: eating Tide Pods.

Jokes aside, the creative spots (four in total: one 45-minute setup spot and three 15-second reinforcers) cleverly forced viewers to question whether subsequent ads were a Tide ad or not. This psychological trick brilliantly kept the brand top of mind throughout the entire game. It was definitely a smart approach and the agency behind the work, Saatchi + Saatchi deserves a lot of credit. For a media buy that costly, though, the brand shouldn’t have expected anything less.

Nike Subverts the :30 Spot

Nike’s collaboration with Justin Timberlake was executed to perfection. Prior to taking the stage, Timberlake posted a “2-minute warning” on Instagram, which not-so-subtly centered on a fresh new of Air Jordan 3’s he would be sporting for the 15-minute show. Following the Halftime Show, Nike’s SNKRS app opened a sale for the new “JTHs,” which promptly sold out.

⚠️ Two minute warning. ⚠️ @jumpman23 #SBLII

A post shared by Justin Timberlake (@justintimberlake) on

Amazon Nails the Brief

As is the case in sports, in advertising the fundamentals are just as important as the flash. Amazon’s “Alexa Loses Her Voice” spot won the USA Today Ad Meter competition without doing anything particularly groundbreaking. The ad leveraged prominent celebrities (including a cameo from Jeff Bezos) and leaned on light-hearted fun to drive home the message that while there might be other voices on the market, there is none quite like Alexa’s.

The spot was created as a joint assignment between Amazon’s in-house agency, D1, and UK-based Lucky Generals.

Oreo Exercises Restraint

Oreo, the brand that became famous for ushering in the “real-time marketing” trend in 2013, did not respond when NBC technical failures resulted in a several second blackout during the 2nd quarter. In many ways, though, the brand didn’t have to: Viewers readily fueled the word-of-mouth brand buzz by taking to social to ask why Oreo seemed to be asleep at the wheel. As a result, the Mondelez brand got its fair share of earned media without lifting a (Twitter) finger. Touché.

It was also interesting to see viewers speculate as to whether the blackout was some sort of creative ad execution. Such is the nature of marketing in 2018: it’s increasingly difficult to tell what’s advertising from what’s not.

Real-Time Marketing Works (When It’s Good)

Brands that didn’t drop money on Big Game spots found ways to cut through the clutter through hilarious social content. Duracell, for example, seized the opportunity to help Eagles fans “own their truths” by celebrating the fan base’s notoriety for throwing batteries at opposing fans.

Hardee’s also jumped on the train, giving fans reason to temper their celebratory behaviors. Well, fans except for this hero who survived a trust-fall off the face of the Ritz-Carlton.

Social Good’s Catch-22

Brands were quick to tout their social good efforts, which isn’t surprising given that research shows that millennials, in particular, are more likely to “vote with their wallets” and support brands whose values align with their own. The problem, as some critics point out, is that the money spent marketing these community efforts often eclipses the portion of funds that actually go to such programs. For example, Anheuser-Busch spent $100K on delivering water for disaster aid, and $5 million talking about it during the Super Bowl.

A Dodge Ram commercial that conjured a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. also received criticism. While the company likely intended to inspire viewers from the immortal words of Dr. King, some viewers thought the ad was done in poor taste. The general vibe, per The New York Times: “Did the company really just use Dr. King’s words about the value of service to sell trucks?” Yes, yes they did.

This puts brands in a precarious position: From a marketing standpoint, it’s important to elevate social causes and align with cultural passion points, but when heavily promoted at major events like the Super Bowl, consumers are quick to question the brand’s altruism. So, what’s the right way to go about this? We’ll be exploring this dilemma in depth at SMWNYC this April.

Explore the growing importance of brand purpose to marketing and other big trends at SMWNYC, held at the Sheraton Times Square this April 24-27. Secure your pass today & save 20% percent.

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