Super Bowl Sunday. The one day of the year where commercials get the center stage. We saw our fair share of celebrities, we saw a few humble brags and we had a few laughs. Being the ad nerds that we are, our creative team conducted a post-Super Bowl fiesta—complimentary chips and salsa—of the best, the worst and the “Ah I see what they did there…” Super Bowl ads of 2018.

Smell the Brief
What’s worse than being advertised to? Knowing you’re being advertised to. Today, consumers are more aware than ever of being targeted for ads. During this year’s Super Bowl, there were various ads, and one in particular, that failed in concealing the fact that their commercial was targeted at specific audiences. Being the marketers that we are, we weren’t fooled. But were “regular people” fooled? We don’t think so.

Diet Coke: ‘Groove’:

-Objective—target millennials to buy the new flavored Diet Coke
-Approach—quirky girl, awkward dance moves, painted brick wall, “vintage” shirt, rainbow socks (?)

Our overall thoughts—it missed the mark. Consumers, especially millennials, are tired of feeling like they’re being marketed to. We live in a culture where we’re constantly being told what to buy, where to shop, how to eat and what to wear. Don’t get us wrong, a bunch of us love Coca-Cola. A bunch of us will probably try the new Diet Coke. But did this year’s Super Bowl commercial make us want to run out and buy one? Office poll via Slack: “Nope, maybe next year.”

Read the Room
Breaking through the clutter during the big game often requires the ability to understand the environment in which your ad is being shown—and take advantage of the conventional structures we’ve come to expect. So, who met the challenge of reading the room and presenting an ad that resonated? Here’s what we think:

Australian Tourism:
Okay, we did the hard work for you. There were eight movie and television trailers shown during this year’s Super Bowl. So why did the Australian Tourism ad stick out? Answer: it was an ad in disguise. By masking itself as a movie trailer, the ad grabbed our attention with stunning landscapes, action shots, a touch of comedy, the prospect of watching Chris Hemsworth hunt crocodiles…and then, plot twist, it’s a tourism ad. The creators of this ad knew what the audiences were thinking, and they knew what they were expecting. By playing to their expectations just a bit and then totally breaking the rhythm, the ad was able to stand out in a space cram-packed of lights, camera, action.

Move the Needle
How do brands determine if their Super Bowl ads are successful? With millions of dollars and endless hours invested, the stakes are high. An ad can grab the viewer’s attention, or it can get people talking, but at the end of the day, if an advertisement doesn’t move the product is it a success? We can think of one brand in particular that made all the right moves.

Jeep: ‘Anti-Manifesto’
Jeep ran a total of three spots during this year’s Super Bowl. One of those spots did just enough to make us say “Mom can I have a Jeep for my birthday?”, and here’s why.

1. They called it what it was. A car ad.
2. They showed us what it could do. Drive through a river.
3. They allowed the product to be the celebrity. The Jeep.

At the end of the day, this spot was cost-effective, simple and allowed the product to do the talking.

Nice try. Maybe next year. I was tracking, but I lost you. Hard no.

Dodge: ‘Built to serve’
There’s always that one ad that completely, 100% misses the mark. This year, that ad was Dodge Ram: ‘Built to serve’. There’s not much to say here other than the fact that the words spoken by one of our country’s the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were misappropriated to sell trucks. Was it a beautifully shot spot that compelled us to keep watching? Yes…at least for the first 28 seconds. But did it succeed in selling trucks? According to the conversations happening on social media…it’s not looking like it. We’re hopeful that Dodge and other brands will take this loss as a lesson-learned on when and how to use historical figures and speeches in advertising.

On the Fence
Year after year there’s always a handful of spots that do what they were intended to do. This year was no exception. We giggled, we cried, we were a little freaked out (in a good way) and we were compelled to buy something. But, being the cynical marketing folks that we are, we had to poke some holes.

It’s a Tide ad,’ with David Harbour:
Tide. Laundry detergent. The stuff your mom buys. This year’s Tide ads were good stuff. They fooled us. They made us laugh. They called it what it was: A Tide ad. They kept us on our toes. We, hands down, loved the Tide ads. But, did we love them because we’re marketers? Did we love them because we were reading between the lines? The multiple placements, the effective use of celebrities, the obvious attempt of distancing itself from negative news coverage… these things were clear to the average viewer, right? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll probably never know the answer, and that’s okay. But would we be doing our jobs if we didn’t try to poke holes? At the end of the day Tide did one thing right. They got people talking, in a good way, about an otherwise boring topic…laundry detergent.