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Super Bowl Ads 2018

By IMA on Feb 12, 2018

Super Bowl LII ended the NFL calendar with an impressive clash between last year’s victors, the New England Patriots, and this year’s underdogs, the Philadelphia Eagles. But, after a truly divisive season, it was also a largely politics-free Super Bowl, particularly when it came to the adverts that are as much part of the conversation as the game itself.

2017 saw Trump taking shots at players and the NFL itself for kneeling during the National Anthem in protest at institutionalised racism. This raised the ire of many Trump supporters who threatened to boycott the NFL and brands associated with it.

As a result of this tumultuous season, brands played it much safer this year, especially compared to last year’s impactful Trump election responses from the likes of AirBnB, 84 Lumber and Budweiser. With a 30-second ad spot costing an estimated $5 million this year and 103.4 million people tuned in from all across the United States, it’s clear to see why. The risks of being overtly political just seemed too high.

If politics was off the cards, then, how did brands aim to make an impact this year?

One of the most obvious trends this year was the focus on star power. Over half of the ads aired this year featured a celebrity. Whether it was Amazon’s celeb-packed Alexa ad featuring Rebel Wilson, Gordon Ramsay and Cardi B, or Danny Devito as a humanoid M&M, it seems this year was all about the big names. NFL players even got involved, with Eli Manning and O’Dell Beckham Jr. recreating the Dirty Dancing lift.

Other brands thought to change the game. Budweiser, Michelob, Toyota, Jeep and Tide all released multiple ads over the course of the game. Buying more than one ad seems like a crazy idea, especially given that $5 million price tag, but the reasoning is sound.

eMarketer projected that 177.7 million adults in the US will use a second-screen device while watching TV. With people spending just as much time checking Twitter as they do watching the game, repeat ads are a means to make sure their message is noticed.

Collaborations brought some of the bigger surprises of the night. Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice teamed up to bring the Peter Dinklage/Morgan Freeman rap battle we didn’t know we needed. Meanwhile P&G offered up Old Spice and Mr. Clean to heighten the humour of their multiple Tide spots.

It’s also worth mentioning the groundbreaking strategy for the release of The Cloverfield Paradox. While the film has been critically panned, the marketing surrounding the film generated an impressive amount of buzz. The first trailer aired during the Super Bowl itself, with the film then available on Netflix immediately after the game.

With no critic screenings or even official information released beforehand, the few hours between first trailer and release signaled a truly unique event. A cynic would say this strategy was implemented because all parties involved knew the film wasn’t all that good, but it’ll be interesting to see if other films might follow suit.

The biggest winner of the night, other than the Eagles of course, was Tide. Their multiple spots, wry humour, brand collaborations and the addition of Stranger Things’ David Harbour ticked all the boxes to create a tour de force of a campaign that had audiences anticipating the next installment as the game went on. It’s clear that the most successful ads, in terms of audience response, appeared to be those that broke the rules.