Super Bowl ad winners and losers for 2018

by | Feb 6, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

Cord cutting, ad-skipping and lowered NFL rankings. The best antidote for big-time TV advertisers is the Super Bowl of ads, especially when this year’s crop was the most innovative in a long time and overall a considerably better and more creative lot than last year.

Why are SB ads so unique?

More than a whopping 100 million watched this year’s Super Bowl. That’s four times as many as the approximately 25 million who tuned in for the FIFA World Cup—the most popular sport in the world. On top of that, arguably, as many people tune in to the Super Bowl to watch the ads as the game.

That’s why advertisers spent $5 million per 30 second spot, or more than $150K per second of air time. That doesn’t take into consideration all of the production costs of the ad, like hiring celebrities, or the PR and marketing work around the ad to promote it to ensure their spend is maximized.

Is it worth it?

For the vast majority of companies, 1-5 seconds of Super Bowl air time equals their entire annual budget for marketing communications. Especially today, when you can use your budget for digital marketing techniques that are far less expensive, far more targeted and provide very clear insight into ROI, many marketers would never suggest using your budget for a Super Bowl ad. Only the top big brands with exceedingly large budgets, or brands that are willing to gamble aggressively, are going to strap on their helmet for this game.

Evolving the playbook

This year saw some big-play firsts drawn up on the board. And they both were touchdowns!

Among the top two ads of the night was Doritos vs. Mountain Dew with Peter Dinklage going head to head with Morgan Freeman in a rap lip-sync battle. Never before did two brands occupy the same ad, let alone in a competitive fashion to the benefit of each one of the brands.

Super Bowl ad winners and losers for 2018The big winner of the night, Tide’s series of “This is a Tide Ad” also was a first. Never before did a brand take over other ads and make you wonder which was the next advertisement they would hijack and turn into Tide Ad. Very well played, Procter & Gamble!

Upon further review

One of the biggest misconceptions about Super Bowl ads centers around the lens people use to judge them. There is a very important distinction to be made between good entertainment for the masses and a great commercial that is likely to move its specific target audience to action or to change a perception.

Too many companies have once again fallen into the trap of trying to be great entertainment, but were pretty weak ads. Two great examples of this were the Danny DeVito M&M spot and Amazon’s Alexa ad.

They both were entertaining to watch, and people will likely talk about them for the next couple of days, but they missed the mark in being great ads. Which target audience wants to associate eating Danny DeVito with eating an M&M, and which of the very different celebrities in the Alexa ad are we to identify with the brand. And BTW, is making fun of people’s questions to Alexa smart marketing or good entertainment? Sadly, the latter and not the former.

Keep your politics off the field

Last year a good number of Super Bowl ads were tinged by politics, including everyone from 84 Lumber to Airbnb to Audi. This year, advertisers tried to stay away from politics and potentially divisive topics—a very smart move because why would you risk offending even a potentially small part of your target audience at a $5 million price tag.

This year there was greater focus on celebrities, humor, nostalgia and humanitarianism. That’s a very smart move in the right direction for advertisers.

The newest 2-point conversion

Most brands are now pre-spending to market their super bowl ad. If you’re already spending $5 million to run your ad nationally and perhaps you spent $1-3 million in producing that ad, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

That’s why so many companies today are releasing their ads in advance of the big game and doing all kinds of PR, marketing, social media and digital marketing to leverage their SB appearance.  Some also are looking for a catch phrase, like Budweiser’s “Waz Up,” that can extend the life of the ad and become synonymous with the brand. We saw this with Pringles’ “Wow” ad this year, which did a very good job of it.

So how do we best judge ads?

The Warschawski BEST Model (W-BEST) is our company’s proprietary approach that we use to measure the success of any advertisement or marketing piece, and it’s how we scored this year’s Super Bowl ads. We score each category below on a scale of 1-10, with a total score of 40 being the highest.

  • Brand-centric—Does it clearly reinforce the brand & what makes the brand unique?
  • Emotional connection—Does it make an emotional connection with a specific target audience?
  • Stand out—Does it stand out from its competitors and is it memorable?
  • Target achieved—Does it have a clear target audience & does it achieve a business goal with that target?

Warschawski’s 10 Best Ads of Super Bowl 2018, in order:

  1. Tide, “It’s Another Tide Ad Series”
  2. Doritos & Mountain Dew, “Blaze vs. Ice”
  3. Rocket Mortgage,” Make the Complex Simple”
  4. Budweiser, “Stand by Me/Water Bottling”
  5. Pringles, “Wow!”
  6. Jeep “Wrangler/Anti-Manifesto”
  7. RAM, “Vikings/We Will Rock You”
  8. Michaelob Ultra, “We Like Beer”
  9. NFL, “Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr./ Dirty Dancing”
  10. Tourism Australia, “Crocodile Dundee”

Warschawski’s 10 Worst Ads of Super Bowl 2018 in order:

  1. Diet Coke, “Twisted Mango”
  2. Square Space, “Make it Happen with Keanu Reaves”
  3. Stella Artois, “Water.org with Matt Damon”
  4. Amazon, “Alexa Lost Her Voice”
  5. Intuit Turbotax, “The Monster under the Bed”
  6. T-Mobile, “Change Starts Now/Little Ones”
  7. Intuit TurboTax, “Ghost/Noise in the Attic”
  8. Kraft, “Family Greatly”
  9. WeatherTech, “American Factory”
  10. Lexus, “Marvel Studio’s Black Panther/Long Live the King”

David Warschawski
David Warschawski is CEO of Warschawski, a national marketing communications agency located in Baltimore. He can be reached at david@warschawski.com.


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