Super Bowl LIII: ads that were just as exciting as the game!

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  • 2/5/2019
    I’ve said it before: the Super Bowl isn’t just about football, it’s also about the ads. It’s the one time in the year when everyone else is as excited about advertising as I am.
    So, you can imagine how disappointing it is when all of the ads fall flat.
    I was seriously underwhelmed by this year’s crop of commercials. There’s always a few that fall flat, but I felt like every brand phoned it in this year. Admittedly, the Super Bowl is a different beast than your typical commercial spot. Expectations are incredibly high, and many commercials which would be perfectly fine, brand appropriate spots at any other time of the year simply don’t rise to the level of a strong Super Bowl ad.
    I’ve read other marketers who argue that if a commercial is on-brand and marginally memorable, that it should be considered a successful ad. I couldn’t disagree more. If you’re paying $5MM+ for 30 seconds, that half a minute had better make me jump up, drop my chips, rewind the DVR and watch it again. It should make me feel something, anything. The majority of commercials this year elicited a mild chuckle at best and most, nothing at all.
    A considerable number of spots threw in a celebrity cameo for no good reason. Was the M&M’s commercial better because it was Christina Applegate driving? Was the Hyundai spot better because Jason Bateman was the lead? Was the Oil of Olay spot more impactful because Sarah Michelle Gellar was in it? Looking through my notes, I just realized that I had already completely forgotten that Luke Wilson was in a Colgate ad. I suppose all of these spots elevated themselves from completely forgettable to barely memorable because of the star power. I hope the investment was worth it for the brands.
    As sharp contrast to the above were the few spots that had big names in them for a reason. The Bumble commercial starring Serena Williams is a great example. A strong female presence is core to their brand so that casting made perfect sense. Likewise, the Bubly commercial with Michael Bublé was memorable wordplay and supported the lighthearted, fun vibe of the brand.
    A few other commercials rose above the level of complete dreck. In no particular order:
    • NFL 100th Anniversary—the best spot of the night in my mind, although as self promotion (and coming in at 2 minutes long) it’s really in a different category than the other paid spots. However, after the controversy the NFL has endured the last couple of years, it was enjoyable to see the league distilled down to familiar faces engaged in a fun scramble for a loose ball. Bonus points for including jr. badass Sam Gordon and female ref Sarah Thomas.
    • Microsoft “We All Win.”—This is the best kind of tug at your heartstrings without explicit sell that I like to see in the Super Bowl. Nice work, Bill.
    • Bud Light/Games of Thrones—A great extension of their existing “Dilly Dilly!” campaign with an unexpected twist. As a GOT fan boy I was totally sucked in.
    • Version “First Responders”—I’ll admit it, watching Antony Lynn meet the first responders who saved his life got me a little choked up. The cynical side of me thinks it’s a direct response to the criticism the brand received after throttling phone service during the California wildfires… but there’s never a bad time to elevate those who risk their lives to protect the rest of us. To watch the rest in the series visit
    Final call-out for Super Bowl LIII commercials: robots. Seems like every third spot featured some weird robot. I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords… assuming they can make better TV commercials than what we saw last Sunday.

    Want to hear what more of the team had to say? Listen to our podcast disecting all of the ads.


    Have your own take on these ads? Leave us a comment and follow us to join the conversation

    About the author::
    Craig Israel is the Creative Director at thunder::tech. He steers creative strategy for the agency and leads a team of rock stars who regularly create crazy beautiful and stupid impactful work. Taller than average.
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