Justine Herz
5 Trends From Ad Bowl 2018

Another year of Super Bowl ads has come and gone. What worked, what didn’t, and who made the biggest splashes? Here are five points recapping the takeaways from TV advertising’s biggest night:

1) Focused on the older demographic

Between the cameos from older celebrities, pop culture references to movies, commercials and stars from a previous decade, and an attempt to tug on your nostalgic heart strings, this year’s ads focused almost entirely on the older demographic of its viewers. The NFL “Dirty Dancing” spot was certainly a fan favorite and perhaps the best received of this genre. I heard one TV commentator say at one point during the game, “Father Time has no idea where Tom Brady lives,” but, if you ask me, he certainly found these ads (sorry, not sorry).

2) Traditional brands & executions

Perhaps driven by the $5.2M price tag, large corporations and  industries, such as CPG, finance, insurance, telecom, entertainment and automotive brands, overwhelmingly dominated the ad breaks. Coupled with the previous point about catering to an older demographic, the result, unfortunately, was a laundry list of traditional brands that failed to present a different, innovative or digital take on their executions. In my humble opinion, the inability to create narratives that blended offline and online seamlessly or tap into the interactivity available from the record-breaking live streaming online was a big miss.

3) Direct jabs & taking competitors head on

Sprint has been actively going after Verizon of late, and their Super Bowl commercial was no exception with a CTA that’s impossible to misinterpret – “Do the math and switch to Sprint”. Wendys went after McDonalds “flash frozen” burgers, telling viewers to “Skip the hamburgers at the Frozen Arches…head to Wendy’s and…taste the difference for yourself.” Although Cure Insurance didn’t take a stab at other providers, it did take a direct jab at Tom Brady, the Patriots and probably all their fans for “cheating at football.” Will this strategy win with customers? Time will tell.

4) Ongoing storylines

With such a hefty price tag per spot, it was surprising to see several brands created a narrative that continued across multiple spots throughout the event. Verizon thanked first responders, Bud Light introduced Bud Knight and then, of course, there was Tide telling us that every clean commercial was a Tide ad! This appeared to be an effective, if not memorable, tactic for these brands, as most critics and viewers appear to be talking about these brands this morning. In my humble opinion (again), I think Tide won the Ad Bowl this year. It was funny, clever, surprising and even found a way to promote its other P&G sister products in the process!

5) Social themes promote unity & altruism

Many brands tried to focus on a unifying message despite increasing political and social tensions among Americans. Dodge Ram tapped Martin Luther King Jr.’s image and famous speech, Toyota told us that “We’re all one team” despite our different religious beliefs, Coke urged us to see beyond gender identity and T Mobile called for equality beyond racial differences. Other brands used the expensive air time to promote their altruistic efforts, such as Stella Artois focusing on its partnership with water.org and Budweiser focusing on its relief efforts in hurricane-stricken CA, FL and PR. Did these brands strike the right tone? It’s hard to tell, but at least the message was a positive one.

    We'd love to hear from you.