And lo, another Super Bowl football and culturefest has passed. The Eagles of Philadelphia may have emerged victorious on the field, but here we’re primarily concerned with the game between major brands of all stripes, sizes, and tastes during the commercial breaks.
There were car ads, food ads, beer ads, tech ads, football ads, Australia ads, phone ads, snack ads, soda ads, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ads . . . okay, not that last one (more on that later). One thing is for sure, our favorites were stainless. Onward!
Tide “It’s A Tide Ad”
What: Tide’s Super Bowl ads starring David Harbour (Stranger Things) stretched throughout the game; referenced classic big game ads like Old Spice, Big Pharma, Budweiser, and Mr. Clean; and may have been the biggest winner outside of Philly.
Who: Tide, Saatchi & Saatchi New York
Why we care: Super Bowl ads have long been a thing. Tide and the folks at Saatchi & Saatchi New York know this and used it to the brand’s advantage by going full meta with Harbour–a pitch-perfect piece of casting–charming his way through the entire game. The only thing missing was getting self-referential and putting Harbour’s face on this guy’s shirt from the 2008 game.
NFL “Touchdown Celebrations To Come”
What: A league ad starring the New York Giants that ditched the typically serious battle/warrior vibe in favor of a sense of humor and a deep appreciation for 1987 romance. Nobody puts Beckham Jr. in a corner.
Who: NFL, Grey New York
Why we care: This might be the spot that caught the most fans off-guard. An NFL ad that went full quirky with Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning earnestly recreating Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, circa ’87. Dirty Dancing meets the end zone. Can’t wait to hear “Time of My Life” when the Giants score their first TD next season.
Verizon “Answering the Call”
What: An ad from Verizon that was one big high five to emergency first responders.
Who: Verizon, McCann New York
Why we care: In one of the only big game ads that aimed for our feels and actually nailed the bull’s-eye, Verizon took audio of people calling first responders who had helped them to say thanks. Simple, heartfelt, and a solid hit.
Amazon “Alexa Loses Her Voice”
What: Amazon uses an eclectic mix of celebrity (along with its CEO) to imagine what might happen if Alexa lost her voice.
Who: Amazon, Lucky Generals
Why we care: As I said when it launched last week, it’s a funny, relevant–you’ve seen the smart speaker sales stats–classic celebrity Super Bowl ad that also just happens to be an elaborate product demo.
E-Trade “This Is Getting Old”
What: A funny-yet-depressing look into the future for many of us with distinct lack of retirement savings.
Who: E-Trade, MullenLowe
Why we care: This falls into the ol’ if-it-wasn’t-so-funny-I’d-be-crying camp, as the online investment company uses the hilarious idea of having to work a customer service job or DJ well into our 80s to motivate young people to start investing in their future. Now, whether you agree or not that E-Trade is the answer to the problem it presents in its ad is one thing, but there’s no denying they make a good point.
WORST AD OF THE NIGHT
Dodge Ram Truck “Built To Serve”
What: Dodge Ram Truck’s ad that used an MLK speech as its voice-over and got absolutely torched on social media throughout the game.
Who: Dodge Ram Truck, Highdive
Why we care: If using a 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech as a voice-over for a truck ad doesn’t sound even slightly skeezy to you, then my friend, you may have been working in advertising too long. The reaction was so swift and negative that the company was already issuing a statement defending it not long after the Eagles lifted the Lombardi trophy. The brand says it got all the proper permissions, but by the looks of tweets from both The King Center and Bernice King, that may be in dispute.
Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK’s words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight’s @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial.
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) February 5, 2018
What’s not in dispute is that this came off baaaaaaaad. Look, I get it, you got all hopped up on the success of your 2013 Super Bowl ad and using an old-timey voice-over to evoke patriotic, ‘Murica warm n’ fuzzies. You saw the U.S. Digital Service use an old Steve Jobs talk, or maybe Carnival Cruises’ ad using an old JFK speech about the ocean, and thought, “Hold my beer.”
But c’mon. You had to know this was going to lead to a cornucopia of “I have a dream . . . to sell a luxury pickup truck” jokes. Worse, are you telling me no one thought of how insensitive and tone-deaf you’d look using one of the most revered civil rights leaders in American history to sell cars during the Super Bowl in the wake of #TakeAKnee and Black Lives Matter? And also . . . did you read the damn speech? As many on Twitter pointed out, the Drum Major Instinct sermon is also a caution against the dangers of consumerism–in which Dr. King actually cites car ads. Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs magazine, already reedited the ad so we hear the following text:
Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it.