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Analysis

Super Bowl Commercials: Wins, Losses and Marketing Takeaways

The Super Bowl commercials are an institution of their own. Besides the Eagles and Patriots, who were the big winners and losers of this year?

Lauren Dowdle
February 09 2018

Everyone remembers the E-Trade talking baby, young Darth Vader using the force, Clydesdales and puppies, McDonald’s Larry vs. Jordan showdown and “Wassup!” Sorry to bring that one back up. These ads made their marks on pop culture on Super Bowl Sundays through the years, and the 2018 commercial ad lineup tried to make the same lasting impression. And these companies have a lot on the line.

Spending for commercials during Super Bowl LII was about $419 million — bringing the total to $5.4 billion in the 52 years since we’ve watched the game. The average cost for a 30-second spot this year was a little over $5 million. With that amount of money being forked out, marketers better deliver results and have people talking about their brand for days to come. So which companies were the big winners (and losers) with the 2018 Super Bowl commercials? Here are the top contenders and what you can learn from them.

You can enjoy all of this year’s commercials here

Tide

Laundry detergent isn’t exactly the sexiest product. I mean, how many ways can you market clean clothes? Turns out, there are options. Tide mimicked cars, beer, Mr. Clean and other commercials, and says any ad with clean clothes must be for Tide…right? Viewers were then left guessing whether each commercial belongs to Tide. That’s a pretty big accomplishment to keep a brand on people’s minds, even when they’re watching another commercial.

Takeaways: Tide makes it clear what they’re known for (clean-looking clothes), so anytime someone sees that, they (hopefully) think of the brand. Decide what you want your company to be known for — such as a product, service or sentiment — and build your campaigns around that theme. Then, find different ways and channels to share that message. For example, take to your social media pages, newsletter and website to broadcast your message. Use the same voice throughout to build consistency, but take a different approach on each medium to keep things fresh. That also helps you try out different message formats to reach more of your audience — and see which one garners the best results.

Amazon

When Amazon’s Alexa takes a sick day, some well-known faces fill in for her in a hilarious way. The commercial won USA Today’s Ad Meter with celebs like Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Hopkins and Gordon Ramsay making appearances. They each brought their personalities to the ad, reaching a range of demographics.

Takeaways: When in doubt, incorporate someone your audience will recognize and trust. There are a variety of social influencers for every industry, so find ones that are in line with your brand and desired audience. You don’t always have to shell out the big bucks to land that influencer. You could partner to share their content with your audience, give them discounts or pay for them to attend your industry event. Figure out how you can each provide value to the other.

Doritos/Mountain Dew

Who doesn’t love a good rap battle — especially when it pits Peter Dinklage against Morgan Freeman. I’m sure that’s one matchup you didn’t see coming, but that’s partially why this is so memorable. These two acclaimed actors spit some beats to advertise Doritos and Mountain Dew. What makes this commercial especially effective is that it not only makes people smile, but it also leaves viewers remembering the products — which is where some companies fall short.

Takeaways: Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your marketing efforts. No matter the type of product or service you offer, there are ways to mix it up, so customers have fun and feel a connection to your brand. Build the campaign around the product or message you’re looking to promote to ensure that stays front and center.

Budweiser

Super Bowl commercials don’t have to be funny or wacky to catch people’s attention, so it’s refreshing when a company successfully creates a feel-good message. Budweiser used their ad to highlight their water donation efforts following natural disasters, and they did it in a way that didn’t come across as fake or boastful. Instead, they highlighted their employees’ compassion for people affected by these events and how their company has helped.

Takeaways: Don’t be afraid of tooting your own horn sometimes if your company or team does something amazing. Maybe you donated services or products to someone in need, or you completed a project for someone in your community. Let your customers know with a photo or video on social media, along with a quote from your team or the person you helped. Keep the message and images personal because people want to hear from other people. You can expand on the story on your site or newsletter for customer who wants to see more.

And the Super Bowl commercials fumbling before the end zone are…

Ram Trucks

While most of this year’s Super Bowl commercials were pretty spot on, there were, of course, a few that didn’t quite hit the mark. Probably the one with the most backlash was Ram Trucks’ ad that featured a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. With the U.S.’s current political and social climates, many viewers were left with sour tastes in their mouths after watching the commercial, insisting it was done in poor taste.

Takeaways: You don’t want to offend customers or appear to be using a social issue to your gain. Repeat after me: When in doubt, throw it out. You might be trying to stay current by hitting on a major topic or concern, but if you don’t execute the plan correctly, you could have a major PR nightmare on your hands (I’m talking to you, Pepsi).

Bud Light

Let me preface this by saying that I love the “Dilly Dilly” campaign — which is maybe why I expected more from “The Bud Knight” commercial. It failed to deliver new laughs that I’ve come to enjoy with their ads. Yes, this campaign is one of their most successful in a while, but that doesn’t mean the creative juices need to stop flowing with ways to build off of it.

Takeaways: You really can have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to marketing. Just because a newsletter performed really well, for example, that doesn’t mean you should keep resending it over and over again. Instead, figure out what components made it a winner — such as targeted content, a catchy subject line or your use of images — and incorporate more of those in future messages. Don’t be a one-hit marketer.

Create a Winning Playbook

While you’re probably not going to spend millions on your next marketing campaign, there are definitely lessons you can learn from these big-time commercials. No matter the scale, the same best practices still apply. So, look for ways to engage, excite and build loyalty — or your customers will find someone who can.

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Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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