Nothing That Super Bowled Me Over

By Glenn Karwoski

And the winner of the best commercial for the 2018 Super Bowl goes to – Minnesota? Wait, the office of tourism didn’t have a spot that ran during the game, did they? No. But what the city had was week-long coverage that played exactly to the script that the local Super Bowl Committee had laid out – embrace the cold. The Bold North. And it worked. 

Rather than being painted as the cold, dark tundra, which many outside the area may think of us, the city and its residents came off as hearty, welcoming people that love where they live, cold and all.  There may have even been a little uncharacteristically swagger among the natives.

Score one for Minnesota.

Ok, as for the actual paid commercials that ran during the big game it was clear that Tide made a clean sweep – see what I did there? The P&G brand cleverly riffed on some predictable types of commercials like poking fun at beer ads, and even worked in a cameo of the Old Spice Guy in what I thought was the best spot of the day, and it didn’t hurt that Old Spice is also a P&G brand and surely got some talk value along with Tide. Nicely played.

Other than Tide there wasn’t much to get excited about. The Doritos, Mountain Dew bit with Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman was entertaining with a nod to Game of Thrones, and I thought that Sprint’s ad featuring robots laughing at their human creator was a nice turnaround is fair play.

For fans of Danny McBride, Eastbound and Down, Vice Principals, his appearance in what he thinks is a remake of the Crocodile Dundee movie only to find out its actually an ad for Australian tourism is fun and well done making all the points you need to know about the land down under with a different story line than your usual tourism ad. Much better done and more entertaining than the Turkish Airlines ad featuring Dr. OZ that tried too hard to leverage his physician creds with facts and figures about the human body and how they can relate to discovering all the cool stuff about Turkey.

I was initially excited when I heard the Martin Luther King Jr. speech about greatness and service booming on my screen and was expecting something big, but was sorely disappointed and offended when it turned out to be a spot for Dodge Ram trucks. Not a good idea and apparently the brand has been getting a lot of blowback, and deservedly so, for trying to leverage the words of Dr. King, which was not approved by the King Center. Bad PR.

Budweiser didn’t do its usual gambit with the Clydesdales to wring some emotion from the crowd like it did when the giant horses rescued a puppy, but instead went with a semi-emotional corporate responsibility ad that reminded us of what they did to assist with the numerous national disasters that occurred in the world this past year. Ok, nice that you did that, but has your flagship beer gotten so bad that you don’t even want to talk about during the #1 advertising opportunity of the year? Of course they did carry on the Dilly, Dilly campaign for Bud Light, which was mildly entertaining.

Toyota may have won the emotional bowl for a series of spots that dealt with empowerment and togetherness.

Maybe my age is showing here, but I thought that ETrade’s, “I’m 85 and I Wanna Go Home” was one of the funniest spots of all, at least if you’re a baby boomer, but there was also a subtle suggestion in there to all the Gen Xer and Millennials about saving for retirement.

Everyone is talking about the commercial that the NFL did with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. that borrowed the famous dance scene from Dirty Dancing, and giving it rave reviews I liked it and the play of two jocks reenacting a classic romantic dance moment from a favorite old film, but I would have liked it more if it hadn’t already been used and better executed in another ad featuring superheroes He-Man and Skelator for Money Supermarket in 2017.  What’s that about imitation being the highest form of flattery, and I suppose you could regard Manning and Beckham as NFL superheroes.

While there were some entertaining commercial moments during the 2018 big game, nothing that super bowled me over. But one part of the effort did “Bold” me over. Embrace it. It’s who we are and where we are – and it’s got marketing legs forever. Bold North.

Glenn Karwoski is managing director at Karwoski & Courage and an adjunct professor at University of St. Thomas Opus Graduate School of Business.