Back to IndieWire

Super Bowl Commercials 2018: The Best and Worst Ads, Graded and Reviewed

Football fans may watch for the game, but America tunes in for the ads. These are the commercials worth seeing again and the ones that wasted all that money.

Super Bowl Ads 2018 Commercials

Groupon/Squarespace/Michelob

The Super Bowl is an event far bigger than one day. Two weeks worth of hype separate the conference championships and the big game. Football fans descend on this year’s chosen city (Minneapolis, MN) far earlier than Feb. 4. And then there are the commercials: Long gone are the days when ads were unveiled during the game, to be seen once and perhaps never again. Now there are teasers, early releases, and even secret campaigns that pretend to be for feature films instead of a million-dollar Super Bowl spot.

All this is to say that the experience of the Super Bowl is dictated by more than just what happens on the field, and for viewers at home, a lot of it comes down to those plentiful advertisements. So here they are, the best and worst commercials of 2018, collected, reviewed, and graded in order to help you relive the good moments and vent about the bad ones. More will be added as they air during the game, so check back for updates and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Amazon – Anthony Hopkins, Gordon Ramsey, and More

A simple concept executed with flavor and ingenuity, the only downside to this Alexa advertisement is that subscribers might actually want to hear Rebel Wilson “set the mood” or Anthony Hopkins take their phone calls — and that’s hardly a reason not to enjoy the 90-second spot. These celebrity cameos are well-chosen and highlight the conveniences of the product. Nicely done, Amazon. – BT

Grade: A-

Avocados From Mexico – Chris Elliott

Avocados feel like a food trend that’s gone around the bend (apologies for the unexpected rhyme), but Chris Elliot does his level best to sell you on the idea that they’re not a dead trend. It’s a simple ad with a heavy emphasis on cheery graphics over serious messaging, and the personality-driven focus is fun. One major catch: Given the way that trade with Mexico is now a contentious thing, this ad’s all-too-positive outlook ends up ringing a bit false. – LM

Grade: B-

Bud Light – “The Bud Knight”

Honestly, I’m not sure any of this works. Why is there a Bud Knight if the Bud Knight doesn’t fight? What was he doing with the sword at the end? Did he scare off the bad guys — not that we know which side was actually “bad” — or was he just doing it for the attention, as implied? Are we supposed to think Bud Light is what we drink after the “battle” is over, or that we should shirk our responsibilities and just drink all the time? Bud Light’s Bud Knight has a stupid likability to its name, but none of that translates to his actions. – BT

Grade: C-

Budweiser – “Stand By You”

Simple but effective, Budweiser sticks to its emotional strengths — even without the Clydesdales — in an ad that gets you every time. Earnest without being manipulative, branded without being ostentatious, this 60-second spot never drags and conveys the American spirit Budweiser likes to invoke while humblebragging about efforts the company should be proud of; a nice message delivered cleanly. – BT

Grade: B+

Coca-Cola – “The Wonder of Us”

Bright colors and poetic copy come together for a lovely little ad that reminds us of the simple joys of Coke. More than anything, though, the striking visuals make this memorable: Be it the bicycle overflowing with balloons, an overhead shot of the beach, or an orb rolling through the arms of an entertainer, the Alma Har’el-directed spot is filled with gorgeous imagery that captures the joyful tone Coca-Cola has been pushing for decades. – BT

Grade: A-

Doritos – Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage is absolutely mesmerizing as he lip-synchs Busta Rhymes and sets the world aflame with his accuracy and attitude. If the ad ended right there, we would’ve been happy. Morgan Freeman giving Missy Elliot the similar treatment is far more perplexing and less successful. The Song of Ice and Fire connection to “Game of Thrones” is tenuous at best, and in the end we’re not really sure why any of it goes together, much less remember the name of the products. Visually intriguing, but ultimately muddled and forgettable. – HN

Grade: B-

Febreeze – The Only Man Whose Bleep Don’t Stink

The concept isn’t bad on a creative level, but honestly, the premise seems like a badly drawn equation. “Here’s this ordinary guy whose bleep don’t stink — so he’s better than you and everyone you know.” If advertising is supposed to generate positive feelings around a product… well, this isn’t the way to do it. – LM

Grade: C

Groupon – Tiffany Haddish

Why would you hire Tiffany Haddish as your spokesperson and then throw away one-third of the ad to Tiffany Haddish-less content? Now more than ever, the world wants more of the “Girls Trip” comedian, and Groupon dares to tempt us with just that, only to instead pull a lame switcheroo for a joke about getting kicked in the balls? Haddish’s delightful laugh is almost enough to make us forget the marketing gurus’ shortsighted transgression, but not quite. Don’t cut away from your star, Groupon. – BT

Grade: C

Jack in the Box – Martha Stewart

Save us from the mangled use of Asian culinary names and what amounts to be a battle of cultural appropriation between Martha Stewart and Jack. Who cares that the “banh mi”-inspired sandwich or “gochujang”-mayo sauce are lumped together as generically, uniformly Asian? Now that we’ve climbed down from our soapbox, it should still be noted that this faux rivalry between the two food giants is as bland as this so-called Asian food. Martha is usually genuinely funny when she plays against type, but there’s nothing here to sink our teeth into this time. – HN

Grade: C-

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky

“Only two types of people have ever existed: Those who run with Sasquatch and those who run from Sasquatch.” That’s pretty clever! And the ad even makes a nod towards diversity by implying that within the type of people who run with Sasquatch are a white man with a beard, a white man without a beard, and a black woman. Would it have been nice to see this ad push that a little further with a wider range of diversity? Hell freaking yes. – LM

Grade: B-

Kia – Steven Tyler

I don’t know if hawking a rear-view camera in 2018 is the best way to push innovation, but the ad itself makes the car look cool, fun to drive, and enticingly speedy. Maybe it can’t turn Steven Tyler into a baby-faced singer again, but the CGI made us want to believe — instead of sarcastically quipping, “Dream on.” – BT

Grade: B+

Lexus – Black Panther

Look, it’s a car commercial prominently featuring Chadwick Boseman, of course it’s going to be sexy. But honestly, this disjointed mash-up of footage from “Black Panther” and ordinary car B-roll can’t hold a torch to this other clip, directly from the film, featuring the same car (with crazy remote driving technology) in action. And honestly, the Lexus looks far sexier in context with the film. – LM

Grade: B

M&Ms – Danny DeVito

OK, WTF was that? M&M’s anthropomorphic candies have always walked that fine line between creepy and cannibalistic, but that line is crossed by having Danny DeVito play the “real boy” version of an M&M. Kudos to the person who realized he’s shaped like the candy, but woe to the viewer who will have the question, “Would you like to eat me?” haunt their dreams. Disturbing, but at least the branding is on point. – HN

Grade: C+

Michelob Ultra – Chris Pratt (“The Perfect Fit”)

Shirtless Chris Pratt is undoubtedly what the people want on Super Bowl Sunday, but the ad itself is a rather rushed way of saying “Michelob Ultra is for everyone” and you can drink Michelob Ultra without sacrificing fitness. Luckily, Pratt is his charming self and, again, he’s shirtless. So it’s hard to complain. – BT

Grade: C+

Michelob Ultra – Chris Pratt (“I Love Beer”)

Now this is more like it. Having a bunch of athletes and fitness folks sing “I Love Beer” while going through the motions is on message: Michelob Ultra may be low-calorie, but beer lovers still love it. Chris Pratt is the perfect guy for the job, given his physical transformation post-“Parks and Rec,” but he looks kind of lost throughout the ad. When he’s not focused on running a marathon or doing yoga, he’s distractedly punching a moving target and confusedly staring at a random bar patron singing into a mic. It’s an odd choice, but it doesn’t derail the loose spirit of the commercial overall. – BT

Grade: B

Pepsi – Cindy Crawford and Kyrie Irving

Peppy enough to make you look past some pretty rough transitions — “the Pepsi that Britney once popped” to “the King of Pop”… ouch — this minute-long spot still feels like a reminder of what Pepsi was instead of what it is today. And that’s fine, except for the fact that Pepsi has always been the younger, hipper cousin to Coke, upending its reign by focusing on the now instead of yesteryear. Maybe it will have a new iconic moment by the time astronauts are sipping Pepsi on Mars, but it’s not in this ad. – BT

Grade: C+

PETA – James Cromwell

Leave it to PETA to create an ad that implies the Catholic Church would be willing to forgive anything — murder, greed, and even the church’s most infamous self-perpetuated transgression — but they draw the line at a marketing agent who exaggerated the meaning of “free range.” Yup, he did his job, and for that he’ll spend all of eternity in the fiery depths of hell. It’s hard to take this 90-second bit as the joke it is without losing the impact it desires, making the whole thing a big waste of James Cromwell’s time. Couldn’t they have just made a “Babe” parody? – BT

Grade: C-

Pringles – Bill Hader

Honestly, given Bill Hader’s stellar character work, this ad feels like a missed opportunity — he should’ve played every role. Hader could’ve represented the core concept of Pringles (the curved, stackable chip) and then his other selves could’ve represented the chip’s many alluring variations (a new personality for each flavor). Plus, then we would’ve gotten four times as much Hader, which is exactly what everyone has always wanted. The ad works fine, especially when Hader yells, “Nobody asked you, Kevin!” but it’s better if you don’t think about what it could’ve been. – BT

Grade: B

Squarespace – Keanu Reeves

The ad itself is… not great. It’s less zany than the teases Squarespace released to promote its Super Bowl campaign, and seeing Reeves fly up oh-so-briefly to end the segment isn’t enough of a tease to go looking for more. But get this: Keanu Reeves did that stunt himself, as he’s prone to do. I’m never a big believer in ads where the making-of story is better than the spot itself — Keanu is a long-time Squarespace customer and his custom-built motorcycles are real — but I’m also never unhappy to see Reeves do anything, so this one still works. – BT

Grade: B-

Stella Artois – Matt Damon

A sharp, compelling plea for fresh water for the developing worlds, perhaps the least-effective part of the ad is the actual call to action: Matt Damon tells us that if just one percent of Super Bowl viewers buy a special “chalice,” it will give clean water to one million people for five years. But the ad itself only offers a flash of a URL to put forward that message, which is unfortunate because the cause is important — important enough to deserve more forceful salesmanship. – LM

Grade: B+

Universal Parks & Resorts – Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is a family’s quarterback when you go to Universal Studios. But whose family is he quarterbacking? And where is Peyton Manning’s family? Does Peyton Manning’s family not get to go to Universal Studios with him? Does Peyton Manning live in eternal servitude in Harry Potter Land, facing daily debasement by the Minions and Transformers who control his daily fate? This ad makes Universal Studios look like a fun time, not going to lie. But it does make us want to ask the questions above. – LM

Grade: B

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox

Newswire