On the field it was the Patriots against the Eagles. Off the field it was humor vs. sentiment. Advertisers steered well clear of sexually suggestive ads this year. (Way to read the national temperament, Wall Street.) With GoDaddy and Carl’s Jr. out of the mix, the tone of this year’s Super Bowl ads was either straight-up jokes or tear-jerking emotion. So what were the best and worst ads of 2018’s sporting spectacular?
“It’s a Tide Ad” Tide—Coming off the unfortunate Tide Pod Challenge, the detergent manufacturer gets meta, having “Stranger Things” actor David Harbour posit that every Super Bowl commercial (so long as it features clean shirts) is a Tide commercial. Between Tide’s recurrent commercial spoofs and all the regular ads, it was impossible to think of any product other than Tide during the game.
“Alexa Loses Her Voice” Amazon Alexa—Sure, we all get a little sick of Alexa’s chipper voice sometimes. But as this cameo-filled spot reminds us, there are worse options: Gordon Ramsay barking at us; Cardi B overenthusiastically serenading us; Rebel Wilson seducing us; Anthony Hopkins creeping us the hell out.
“Fire and Ice” Doritos/MTN Dew Ice—Watching “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage spitting mad lyrics courtesy of Busta Rhymes after consuming a new Doritos Blaze is funny enough on its own. Piggybacking Morgan Freeman freestyling Missy Elliot’s “Get Yer Freak On” after downing a MTN Dew Ice makes this the quarterback sneak of Super Bowl ads.
“#guacworld” Avocados from Mexico—Avocados return for the fourth year with more surreal comedy. Turns out you don’t need chips to enjoy avocados. But a nonsensical cameo from Chris Elliot never hurts.
“One Team” Toyota—A rabbi, a priest and an Imam walk into a football game. Instead of setting up a punchline, this touching spot delivers a simple “can’t we call just get along” message.
“Make it Happen” Squarespace—A creepy-looking Keanu Reeves stands up on a motorcycle for a really long time (don’t try this at home), because ... Squarespace sells build-it yourself websites? I don’t get it.
“This is Pepsi” Pepsi—Pepsi blows its Super Bowl budget on this lazy “greatest hits” package. ’Member Cindy Crawford? That was good. That Britney Spears ad? Cool, huh? Michael Jackson? ... Oh. Wait. Didn’t we set him on fire?
“The Professional” Persil ProClean—Even if Tide hadn’t dominated the night, this lame spot (spokesperson emerges from TV to berate consumers about their dirty laundry) would have felt like a cheesy throwback to the ’70s. As it was, it felt like another of Tide’s parody commercials.
“American Factory” WeatherTech—WeatherTech built a factory in America. Bully for them. #MAGA. But what the hell do they manufacture?
“Built to Serve” Dodge—What member of the King family approved this queasy conflation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s rousing call to service and pickup trucks? When King said, “he who is greatest among you will be your servant,” he (and the Book of Matthew he borrowed it from) was not referring to Ram trucks.