2018 Super Bowl Commercials: Grading the Best and Worst Ads

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2018

2018 Super Bowl Commercials: Grading the Best and Worst Ads

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    While people around the world enjoy the Super Bowl LII, the commercials also have to hold up their end of the bargain.

    Companies always put forth their effort for the big game, which is fitting considering a 30-second spot costs more than $5 million, per Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated. Some brands made this money worth it with enjoyable advertisements, although a few might have been better off spending elsewhere.

    Follow along for a running breakdown of some of the more notable commercials throughout the day.

Long Odds for Toyota

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    Grade: B+


    Toyota decided to focus on Lauren Woolstencroft, who has won eight Paralympic gold medals in her career. The ad broke down the odds of winning a gold medal (997,500,000-1) while showing all that Woolstencroft had to overcome.

    It was an inspiring advertisement while telling a story many haven't heard.

    Unfortunately, it barely mentioned the product, and until now, you probably forgot Toyota had anything to do with it.

Evelyn Pitches Sprint

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    Grade: B+


    Sprint gets credit for its unique concept here.

    Sure, plenty of movies and TV shows have discussed robots and other forms of artificial intelligence, but rarely are they used simply for mocking people. The line, "You got a dumb face!" was enough to make people laugh on its own.

    While this might not get people to change phone lines, it was a clever idea that was executed well by Sprint.

Red M&M Becomes Danny DeVito

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    Grade: A-


    You have to give credit to the casting for this commercial, because there aren't many better options to fill the Red M&M's...let's say, stature...than Danny DeVito.

    DeVito is also a great sport, allowing himself to be called "short and bald" at the end of the commercial.

    The 73-year-old is one of the best in the business at physical comedy, and he nailed it in this one. While it was a relatively simple concept, M&M's still pulled off the joke well.

Vikings Go a Long Way for Nothing

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    Grade: B


    Dodge Ram has Vikings (not the Minnesota kind) going to Minneapolis for the big game before turning around once they find out the matchup.

    This is a cruel joke at the expense of Minnesota fans who have already gone through enough heartbreak in every sport. Coming one game away from hosting their own Super Bowl before losing in the NFC Championship is just the last in a long line of disappointing moments.

    The Ram commercial builds on that but otherwise lacks much humor.

Morgan Freeman vs. Peter Dinklage

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    Grade: A+


    Doritos often has some of the best Super Bowl ads, but teaming up with Mountain Dew created arguably the best of the night.

    Peter Dinklage channeled his inner Busta Rhymes, while Morgan Freeman went full Missy Elliott. Surprisingly, they both nailed it.

    While the teaser video for this commercial was entertaining on its own, the actual ad was much better. Even if it was little more than a lip-sync battle, it still featured two of the better actors in the world hilariously showcasing their rap skills.

    There are a lot of celebrity cameos during Super Bowl commercials, but these two were used perfectly.

The Bud Knight

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    Grade: C


    Bud Light has been pushing its "Dilly Dilly!" campaign for months now, and it might be one of the most divisive things on television: Some people love it and shout the catchphrase in their everyday lives, and others hate it.

    In addition to introducing this medieval world over several commercials, the company provided a pep talk before the big battle, with the goal of getting Bud Light.

    The final installment features the Bud Knight coming to save the day—after some comical banter about going to a party—and putting an end to the war. For people who have enjoyed the series, it is a fitting conclusion with some clever parts. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to its past Super Bowl commercials.

David Harbour Fools Everyone

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    Grade: A+


    One fun game at Super Bowl parties is guessing what the commercial is for before it's announced. That was nearly impossible in the latest Tide ad.

    David Harbour of Stranger Things fame jumped into different scenarios, fooling the viewers into what the advertisement was for. It went from a car ad, to a beer ad to a razor ad, but ended up being for Tide.

    The company then followed it up by bringing back the Old Spice guy with another fake ad that turned out to be for Tide. This continued throughout the game with several interrupted spots.

    Mocking the generic cliched commercials, with Harbour's dry humor, was enough to get plenty of laughs.

Old People Still Working for E-Trade

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    Grade: A-


    E-Trade found a way to make old people part of the joke without being mean.

    The commercial showed several elderly people still hanging on to their jobs because they don't have any money in their retirement accounts. Although the jokes were hit or miss (it's not unrealistic to see an aging basketball ref still on the court), the lifeguard and DJ were pretty enjoyable to watch.

Perfect Society with Avocados?

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    Grade: B


    The teaser for Avocados from Mexico was extremely weird, featuring Chris Elliott babbling.

    However, the payoff was much better in the actual ad, with a society in a biodome of sorts trying to enjoy avocados until things go wrong. Elliott was mostly used just as a prop, but it worked well within the context.

    The commercial seemed to be directed at millennials with its avocado toast and panic around lack of Wi-Fi, but just about everyone can appreciate the jokes in this one.

Pringles Stacks Flavors

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    Grade: C+


    This was a real missed opportunity to use Owen Wilson for the excessive "wow" exclamations.

    Bill Hader has his moments, but there isn't much to this commercial that attempts to make it seem like combining two flavors is a game-changer.

    The Kevins of the world might suffer from repeated yelling of "Nobody asked you, Kevin," but otherwise this commercial leaves a lot to be desired.

Bleep Don't Stink

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    Grade: A


    You might know people who walk around like their bleep don't stink, but apparently Dave actually knows how that feels.

    Febreze nailed it with this commercial, creating a person who doesn't even need their product. Even with limited mentions about Febreze itself, you should be able to figure out what is being sold.

    This is one ad that people will be talking about Monday as one of the more memorable spots.

Fake Dundee Trailer for Tourism Australia

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    Grade: A


    Just about everyone can agree there are too many reboots in movies these days, so an actual Dundee movie starring Danny McBride would probably be awful, even with Chris Hemsworth.

    The good news is it's not a real movie and just an ad for Hemsworth's native land of Australia, which was actually pretty effective.

    McBride is just good enough to get your attention, while the cameo from Paul Hogan serves as the icing on the cake.

Dancing with Diet Coke Mango

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    Grade: C-


    I'm not sure how many people are calling for flavored Diet Coke, especially a flavor as strong as mango, but the commercial itself doesn't really do a great job of selling the product.

    A woman drinks a sip of the Diet Coke and starts dancing. That's it. Not particularly exciting dancing, just simple dancing.

    On a night of noteworthy commercials, this barely makes the cut.

Chris Pratt Lands Michelob Commercial

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    Grade: B+


    Chris Pratt has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and he's already been in one movie trailer shown during the game for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

    In this spot, however, Pratt is super excited to get the staring role in a Michelob Ultra ad, calling it a "big role" and entering his full training regimen.

    The punchline is that he is just an extra, which is a little funny, but Pratt is comical enough that he gives it a boost from just running around talking to people (and himself in the mirror).

    The real commercial aired later, showing Pratt in the background with other endorsers like Brooks Koepka, Kelly Slater, and Shalane Flanagan taking center stage. Of course, it's difficult to look anywhere besides at Pratt.

Keanu Reeves Rides a Motorcycle

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    Grade B-


    Keanu Reeves can do anything. He's Neo and John Wick, so don't mess with him.

    In this commercial for Squarespace, he's standing up on a motorcycle talking about "the power to do anything you can imagine."

    Honestly, I have no idea what's going on here, but Reeves knows how to play weird, so it works.

Pepsi for Every Generation

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    Grade: A


    It's hard to please everyone with a Super Bowl commercial, but Pepsi tries its hardest to pull off this feat.

    An homage to Cindy Crawford's original commercial from 1992, past clips of music stars from Ray Charles to Michael Jackson to Britney Spears, references to Back to the Future and drive-in theaters, plus cameos from Jeff Gordon and Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), this ad was loaded with something just about everyone over the age of 20 can enjoy.

    With everyone begging for nostalgia at this point, Pepsi delivers.

Toyota Brings Diversity to the Game

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    Grade: B


    People of all faiths come together to root on their team.

    The concept was positive, as was the opening with the priest rushing out of church. However, the rest of the jokes fell flat with discussions about traffic and being late.

    This might have worked best as a 15-second advertisement, but it ran for a minute on TV and 90 seconds online.

Verizon Gets Emotional

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    Grade: B+


    You don't always have to be funny to get people's attention during the Super Bowl.

    Verizon, which is known for comical ads throughout the year, instead decided to show a "thank you" message from the Partida family to Fire Department Engineer Mike Macalinao, who saved their lives during a flood.

    Like other commercials, though, the product is an afterthought that has seemingly little to do with the ad itself.

Lexus Meets Black Panther

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    Grade: A-


    It doesn't get much easier to grab people's attention than to use arguably the most anticipated movie of the year as the basis for a commercial.

    Lexus did just that with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman showcasing some of the stunts that make the movie so exciting. Add in music from Run The Jewels, and it doesn't even matter much what car is being shown.

    That said, the LS 500 F Sport does look like it would be a nice ride for those who can afford it.

Budweiser Helping Disaster Areas

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    Grade: A-


    While Bud Light usually goes for laughs during Super Bowl ads, Budweiser hasn't been afraid to go for the emotional side.

    The beer brand showed its employees canning water to send out to disaster areas. The commercial might not be the most memorable of the night, but it was informative and painted the company in a better light, which fulfills its goal.

Jeff Goldblum Returns to Jurassic Park

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    Grade: B


    We get another Jurassic Park reference on the night; this time it's Jeff Goldblum reimagining his scene from the original 1993 movie.

    After showing the original clip of him being chased by a tyrannosaurus rex in the back of a Jeep, he transforms to his current self in a much more modern Jeep. Eventually, he hits the break and goes on the offensive while chasing the dinosaur.

    Nostalgia alone does the heavy lifting in this ad, but it's enough for any fan to enjoy it.

Steven Tyler Feels Something Again

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    Grade: B


    For the second time in three years, Steven Tyler is in a Super Bowl commercial while "Dream On" plays. Two years ago it was for Skittles; this year it's for Kia.

    The current one features the Aerosmith singer driving in reverse and going back in time to a version of his younger self.

    Kia also released a reverse version of the commercial, with a secret message at the 53-second mark celebrating the Stinger car.

    While it doesn't have the jokes of some other spots, it's a poignant ad that got our attention.

No One Puts Beckham in the Corner

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    Grade: A+


    Eli Manning has had some memorable Super Bowl moments, but his commercial with Odell Beckham Jr. might have been one of his best.

    The Giants duo paired up for a re-enactment of the scene from Dirty Dancing, complete with the lift at the end. Manning is one of the most mocked players in the NFL, while Beckham isn't exactly loved everywhere, but this was hilarious.

    It's too bad the New York Giants barely scored in 2017 and never really had a chance to break out their dance moves.

T-Mobile Calls for Equality

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    Grade: B


    This spot by T-Mobile might be considered controversial or overly political, but there was little actually partisan about what was said.

    Kerry Washington narrated over babies of different races, simply calling them all equal.

    However, the ad does end with what seems to be a call to action. "Change Starts Now" the copy reads, followed by "Are You With Us?"

    While it has little to do with T-Mobile, it is certain to get people's attention in this political climate.

Groupon Likes Local Businesses

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    Grade: C-


    Local businesses are great, but Groupon took a long route to just end with someone getting kicked in the stomach with a football.

    While comedian Tiffany Haddish keeps things interesting, the script seemed like it took 30 seconds to write.

Amazon Alexa Loses Her Voice

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    Grade: A


    Celebrities' effectiveness in commercials only goes as far as the concept, but Amazon didn't have that problem with this advertisement.

    The 90-second spot takes a funny idea and makes it great with perfect cameos from Rebel Wilson, Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins. Each of these guest stars makes a user uncomfortable in a hilarious way...except Hopkins, who is terrifying.

    There is also enough variety from different entertainment industries for just about everyone to enjoy, even if viewers might not recognize each person.

    Amazon made a bold bet with its long commercial, but it paid off with a strong performance.

A Coke for Everyone

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    Grade: B-


    Is it me or does it seem like Coca-Cola has the same commercial every year? Or at least close to it.

    The latest commercial is nice, discussing the uniqueness of everyone while showing a wide variety of people in different situations around the world. Unfortunately, it's not a memorable commercial to stand out among the rest.

Peyton Goes to Universal Studios

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    Grade: B+


    This might be a rare time when Eli was the better Manning.

    Peyton had a solid commercial with a trip to Universal Studios, especially the quick joke about Megatron, but we've seen more from the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

    It's difficult to compete with his brother's Dirty Dancing impression with Odell Beckham Jr.

Matt Damon Talks Water for Stella

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    Grade: B


    Like Budweiser, Stella Artois chose to use its time to focus on its philanthropy rather than its beer. The ad isn't even to sell beer, but instead the chalices which help donate water to third-world countries.

    Matt Damon takes the lead in this one, which is enough to get people's attention.

    It won't get people talking at work tomorrow, but the ad was a good one.