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The Best Super Bowl Commercials of 2018: What Creatives Can Learn

What were the best super bowl commercials this year? Not just the good ones, but the best ones.

Because as legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi said, “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” 

From the halftime show to shouting at your friend for not buying the right guacamole, the Super Bowl is an American tradition that brings in 112.3 million viewers this year.

But in many cases, as recent polls  suggest, it’s the Super Bowl commercials that unite viewers around the screen of their choice.   

In this post, we’ll explore some of the Super Bowl commercials that scored big in 2018.

StudioBinder has won the coin toss, so let’s get started!

Watch: The Best Super Bowl Commercials and Trends of 2018

Inclusivity in Super Bowl Commercials

This year, some of the more memorable Super Bowl 52 commercials focused on inclusivity.

Though many marketing execs would disagree, most Americans don’t like advertising.

A recent Harris Poll found that 74 percent of millennials, that highly-prized demographic amongst brand strategists, are tired of advertisers bombarding them on social media.

In fact, 56 percent quit a social media site just to get away from the ads.

What sets the best Super Bowl commercials apart is that viewers want to watch them.   

A Burson Marsteller study finds that 53 percent of Americans would be disappointed if there were no Super Bowl commercials.

Much of what accounts for this is that audiences view the best Super Bowl commercials not as part of the entertainment.

With branded entertainment, advertisers can turn away from product stories and embrace people stories.

These stories reflect the social, cultural and political climate of the moment.

This is certainly the case with the “One Team,” Toyota commercial.

Super Bowl 2018 commercials reflected the social climate of the moment. Toyota

In the spot, a priest, rabbi, imam and buddhist monk drive together to watch a big football game.

Sounds like the perfect setup to a joke. However the playful tone of the Toyota commercial does not diminish the serious message behind it.  

Although individuals may differ in their cultural beliefs, it does not mean they cannot bond over more intrinsic emotions.

This is by no means saying one should disregard the complexities of heritage.

Instead, the excitement of athleticism promotes a willingness to step beyond the bounds of politics.

Community in the best super bowl commercials

In the eyes of Super Bowl 52 advertisers, the qualities of competition and difference, do not divide a community but grow and strengthen it.

This idea of community, and one’s duty to it, are also reflected in the “Stand By You” spot from Budweiser. A frequent source of the best Super Bowl commercials.

When it comes to ideas of the All-American beer, there’s nothing more iconic than Budweiser.

For Super Bowl 2018 though, the brewer evolved their brand beyond the image of partying.

When a natural disaster strikes the US, Budweiser takes up the cause and distributes truckloads of water to areas in need.

Yes, the brand is known for being at the heart of celebrations. 

But here, it wants consumers to think of it not as a cold, corporate giant, but an American business helping its fellow citizens.

We’re all in this together, Budweiser is saying. This helped make the spot one of the best super bowl commercials of the year.

It’s a powerful message that was present in many Super Bowl commercials. 

Super Bowl 52 commercials also focused on community building. Budweiser

The best Super Bowl commercials embrace nostalgia

Did you know nostalgia was once considered a disease?

That’s right. From the 17th to the 19th century, moments of sentimental longing were treated with  leaches and stomach purging.

Luckily, society has become more tolerant of nostalgia, with brands embracing it full force.  

Known as nostalgia marketing, this approach taps into prominent cultural memories. Then it uses them to drive modern advertising campaigns.

Of course, we all know life is hard.

Between a hectic job and pet-sitting a chinchilla, individuals long to escape their frustrations.

According to a recent Forbes article, building a brand through nostalgia marketing helps advertisers leverage past feelings of optimism .

Audiences took note during Super Bowl 52, especially with the Pepsi spot known as, “This Is The Pepsi.”

Nostalgia marketing was used in many Super Bowl 2018 commercials. Pepsi

In this 30 second spot, the soft drink giant resurrected many of their iconic ads.

Here, Cindy Crawford reprises her 1992 Pepsi ad (considered by many to be one of the best Super Bowl commercials). This time she's joined by her son Presley Gerber.

From there, the audience is treated to a timeline of Pepsi’s greatest hits.

Over Jimmy Fallon’s narration, clips of Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Jeff Gordon and of course the DeLorean time machine surface.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool. Use it wisely!

There is risk with employing these nostalgia marketing tactics.

Without showing a clear link to the modern world, they can feel cheap and irrelevant.  

Pepsi though displays a common thread running through their campaign history.

Although decades have passed, the quality and attention to the brand has kept it at the height of consumer awareness. Pepsi has been churning out one 'best Super Bowl commercial" entry after another. 

Speaking of heights, the NFL took their Super Bowl 52 marketing to another level with a shot-by-shot remake of Dirty Dancing.

The best Super Bowl commercials often use retro strategy to their advantage. NFL

Sure, we know that Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. are successful on the football field, but who knew they could dance?

Like the best  Super Bowl commercials, nostalgia-centric campaigns need to possess an emotional hook.

By infusing a beloved cinematic moment with the humor and absurdity of the present, the result is a sequence designed for maximum engagement.

This way, a brand can represent the comfort and happiness of the past, while letting their audience know these same qualities will exist in the future.

In the end, these Super Bowl 2018 commercials prove that nobody puts nostalgia marketing in a corner.

Misdirection elevates the best Super Bowl commercials

Of course the goal of any brand is to attract engagement.

Advertisers know that something familiar runs the risk of becoming stale, which is why many turn to the unexpected.

This is where misdirection marketing comes into play.

Misdirection leads an audience to expect one kind of story, before revealing a completely different message.

For a brand to find success, it must understand what captures people’s attention. Doing that requires understanding the human psyche. 

The best Super Bowl commercials harness this.

In Sally Hogshead’s book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers To Persuasion and Captivation, the author discusses 7 emotional triggers that are irresistible to consumers.

These 7 triggers are power, mystique, trust, rebellion, alarm, prestige and passion.

Brands use these emotional triggers to guide content that may not relate to the product in a direct way, but gives people a reason to remain engaged.

Consider one another one of the best Super Bowl commercials from 2018, Amazon’s “Alexa Loses Her Voice.”

Super Bowl 52 commercials use misdirection to hook their audience. Amazon

In this 90 second spot, Amazon’s virtual assistant comes down with a cold and is out of commission.

The uncertain staff scrambles to find replacements who all fail in hilarious fashion.

These include Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson, Cardi B. and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Next level misdirection

Amazon uses the emotional triggers of mystique and alarm to their advantage, creating an ad that is fun and fascinating.  

One of the other best Super Bowl commercials that takes misdirection marketing to the extreme is Tourism Australia.  

What seems like the trailer for a new film called Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home, is actually an Australia tourism campaign known as, “There’s Nothing Like Australia.”

Super Bowl 2018 commercials subvert audience expectations. Tourism Australia

In this 60 second spot, the movie stars Danny McBride as American Brian Dundee, long-lost son of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, who is lost in the outback.

Along with sidekick Chris Hemsworth,  the two traverse the outback until winding up in a fancy restaurant where the true nature of the ad is revealed.

In many Super Bowl 52 commercials, the brand plays on the audience’s trust and expectations.

Although a manipulation is performed in this Australia tourism ad, the fun and engagement comes from the uncertainty of what is real and what is not.

This idea goes even farther in the Tide detergent spot, “It’s a Tide Ad,” featuring Stranger Things star David Harbour.

The best Super Bowl 2018 commercials used the unexpected to their advantage.  Tide

Here, a clydesdale in a field turns out to be a Tide ad.

Old Spice's “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” turns into a Tide ad.

Even that weirdly sexually Mr. Clean commercial turns into a Tide detergent Ad.

Just when the audience eases into the promotion, Harbour surfaces saying, "Nope. You’re wrong."

It veers on maddening, but this tactic cements viewer engagement.  

And more importantly, builds suspense in thinking that maybe every ad is a Tide ad.

If the goal of misdirection marketing is making something memorable, this Super Bowl 52 spot takes the cake. Perhaps making this the single best Super Bowl commercial of the year.

Wrapping up

Yes, first and foremost the Super Bowl is a showcase of two teams battling it out on the gridiron.

But, as these advertisers have shown, it is also a stage where brands can reflect and influence contemporary social desires.

Hall of fame New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath said, “If you’re not going to go all the way, why go at all?”

These 2018 Super Bowl spots certainly push promotion to its limit, and one can expect they will continue to innovate and grow from here.

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