Brand and agency experts rate the Super Bowl LIII ads

Budweiser's Super Bowl ad

The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest day, and more and more brands are putting out their ads before the game starts to create buzz. But do all of them work, and are they worth the $5m or more those brands are spending to get seen by the public?

The Drum asked a group of experts — four agency executive and group creative directors and four major brand C-level marketers — to judge the ads that are currently out (as of 27 January). We asked them to view the ads and grade them from A to F, then we took the average of those for a final grade. We also tasked them with commenting on why they liked or did not like the ads, as well as if they thought the ad would effectively sell the product.

Here's who judged. It's up to you to guess who said what.

Tim Roan, executive creative director, Lyft

Nick Kaplan, group creative director 72and Sunny NYC

Mike Popowski, chief executive officer, Dagger

Shannon Watkins, vice president brand and creative service, Aflac

Juliana Cobb, group creative director, Droga5, NY

Renee Blake, chief creative officer, ebay

Adam Harris, director, consumer marketing, PayPal

Michelle Fernandez, senior director/head of home entertainment consumer marketing, LG Electronics, USA

Take a look at the ads and comments below and follow The Drum’s ongoing Super Bowl coverage here.

Colgate Total

Colgate’s flagship toothpaste brand, Colgate Total, will advertise during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The 30-second spot features actor Luke Wilson as a close talker. The campaign tagline is ‘Do More for Your Mouth.’

Average grade: B-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 75%

What they said: “Luke Wilson is really good at walking backwards and this ad is a perfect platform to show off his backward walking skills. However, it felt like it was missing a big, Super Bowl–worthy ending.”

“While Luke Wilson is a likeable guy, the star power for getting the message across seems a bit unnecessary.”

“This spot brilliantly addresses a common workplace faux pas. We all know that one person in our office. And if we can’t fix their over-eager chatter, then the least we can do is offer them Colgate.”

“It shows dental hygiene is a different way than stating the obvious about your mouth’s health. Instead, it puts it into real-world context.”

Yellow Tail

The Australian wine brand Yellow Tail looked to its fans for the most creative user-generated content to star in its Super Bowl ‘Tastes Like Happy’ campaign.

Yellow Tail features two entirely fan-produced videos in its brand new ‘Tastes Like Happy’ Super Bowl TV commercial.

Average grade: D

Likelihood it will sell the product: 13%

What they said: “Was this made by people or a copywriter bot?”

“This felt stock from beginning to end. Perhaps the creative investment should have been commensurate to the big stage investment.”

“User generated content is always a gamble. I wish Yellow Tail had stuck with its irreverent tone and may considered having people submit their ‘weirdest’ wine moments or something more entertaining.”

“Too commonplace to remember.”

Budweiser

Titled, ‘Wind Never Felt Better,’ this year’s Super Bowl commercial, tells the story of Budweiser’s commitment to renewable electricity for a more sustainable future and features the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales, the Budweiser Dalmatian, April, alongside wind turbines set to the soundtrack of Blowin’ in the Wind, by Bob Dylan.

Average grade: B

Likelihood it will sell the product: 63%

What they said: “Weird payoff…I would have loved this more if they had just stayed on the dog versus falling in love with one continuous camera shot.”

“Cute dog. Expensive song. A strong whiff of Americana. This one checks off almost all the boxes of the official Super Bowl commercial checklist. And somehow, it still manages to make a cynical advertising professional like myself nod in reluctant approval.”

“Tied the equities of the spot to new news that benefits the planet. Truly unique.”

“If you’re going to claim a ‘better tomorrow’ then you better make me want to be a part of it. And Budweiser did.”

“I don’t think renewable energy will motivate consumers to buy more Budweiser.”

Bon & Viv

Two mermaids will make a splash at the Super Bowl when Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer invites consumers to dive into its new take on the original hard seltzer. Anheuser-Busch, is the parent company of Bon & Viv.

Average grade: C-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 50%

What they said: “Is the ocean bubbly? I don’t think so. Lame concept, and you can see the post-production dollars sloshing around.”

“Humorous introduction to hard seltzer and will resonate with females (reminiscent of Disney characters).”

“I kept waiting for a shirtless Mark Cuban merman cameo, but it never happened.”

“Though the dialog thoroughly explains the product, the creepiness of the spot throws off the appeal for me.”

Devour

Devour is a relatively new Kraft brand and will make its Super Bowl debut this year.

The brand’s 30-second spot will appear in the third quarter. The campaign, which was developed by David Miami, builds on the brand’s history of taking an unapologetic stand for “craveable frozen foods”. The 'uncensored' 60-second version (screened for our participants) plays off the theme of 'frozen food porn' and parallels a porn addiction relationship issue.

Average grade: B-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 63%

What they said: “There’s a long and storied tradition of masturbation humor in Super Bowl advertising. This commercial adds to that prestigious legacy.”

“This spot was very memorable, but it went too far. Innuendo can be executed in a much more interesting way. I remembered the ‘porn’ and not the product.”

“That one will definitely be interesting to watch in a crowded group of people. This spot breaks through. Even in the uncomfortable moments it sure will get people talking.”

“Not sure that frozen food + male masturbation = appetizing.”

Coca-Cola

The soft drink giant won't be in-game this year, but will instead air a 60-second ad prior to kickoff, intended to bring people together under a theme of diversity and inclusion.

Average grade: B-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 71%

What they said: “Damn you, Coke. You made me thirsty and feel good about humanity. Also, the animation is very well done.”

“Wholesome, simple, likeable. ‘Different is beautiful’ is a message worth sharing with millions.”

“I love cartoons. And somehow, though the world of advertising is full of quirky, animated bits, this still feels fresh.”

“This one feels very forced. I love the message that Coke is for everyone. But it’s trying way too hard.”

Pringles

The chip maker is back, focusing again on the ‘Flavor Stacking’ approach. In ‘Sad Device,’ two guys sit in their apartment, surrounded by multiple cans of Pringles. One stacks three chips into a ‘spicy nacho stack’ while the other asks how many stack combinations there could possibly be. The voice assistant on the table comes up with “318,000” before stating that it will never taste any of those combinations because it has no hands, no mouth, and no soul. Before it gets sadder, one guy interrupts and says, “cool, play Funkytown” as the device quickly switches to the Lipps Inc. disco hit.

Average grade: A-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 86%

What they said: “Funny, flavorful, well cast, and a nice punch in AI’s face for comedic effect.”

“Very funny, built on real consumer experience, with the product at its core.”

“Tapping into a human insight and even frustration that consumers have with virtual assistants. More importantly, I just like it because it was funny.”

“It was satisfying to see the main character completely shut off when the voice assistant was looking for sympathy. A funny moment that proved Pringles doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

“The spot showed interesting flavors and combinations that I would consider.”

Pizza Hut

Pizza and football are a perfect combo, and this one continues with the Abe Lincoln–themed spots, highlighting its '$5 Lineup,' the brand has in play.

Average grade: C-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 71%

What they said: “This spot feels very on-brief. Though it lacks entertainment value, it does deliver a clear message. It’s basically a televised coupon.”

“Simply put, bad. You are showing Lincoln and playing It’s All About the Benjamins. The spot lacked cultural awareness or a compelling reason to watch.”

“I like the idea of rebranding the five dollar bill a ‘Lincoln’ but it still feels jarring when I see Abraham Lincoln hawking pizza.”

Pepsi

The soft drink brand is back, but instead of showing generations of Pepsi drinkers, as it did with Cindy Crawford and son last year, it uses rapper Lil John and his signature line, Cardi B tapping her nails on a bejeweled can, and Steve Carrell all in the same diner.

Average grade: B-

Likelihood it will sell the product: 83%

What they said: “This ad is like Pepsi. You know it’s not that good for you, but it’s tasty and goes great with chicken wings, potato chips, and pizza.”

“This spot was about celebrity and not the product. The spot was not based on an insight and the product wasn’t at the core of the message.”

“Super Bowl caliber. Surprising, star-studded, good creative and media.”

“Star-studded, which is fun, but I still cringe about the Kendall Jenner spot. Is this what they’re referencing when they say Pepsi is doing OK? Like they’ve just now fully recovered?”

“There are enough celebrities in this ad to appeal to every demographic.”

Michelob Ultra

The brand continues its fitness-focused spots by showing robots alongside humans. The super-human bots run faster, work out harder, and even golf better than their human counterparts. But at the end of the day, as everyone is enjoying their Michelob Ultras at the bar, a forelorn, mouth-less robot outside looks sad that it can't have one. The tag states: "It's only worth it if you can enjoy it."

Average grade: C+

Likelihood it will sell the product: 67%

What they said: “The lack of a VO allows for strong visual storytelling.”

“I wanted to rate this higher for its consistency and production value, however, the creative just fell short for me. The early scenarios felt more about performance rather than enjoying the journey.”

“It feels pretty forced. Am I supposed to feel bad for the robot? Do people compete against robots when working out? Production quality was impressive.”

“The spot was based on a consumer insight – when you work hard, you want to be rewarded and you want the reward to be ‘worth it.’ The spot was unique.”

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