Super Bowl LII Ads: Celebrities Play It Safe for Laughs

With Washington, Hollywood and the NFL embroiled in serious social and political battles, the commercials tilted toward mild humor delivered by familiar faces. Here’s a look at some spots worth further review.

Even before Super Bowl LII, world’s richest human Jeff Bezos tried to get his money’s worth by generating buzz for Amazon’s Alexa-loses-her-voice commercial, with celebrities from Cardi B to Anthony Hopkins filling in for the AI assistant.

Who could blame Bezos – and other advertisers – for fueling pre-kickoff hype, especially with 30-second ads costing $5 million? And who could blame them for running the safe play, erring on the side of humorous, celebrity-driven spots?

With Washington, Hollywood and the NFL embroiled in serious social and political battles, this year's Super Bowl commercials tilted toward mild laughs delivered by familiar faces. Here’s a look at some of the more amusing ads and others worth further review:

DeVito’s Candy Crush

Danny DeVito plays a red M&M who becomes human after finding a lucky penny. His Frank Reynolds-esque cry of “Do you want to eat me?” to passersby is worth the price of admission.

Junk Food Rap-Off

Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman, two actors with distinctive voices, launch into a lip-synched rap battle as they hawk Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice. The winner? PepsiCo.

Time of Their Life

Giant teammates Odell Beckham, Jr., and Eli Manning rip a page from the "Dirty Dancing" playbook in this funny – and well-choreographed – advertisement for the NFL.

Holy Guacamole

Chris Elliott gets caught in the middle of a riot when chips are separated from dip. It marked the latest winning Super Bowl spot from Avocados From Mexico.

Beer Muscles

Chris Pratt trains hard for a Michelob ULTRA commercial. The kicker reinforces the everyman image he fostered in his pre-superstar days on “Parks and Recreation.”

Stranger Thing

Tide also went meta in a series of clever ads, starring “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, that satirizes Super Bowl commercials.

The Over on Down Under

More meta: Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth star in a trailer for a “Crocodile Dundee” sequel that turns out to be an Australian tourism ad. Now there’s a social media movement to make the phony flick a real movie.

Pop-up Fight

Martha Stewart battles Jack of Jack in the Box – and wins by a nose.

Night Moves

Lionel Richie somehow avoids saying “All Night Long” for TD Ameritrade. Still, we get to hear him sing it.

Standing By Heroes

Not every commercial went for laughs. Mass Mutual and Budweiser effectively used two classic songs with similar theme and titles – “I’ll Stand By You” and “Stand By Me” – to spotlight folks helping one another through adversity. Meanwhile, Verizon offered a touching salute to first responders.

Self-Referential Soda Ads

The Pepsi Generation blasted into the past with glimpses of Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears and the late Michael Jackson. Coca-Cola invoked the spirit of its classic 1970s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial with an ad celebrating youth and diversity. The tagline, delivered by three voices: “There’s Coke for we. And us. And there’s a Coke for you.”

McConaughey Weird Rider Awards

Keanu Reeves motorcycle-surfed for Squarespace. Meanwhile, Steven Tyler drove a Kia back in time to a soundtrack of “Dream On.” Somewhere, Matthew McConaughey is cruising in a Lincoln, smiling.

Alexa Answers the Call

You probably saw it before the game. You’ll probably see it after. The Alexa ad probably will emerge as the most durable of this year’s Super Bowl crop. It's already won USA Today's 30th Ad Meter. So watch it again: 

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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