Car Industry

Super Bowl 2018 car commercials: Hits and (big) misses

Not every ad spot landed the way it was intended. I'm looking at you, Ram.

Another year, another Sunday evening spent covering a series of minute-long and terribly expensive car commercials. While only a few automakers joined the ad fray for Super Bowl LII, there were a decent number of commercials -- and not all of them went over well. Let's see what you may have missed.

Lexus: The car Black Panther would drive, evidently

Lexus may already have an LC500 tricked out in a wild livery to celebrate the release of "Black Panther," but its Super Bowl commercial was all about the new 2018 LS sedan.

While it may take a leap of faith to imagine that King T'Challa would really get down in a fancy Toyota, the ad rocked the right sort of attitude for a big debut like the Super Bowl.

Hyundai: Kona, kids and a bit of shaming

Hyundai debuted two commercials during the Super Bowl. The first focused on the all-new Kona subcompact SUV and a referee who made the best effort possible to end a youth soccer game early enough so that everyone can go home and watch the Super Bowl. It was cute, and watching a referee throw a bunch of red cards at kids turned out to be pretty entertaining.

Hyundai's second ad is a mixed bag. In short, it was used to highlight that the purchase of a new Hyundai supports the automaker's charitable donations for pediatric cancer, and the video showed a bunch of Hyundai buyers being carted away to a room where cancer survivors hugged and thanked them.

While it definitely hits you right in the feels, it also feels like a below-the-belt shot. So, what, if I don't buy a Hyundai, then sick kids are going to stay sick? Way to make a guy feel bad. Guilt is not the best way to bring buyers into showrooms.

Kia: Steven Tyler and time-machine CGI

Kia did some weird stuff to Steven Tyler's face to help sell a car that, if you take the automotive media at its word, is the best thing since sliced bread. I mean, hell, it also won the Roadshow Shift award for car of the year... why not put that in the commercial? It would have been cheaper than whatever they paid that reincarnated sea witch to pretend to drive.

Toyota: Mobility, mobility, mobility

Toyota had its biggest Super Bowl ad buy ever this year, and it used that time to focus on one word: mobility. Both the ad above and the one below use Toyota's sponsorship of the Olympics and Paralympics to discuss Toyota's new brand message, which happens to be "mobility for all."

This idea is echoed in its latest concept, too. The e-Palette concept from CES is a multipurpose tool more than a vehicle. Autonomous and electric, the e-Palette has a hot-swappable body that can give it a crazy level of versatility. It could ferry around the elderly and disabled by day, only to swap over to a package delivery vehicle by night.

Jeep: Solid ads and rocks

Jeep had probably the best Super Bowl of any automaker. Its three commercials were all about the product without having to rely on some serious stretching (ahem, Ram). The first one was all about the end of the road, and how Jeeps aren't really bound by such constraints. It featured the refreshed 2019 Cherokee, which now sports a face better aligned with television than with radio.

Jeep's second commercial had dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum in a throwback to the Tyrannosaurus rex escape scene from the first "Jurassic Park." It all ties together at the end with a tagline involving evolution, because the Wrangler is entirely new for the 2018 model year and evolution is how everyone on Isla Nublar ended up in that mess. Clever girl.

Jeep's third spot of the day was by far its best. This 30-second commercial features one car, one camera, zero music and a very simple voiceover. It lets the product stand on its own, something car commercials rarely do these days. No complaints here, just an SUV in its natural habitat as the gods intended.

Ram: Stretching in every sense of the word

Ram's first commercial featured Vikings, because they're just the rough-and-tumble sort that would love a rugged pickup truck like a Ram 1500 -- provided that Vikings would even be able to grasp the concept of the internal combustion engine, let alone a whole vehicle. There was a tie-in with Minnesota, the location of this year's Super Bowl and a city that uses the Viking as a mascot for its football team.

And then there was... this. Ram used a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech to foist its Ram 1500 pickup onto the general fabric of greatness. The commercial was almost immediately panned across the internet for being tone deaf, especially considering other parts of that speech don't exactly paint consumerism -- and new car purchases, specifically -- in a positive light. Somebody deserves a demotion (at the least) over that one.

Super Bowl 2018: Check out the rest of CNET's Super Bowl coverage.

Detroit Auto Show 2018: Want to learn more about any of the vehicles seen above? Most debuted in the Motor City just a month ago.