Super Bowl commercials play it (mostly) safe

Ellen Gray, Television Critic

Updated: Sunday, February 4, 2018, 10:26 PM

This image released by Anheuser-Busch shows actor Chris Pratt in a scene from a Michelob Ultra commercial. Pratt, the star of the "Jurassic World" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" film franchises, made his advertising debut on Super Bowl Sunday

If you advertise during the Super Bowl, you could be forgiven for seeing it as a game that exists to give viewers time to hit the bathroom between commercials.

After paying NBC a reported $5 million or more for a 30-second spot, no one wants to see their messages flushed away. So that could have been a pricey bit of dead air about an hour in, when screens across America went unexpectedly black.

Sorry guys. Sat on the remote. #DPtheSB #SB52

— Deadpool Movie (@deadpoolmovie) February 5, 2018

Read more: NBC explains Super Bowl blackout seen by millions

It was the best and worst of nights for a truck company that followed a funny commercial with a staggeringly tone-deaf one, and a very good night all around for movie star Chris Pratt, who cavorted with dinosaurs in the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and showed off his physique in spots for Michelob Ultra.

David Harbour of Netflix’s Stranger Things spoofed everyone else’s ads in a series of clever spots for Tide. Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish cackled charmingly for Groupon. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did a cameo in a star-studded spot for digital assistant Alexa that you might already have seen online. Many advertisers, watching their wallets, used shorter spots to send viewers to longer digital ads, and Hyundai, Budweiser, and Stella Artois were among the advertisers that led, effectively, with charitable efforts.

Other highlights and lowlights of advertising’s biggest night:

Leading with inspiration: First-ad-in-Super-Bowl honors went to Toyota, with the story of Canadian Lauren Woolstencroft, a Paralympics gold medalist alpine skier who was born missing her left arm below the elbow and both legs below the knees. Tagline: “Start your impossible.”

Best use of a Queen song. The ad for the Ram 1500 truck, showing some very disappointed Vikings making a quick turnaround after a long land and sea journey toward Minneapolis. Did they rock you, too?

Worst use of an assassinated civil rights icon. Ram’s use of the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks feels like such a no-brainer no-no that you have to wonder whether generating controversy was the point. Twitter’s response was overwhelmingly negative. “MLK did not die to sell pickup trucks,” wrote one user.

mlk did not die to sell pickup trucks.

— Kendra James (@KendraJames_) February 5, 2018

Not totally sure the Dodge RAM ad guys read that whole MLK speech..

— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) February 5, 2018

Best use of social media crowd-sourcing. Kraft invited people to become part of its second-half spot by tagging photos and video #FamilyGreatly #KraftEntry and then ran some at 9:15, saying, “We think every single one of them is a great one. Because there is no one way to family.”

Coke, also not choosing sides. “There’s a Coke for we, and us, and there’s a Coke for you.”

Delightful dirty dancing. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. in an ad for the NFL.

Smooth rides. Lexus’ Black Panther-themed ad with Chadwick Boseman and Jeep Wrangler’s Jurassic World spot with Jeff Goldblum.

Subtle nod to HBO. Did Sprint rent out the set for Westworld for its mean-robots spot? (Later, we got an actual ad for Westworld, which returns April 22.)

Not so subtle nod to HBO. The lip-sync battle between Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman’s rap battle for Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice, respectively, had Dinklage spitting fire, Game of Thrones dragon-style.

Ad that made us go aww (but that, predictably, not everyone loved). T-Mobile lined up a multicultural selection of babies and Scandal star Kerry Washington told them they were all equal, and that “change starts now.”

Ad that made us go huh?: Australian actress Hayley Magnus for Diet Coke’s Twisted Mango.

Showing us the money. Netflix bought time for a trailer to promote — surprise! — its Sunday night release of The Cloverfield Paradox, the third movie in the franchise and the first apparently set to premiere against the see-Jack-die episode of NBC’s This Is Us.

NBC’s big push: Hey, did you know that the Winter Olympic Games start Thursday?

Ellen Gray, Television Critic

Read full story: Super Bowl commercials play it (mostly) safe

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