Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl ads

I spent a productive morning lounging in bed, a cat in my lap, watching this year's Super Bowl ads online. Click here to see them for yourself.

There are a couple good ads in the bunch, one great one, and several that make you wonder what the heck their creators were thinking — par for the course, I guess. All 60 ads are available on that site, in alphabetical order by brand name, so pace yourself. And be forewarned: there's a three-second Bud Light mini-commercial before each of the regular ones. Too bad, Bud Light; no amount of repetition is going to make your swill palatable.

First, the great ad: the Emerald Nuts spot featuring Robert Goulet. This is unquestionably one of the strangest, and one of the funniest, ads I've ever watched. Must be seen to be believed. I may actually buy the product just for the giggles I'd get remembering this ad.

Second, the good ones: those featuring animals. Blockbuster, Bud Light, and Yum Brands (Taco Bell) all have some entertaining animal ads. My favorites in order: mouse, lions, crabs, apes.

Third, the celebrity ads. The only celebrity I recognized out of the many featured this year was Charles Barkley, who is not exactly au currant. (I also figured out Sheryl Crow, but only because her name was both spoken aloud and written across the screen.) I blame my out-of-touchness on the fact that many of the faces in these ads belong to hip-hop and country "artists," and those are genres I'll avoid if I can.

Fourth, the violent ads. This category comprises quite a few of them, actually, which is really sad. Can we see a little creativity, please? As Emerald Nuts proves, you don't have to be cruel to be hilarious.

  • Of Budweiser and Bud Light's nine ads, two feature explicit violence — face slapping and pegging someone in the face with a rock — and a third mocks serial killer/dangerous hitchhiker stereotypes.

  • CareerBuilders' three spots all show hapless office workers getting the crap beat out of them in Lost/Survivor-style jungle scenarios.

  • Disney animated movie: various slappings, and a T-Rex tries to chomp a child.

  • Doritos: couple meets via car crash and other slapstick mishaps.

  • E-Trade: bank robbery.

  • FedEx: the "office on the moon" scene is funny until someone gets lasered out of existence for no reason whatsoever.

  • Garmin: Power Ranger-like hero vanquishes Godzilla-like map monster.

  • GM: fired factory robot dreams of committing suicide. Not. Funny. At. All. I sympathized with the surprisingly likeable robot until it stepped off a bridge. That's just unnecessary.

  • King Pharmaceuticals: characters labeled as diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases beat the crap out of an old man in an heart costume.

  • Sierra Mist: self-absorbed hospital workers deprive an immobilized patient of fluids.

  • Weinstein: trailer for Hannibal Rising, the new movie featuring uber-murderer Hannibal Lecter, who is violence personified.

    Aside: February is Black History Month, and this year's big game is historic for seeing a black coach win a Super Bowl for the first time. Many of the ads explicitly or implicitly play up the black angle by featuring black celebrities and characters in positive roles. In the Sierra Mist ad, however, the hospital workers are black and the helpless patient white. Does that mean anything? Or did I only notice the contrast with all those other positive black characters?

    That is a shamefully long list.

Fifth: the sexy ads. Or not. Apparently, ad makers have finally caught on to the backlash against the old "sex sells" mentality. None of this year's ads relies solely on sex to get its message across. Instead, they lampoon the T&A commercials that have been Super Bowl staples for so long. Good on ya, fellas. If ever an industry needed to laugh at itself, it's advertising. The rest of us have been doing so for years.

Examples: There's one ad where a checkout clerk gets hot and bothered over a customer's many flavors of Doritos, which I guess is supposed to be extra funny because neither character is what you'd call a hot, sexy model. GoDaddy goes the other direction with a hot chick/wet t-shirt moment. Chevrolet turns the tables with a bunch of average Joes ripping their shirts off in a sudsy frenzy as they try to work the girls in the cool Chevy into a lather. And Sprint pokes fun at erectile dysfunction ads with its "connectile dysfunction" remedy of better broadband coverage.

Kudos to Coke, Doritos, FedEx, Flomax, and others for putting some normal-looking people on screen, including active, attractive seniors. It's nice to see the small screen finally start to look more like the larger world outside.

Sixth: the shockers. None! Nothing stands out as titillating or boundary-pushing. The closest anything comes is E-Trade's "one finger" ad, where it's implied that you can use a single finger to click on E-Trade's great online services, then show a different finger to the stockbroker you no longer need.

That's it. The only other references to naughtiness or private parts are the mocking of the erectile dysfunction ads — not of ED itself — and a straight-up ad by Flomax that addresses urinary problems in older men. Oh, and one guy stranded on CareerBuilders Island gets a wedgie.

Seventh: the homophobic ads. Another mercifully small category. Hooray! Snickers is the only offender this year. Two car mechanics feel compelled to "Quick! Do something manly!" after their lips meet over a shared candy bar. So they yank out tufts of chest hair. May the same fate befall the benighted fools who still think gay-bashing is funny.

Eighth: the computer generation. As usual, this year's Super Bowl ads feature superior animation and special effects. Blockbuster, Budweiser, Coke, Disney, FedEx, Garmin, GM, HP, Izod, Van Heusen, and Yum Brands (Taco Bell) all impress with digital wizardry. It's hard to pick a favorite, although Coke's "give a little love" and "inside the drink machine" pieces, and Bud Select's holographic football game, come to mind.

Ninth: an honorable mention. My honorable mention award goes to Sierra Mist for the guy with the beard comb-over. Whoever thought that one up deserves a raise.

Tenth, last, and least: the rest of the car ads. Bor-ring. Change the channel.

OK, that's it. I was surprised by how generally banal this year's ads were. Then again, Super Bowl advertisers are paying outrageous amounts of money to try and appeal to the widest possible audience in the smallest amount of time, so I can see why they play it pretty safe.

By the way, who won the game?



  • I liked your summary of the ads. Over the years I have found myself somewhat of a Super Bowl Ad aficionado and this year's crop was an overall disapointment. No belly laughs, only a few chuckles (including the "proper" pronounciation of carne asada and a dirty mutt getting a free ride in a parade). CareerBuilders.com needs to get those monkeys back, stat!

    By Anonymous Rev. Nicole, at 2:11 PM  

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