Who needs football with advertisements this dull?
The Super Bowl has come and gone, but we can still remember our favorite moments. If you’re looking for play-by-play highlights, go check out the sports section. Instead, let’s take a look at the real highlights of Sunday night – those thirty-second filmic masterpieces, the pinnacles of consumer culture, the few, the proud, the Super Bowl ads.
GoDaddy.com continued its proud tradition of putting Danica Patrick – and maybe one or two other full-breasted women – in a tank-top, and then suggesting that she might not have the tank-top if you went to their website. Oh, and they sell domain names, by the way.
FloTV’s Will.i.am remix of “My Generation” was almost as depressing as The Who’s the halftime show performance. Why oh why did his vocals have to replace Daltrey’s after the first line?
E*Trade’s baby-financier-on-a-webcam campaign stopped being funny a while ago. It officially became infuriating Sunday night when the baby’s girlfriend asked if “that milk-a-holic Lindsay” was over, as the aforementioned “milk-a-holic” floated into frame, somehow several feet closer to the webcam than the finance baby at the keyboard and exclaimed “MILK-A-WHAT?” And then America cringed.
Michelob Ultra, we are to understand, is a beer for Lance Armstrong and other hyper-determined übermensch world-beaters whose life’s soundtrack is “Song 2” by Blur. We would have been more psyched about this, but then we remembered that it is a beer, and Lance Armstrong probably doesn’t drink beer.
Coca-Cola tried to go with a guaranteed connection with the viewer by using “The Simpsons.” A word of advice, Coke – don’t use Mr. Burns and Milhouse as your main Springfieldites if you want to warm our hearts.
Intel capitalized on Pixar’s popularization of sad robots, stuffing Wall-E’s adorable pathos into Eve’s rounded white chassis. The result was Jeffrey. We might remember him for about a week and a half.
Dr. Pepper rented KISS (and their diminutive doppelgangers) for a particularly uninspired joke, extended to its utmost: “a little kiss of cherry flavor!” One wonders how much money was spent on the realization of that pun.
Teleflora.com’s marketing team decided that the most effective way to sell us flowers was to show us a wilted bouquet yelling in a grimy Brooklyn accent about cigarettes and dead people. Firings are in order.
Motorola gave us Megan Fox in a bathtub. The rest was an advertisement for either the Internet or the destructive power of the libido. Anyways, Megan Fox in a bathtub – thanks Motorola.
HomeAway.com had Chevy Chase reviving his Clark Griswold character for a shoddy imitation of the Vacation series, or at least a trailer for the imitation. The clip in its entirety is apparently on the site, but the trailer is quite enough, thanks.
Snickers continued its campaign to make candy into a meal, using Betty White as a human metaphor for how bad at football you will be if you do not eat Snickers.
Vizio’s representation of Internet on your TV – a bunch of robot arms dropping things like Tay Zonday and that “dramatic chipmunk” into a black pit – made the product a lot more frightening than appealing.
Bridgestone’s Mad Max (sort of) spoof assured us that in the future, we will value our tires over our supermodel wives. Prepare yourselves.
Taco Bell furthered Charles Barkley’s tragic descent into cultural garbage by having him read a Seussian ode to their new value meal, inexplicably accompanied by a hip-hop beat and cherub cheerleaders.
Denny’s gave us scary-looking chickens and a lot of blood-curdling screams. Breakfast, anyone?
The Census Bureau needs to be advertised apparently, so they threw together a bunch of comedic improvisers and had them act awkwardly, because kids think that awkward is funny these days. Do you trust the government yet?
Doritos seemed to go with the first three ideas that got tossed out at the marketing meeting: “Doritos in a Coffin!” “Dorito Samurai!” “Angry kid likes Doritos!” “Let’s go home!” OK, the little kid slapping his mother’s date was pretty funny, but still.
Dockers presented us with a simple choice – be a man and stand in front of dirty bricks in their beige slacks and a white T-shirt or march around an idyllic field with a bunch of other dudes in sweaters and sing heartily about your lack of pants. You can keep your khakis, Dockers.
Dodge wins the award for most insidiously effective in the nightlong trend of attacking your masculinity and suggesting their product as a means to defend it. In their ad for the Charger, we cut from one sad-looking man to the next, and the voiceover lists the compromises that he will make for his spouse (“I will carry your lip balm”). Finally, a slow zoom on the last man’s eyes cuts to a zooming Dodge Charger, and he tells us “because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive.” This car, Dodge tells us, is “man’s last stand.”
Dove’s William Tell Overture ad for their line of men’s care products, following the life’s journey of one man, put an interesting spin on the nightlong struggle to emasculate us. The message was ultimately the same, but given the traditionally feminine image of skin care products, the ad challenges men to be so comfortable in their masculinity that they can abide such a feminized brand.
However, not every advertisement was physically sickening. Here’s a rundown of the ones that gave us a chance to brush the vomit from our teeth:
Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret teamed up for the most entertaining visual hilarity – a crowd of very excited people watch a very excited dolphin tamer throw nuts and popcorn at very excited human dolphins – albeit with the biggest let-down of a punch-line (“Awesome + Awesome = Awesomer”). The shot with the dolphin man flipping through the fire ring made it all worthwhile.
Audi’s eco-fascist “Green Police” ad made pretty clever use of a pretty Cheap Trick, but was perhaps a bit over-enamored of its premise. Thirty seconds too long, Audi.
Google gave us a Parisian love story in search keys, from “did you mean: cafés near the Louvre” to “how to assemble a crib.” It served more as a reminder of the Internet’s usefulness than anything else, but it was still pretty neat.
CareerBuilder.com’s underwear-only “casual Fridays” ad may have gone a little overboard with the pudgy office worker skin, but it definitely got the point across.
truTV’s “Punxsutawney Polamalu” struck a pleasantly absurd chord with its tiny Pittsburgh Steeler and its jowly old town crier announcing “six more weeks of football.” Here the ad’s message was skillfully unscathed by its silly premise.
Cars.com’s Timothy Richman was a more tasteful and better thought-out version of that Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” guy, who is basically a reworked series of Chuck Norris jokes. Still, the advertisement works mostly because he births a Bengal tiger.
Volkswagen tried to convince us that the “punch buggy” game should be played with every one of their cars. It shouldn’t, but Stevie Wonder punching Tracy Morgan was a real treat.
Boost Mobile’s parody of the “Super Bowl Shuffle” may have been based entirely on a pretty tired premise, but the main dude riding up on a power chair before advising the viewer to spend their savings on “a decent spray tan” was enough to elicit an honest laugh.
Doritos gave us three duds, but the one with the anti-bark collar switcheroo (mean man, clever dog, Doritos as fulcrum) provided some deliciously selfish comedy.
Coca-Cola’s sleepwalking safari ad was undeniably fun to watch. It was a classy commercial fantasy with all the magic and earnestness (but secretly disingenuousness) we love about Coke’s ads.
Budweiser went about four for six this year, providing their usual high caliber of big-budget, bite-size hilarity. One ad constructed a house out of Bud Light cans. The rock music and the laughter made the product fun, but the resultant chaos and destruction as the house was quickly disassembled by partygoers revealed the ad’s real humor. Another one for Bud Light basically took the old “wazzaaaaaaa” formula and revamped it with auto-tune. The sense of bewilderment from the characters without the vocal effect completely sold the thin-but-goofy premise. Also there was T-Pain. A Bud Light parody of “Lost” may have been a bit out of place on CBS, but it felt just right for us. Fake Kate finds the downed plane’s radio equipment, but some guy finds the plane’s Bud Light. The guy wins, and raucous partying ensues. Bud Light’s raucous partying theme continued with a group of astronomers celebrating the end of the world. When the asteroid turns out to be a space pebble, the partying intensifies. Life goes on, more beer, more partying! Yay!
Likely the night’s best ad involved a Budweiser truck and the concerted effort of a town populated by (we can only assume) alcoholics. The image of a fully loaded beer truck rolling slowly over a human bridge was only topped by the choice of the appropriately rousing “Stripes” theme music.
But the real winner Sunday night wasn’t Budweiser, or even that other team – the one that didn’t have Peyton Manning. The crown, or trophy, or whatever, goes to those scrappy local advertisers lucky enough to snag a spot on the biggest ad night of the year.
Car dealers, law offices, pest control – you are the reason television is worth watching, and we salute you.
The rest of you mega-corporations need to find a shallower well to drop your millions into. We hear the Internet is pretty popular with the kids these days.
Garth Brody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.