Was this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercial one of the best we’ve seen in recent years? Don’t be stupid, as an irascible father snapped to his motorcycle-building son in a commercial for high-speed Internet access.
As always, comedy was King during the Super Bowl, as marketers relied on gross-out humor, wacky animals and special effects to promote their products like the talking chimpanzee in a 30-second commercial for Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light propositioning its owner’s beautiful date with the question “How do you feel about back hair?”
While there were no embarassing candidates for the Super Bowl commercial hall of shame, the night also lacked any real “Wow” moments among the dozens of 30-second spots, unless you consider a flatulent horse in another commercial for Bud Light to be the epitome of cutting edge advertising. It was one of those rare nights where the commercials were almost completely overshadowed by a wild, explosive half-time show, an over-the-top MTV-produced extravaganza that featured Janet Jackson, Nelly, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake who ripped off Jackson's leather costume in the finale.
With each 30-second commercial costing over $2 million and many of the estimated 100 million TV audience watching in groups or at raucous Super Bowl parties, most of the advertisers wisely decided to skip risky, cerebral or confusingly surreal spots. Celebrities were in short supply, although boxing legend Muhammad Ali showed up twice—in a simple and effective commercial for IBM Linux software and briefly for Gillette. There were no supermodels and hardly any pretentious hipster types, either.
Where the former heavyweight champ was meant to inspire, another familiar face just made viewers laugh. Homer Simpson was an inspired choice to continue the Mastercard "Priceless" campaign, in an animated commercial that follows America's favorite doofus Dads through a day of errands, grumbling about the price of everything.
Grizzled country singer Willie Nelson, who sang during the Super Bowl pre-show, popped up again in a cute spot for H&R Block where he’s pitching a talking Willie Nelson advice doll for people trying to prepare their own taxes. Nelson is famous for his multi-million dollar IRS tax problem and is an amusing spokesman for the tax preparation service. His doll, which spouts phrases such as “Correctomundo” and “I’m down with it,” is a riot.
A number of ads reflected the influence of the reality TV craze.
AOL Top Speed Internet service turned to the father/son family from the Discovery Channel’s reality show “American Chopper” to pitch its high-speed access. The TV series centers around a motorcycle shop owned by an irascible father and his two sons. The series of three AOL commercials featured the two sons, Paul Jr. and Mikey, as they mistakenly load the high-speed service onto various customized vehicles and Dad incredulously observes their foul-ups. By the end of the night, even if you’ve never seen the reality show, you could chuckle at the lame-brained exploits of the sons who can do nothing right.
Pepsi’s partnership with Apple Computer’s online music service iTunes featured real life teens mocking the recording industry’s efforts to bust them for illegally downloading music from the Internet. The promotion involves a free song download from the Web service in selected Pepsi bottle caps. The image of a smug girl staring at the camera boasting that young people are going to continue downloading music for free “and there’s not a thing you can do about it” is striking and presents the soft drink giant almost as a rebellious outsider which is just right for its demographic. Other Pepsi ads featured bears raiding an empty Alaska cabin and a fictional young Jimi Hendrix, but they don’t come close to the lively Britney Spears commercials for the soft drink company two years ago.
Supply clerks and shrews
A few commercials tried to come up with potential catchphrases like legendary football coach Mike Ditka shouting ‘You gotta love it’ in a commercial for Levitra or the Willie Nelson doll’s “Willie would,” for H&R Block, but none seemed obviously destined to be shared around the water cooler like the famous “Wassup” cry from the Budweiser guys in Super Bowl 2000.
First-timer Staples scored with an ad that introduced viewers to Randy, the corrupt office "Supply Supervisor" who demands "baked goods as currency" from his colleagues before giving up office supplies.
An estimated 100 million people watch the Super Bowl at some point during the night and over 40 percent of that massive audience is women. But this group of Super Bowl advertisers weren't selling to women. Even the spot for Charmin bathroom tissue featured football players. About the only woman with more than one or two lines was the hilarious shrew of a wife screaming at her referee husband in a Budweiser commercial. "Would hurt for you to say that you love me once in a while?" she shrieks at her blank-faced spouse.