Every year the Super Bowl features the ultimate showdown of football's best, at least in theory. This year, the matchup resulted in a less-than-exciting game. Some have expressed similar feelings about the other major event that occurred on the same day: the so-called Ad Bowl.
During most major television events, viewers use commercial breaks to get off the sofa and fetch some snacks, make a phone call, or perform other quick tasks. But, the Super Bowl is different. The supersized viewing audience remains glued to their seats so they don't miss the most creative or humorous 30-second spot airing that night. And the following morning, the talk around the water cooler (in addition to the most exciting plays on the gridiron) is about the best and the worst of the Super Bowl commercials.
Anticipation, as always, was high and with good reason: This year, each 30-second spot cost $2.6 million, or more than $86,000 a second. So, did Madison Avenue deliver? In my opinion, the ad execs, for the most part, hit their marks with some memorable moments more so than last year. Without question, Anheuser-Busch is a company that knows what it is doing when it comes to Super Bowl ads. Once again, the firm used one of two tried-and-true formulas (humor and sentiment), and this year, its efforts paid off big, as Bud commercials captured the top three positions in national polls. The biggest crowd-pleaser was a funny CG spot in which crabs are shown worshipping a cooler full of beer (see Cool Commercials pg. 28). In second place was the newest spot from the Clydesdale series featuring a stray dog that, with a little ingenuity (and some digital enhancements), gets to ride on the famous horse-drawn wagon. Capturing third place was the Autodesk Smoke-finished spin on the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Indeed, animal themes are typically well received. This year, the 3D Blockbuster Carl and Ray commercial with the mouse was praised for building strong brand awareness and it was humorous to boot! Two other talking-animal commercials Bud Light's gorilla ad and Taco Bell's chatting lions were also cute and funny, but not very original. Nevertheless, originality was not totally absent in the offerings. I found the cartoon-styled HP motorcycle ad enticing and unique, and thought that Coke's niceness spin on the video game Grand Theft Auto (using CGI, of course) was refreshingly different.
Like always, in addition to the good, there were the bad and the ugly. By this I mean the GoDaddy and the CareerBuilders spots. In the past, I was pulled into the CareerBuilders ads featuring a professional guy whose best efforts are thwarted by his coworkers, who are constantly monkeying around. But when the company places the office in the jungle, the appeal is lost in translation. As for GoDaddy, all I can say is that it should go, period. (Didn't anyone learn the expensive lesson from the cheap antics of Janet Jackson a few years ago?) And I did not find the Snickers spot with the two guys who accidentally kiss amusing or endearing, and I am not alone; the ad was later cancelled.
Possibly tired of the lackluster offerings of the past few years, some companies turned to nonprofessionals for assistance, and the results were far from amateurish. Two Doritos ads one of a frisky supermarket cashier and the other of a flirtatious young driver, both winners in a national search contest were funny and original. On a similar note, Chevrolet awarded a 30-second slot to a
student for her low-tech concept of sexy men suggestively washing a car stopped at a light. (Her ad, which finished 30th in one national poll, got the go-ahead over a CG spot from a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.) One of my favorites of the night was the NFL ad about the season's end, which came from a fan in New Hampshire.
So, who was the biggest winner of all? Most people agree that the spot featuring Oprah and David Letterman, which really was not an ad at all, was a huge winner. Another one, in my opinion, was the Kevin Federline insurance ad it was funny, timely, and it certainly got a lot of exposure both before and after the game. (Some of that attention resulted from comments by the National Restaurant Association, which was offended by the content.) Actually, another commercial, which I thought was quite good, is being revamped. Apparently too many viewers were upset by the depressed, out-of-work robot in the GM spot and took issue when the robot dreams of jumping off a bridge.
There are some Monday morning quarterbacks in the ad world who served up their opinion of this year's ads, indicating that many of the spots featured physical comedy as a result of the nation dealing with the war in
. They are the pundits, after all, but physical comedy, in my opinion, seems to be a Super Bowl staple war or no war.
Can any of this year's spots stand the test of time and unseat the heartwarming Super Bowl ad champ, Coke's Mean Joe Greene spot from 1980? Not according to my scoring. But last year's Bud lamb streaker ad gave Coke a short run for its money in a TV ad-showdown special airing the Friday before the game. In fact, most of the top 10 Super Bowl commercials of all time in various polls were created prior to 2000 what's that say for originality and appeal? Are ad execs relying too heavily on CG and stupid gag jokes to win over audiences? It's difficult to say. Perhaps next year the Super Bowl will sport better competition both in the game and in the commercials.