So, How Were the Super Bowl Ads?
This year's crop, reviewed.
Also in Slate, Robert Weintraub explains how Eli Manning and the New York Giants' defense took down the mighty Patriots.
I am super, super cranky. Let's just acknowledge that up front.
My beloved Patriots are unbeaten no longer, and they lost in a most irritating fashion—yet again falling victim to one of those confounded Manning boys. I could not be less psyched to rewatch the game. And yet I will.
Because it's time to bring you another edition of the Super Bowl Ad Report Card. Let's press play on my DVR and relive the good ads, the bad ads, the mediocre ads—and the flat-out horrific performance of the Pats' offensive line. (I'll be seeing wide-eyed, backpedaling fat men in my nightmares for weeks.)
Is anyone else sick of Bud Light claiming the first slot after kickoff? I have been writing this Super Bowl column for five years now, and each year Bud Light has started the evening with a slapstick commercial so blandly lame that it darkens my feelings toward advertising as a medium. Maybe we can try something new next year? Anyway, the ad: Drinking Bud Light somehow gives a man the power to breathe fire. This at first seems useful, but then he has a sneezing fit. Various stuff—including an obligatory screeching cat—gets singed by his bursts of nostril flame. The ad is not very funny, not very clever, and certainly not worthy of prime position at the big dance. What's more, it seems to muddle Bud Light's central sales pitch. How does breathing fire after taking a swig of Bud Light reinforce the brand's message about ice-cold "refreshment" and "drinkability"?
In the second spot of the evening—a Godfather parody—a man wakes up to find the severed grill of his Mercedes is lying next to him in bed. "Old Luxury just got put on notice," reads the tagline, as we see a new high-end Audi roar away from the scene of the crime. The cultural reference here seems oddly chosen (how do the Mafia and/or iconographic American film moments relate to German sports cars?), but I'll admit the ad held my attention. I couldn't help but wonder what was lurking beneath those sheets. Also—and more importantly—the brief shots of the Audi made it look pretty rad.
After a Giants field goal (you poor fools, settling for field goals against the most prolific offense in NFL history; that'll never work!), we cut to our second commercial break. Wow, what was I saying about oddly chosen cultural references? A spot for Diet Pepsi Max plays off those old "Night at the Roxbury" sketches from Saturday Night Live—the ones with the doofus clubgoers who nod their heads in time to the beat. Don't get me wrong, I was as elated as the next guy to learn that Chris Kattan is still alive (he shows up in a brief cameo). But weren't those sketches, and the movie based on them, only mildly popular even back in their late 1990s heyday? Is there a more recent critical reappraisal I'm unaware of? Will the next Diet Pepsi Max ad feature Jim Breuer as "goat boy"? *
SECOND QUARTER. (I'm not concerned that the NFL's all-time best offense has so far not scored any points. This is surely a key part of Bill Belichick's visionary game plan.)
For some reason, Doritos decides to spend millions of dollars not on a commercial for its tangy chips, but rather to promote some unknown folk singer named Kina Grannis. She is the winner of a contest Doritos sponsored, and as her prize she gets to perform one of her songs in this Super Bowl ad. (Couldn't they have taken her time away and tacked it onto Tom Petty's halftime set?) Watching bad folk singers does not, in any way, make me hungry for snack chips.
In the first chuckle-worthy spot of the evening, FedEx envisions enormous carrier pigeons delivering packages. It's a cute ad, with funny visuals. And I notice FedEx resisted what was no doubt a powerful urge to do a joke about oversized pigeon droppings. Were this a Bud Light ad, rest assured some hapless fellow would have endured a thorough and viscous soaking.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.