The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads
The Coke bears weren't cute enough, and Budweiser went Ken Burns.
The E*Trade baby is back, hawking financial consulting services. This whole baby campaign has veered way off track: The original notion was that E*Trade’s interface was so simple, even an infant could use it. Over time, the baby has transformed into an arrogant, slick-talking sharpie—which seems to negate the whole point of the sales pitch. This particular spot is about a dad trying to meet the fiscal challenges of having a kid, so the baby at least seems relevant here. But the punch line—another baby is speed-dating in the newborn infirmary—fell pretty flat. (Symbolic demonstration of the product’s benefit: Once upon a time, it was that even a baby could use E*Trade. Now? I have no idea.)
I love Madonna, have tremendous respect for her, and have been known to karaoke Cherish when I’m feeling frisky. But the poor gal looked past her prime here. She moved with decided creakiness, lost her balance for a few frightening seconds, and at moments verged into Patsy-from-Ab Fab territory. I was relieved when she made it offstage without breaking a hip.
Chrysler exhumes Clint Eastwood for a rousing spot proclaiming “halftime in America.” I’m a sucker for this “Imported from Detroit” campaign—I think it hits all the right notes at the perfect societal moment. But what’s with Clint’s voice? He appears to have Batman-throat disease.
A spot for the updated Toyota Camry is a muddle—it’s as though the ad creatives couldn’t decide which way to demonstrate the car’s new-and-improvedness, so they larded the spot with every funny metaphor they could conjure. Thus we see the Toyota’s improvements compared to: improving rain so that it makes you lose weight; improving a plant so that it fights crime; and improving a blender so that it plays Lionel Richie songs. Amusing stuff. I enjoyed the spot. But amid all those jokes, Toyota couldn’t spare a single second to show us how the Camry has actually improved. With no connection between the jokes and the brand, will anyone remember which car this ad is selling? (Symbolic demonstration of the product’s benefit: It’s like a policeman who gives you a massage instead of a ticket; a couch made of attractive naked women [or men]; window treatments made out of pizza; and on, and on.)
A spot for Oikos has a woman head-butting John Stamos in a battle over a spoonful of yogurt. A few questions: Why has Greek yogurt exploded on the dairy scene? I’ve tried it and have decided it offers few advantages over non-Greek yogurt. It just has squatter, wider packaging. Also: Is John Stamos here as a fungible stand-in for “man attractive to the typical hetero, yogurt-eating woman,” or is it because his last name suggests he is Greek, like the yogurt? Lastly: Where did this woman learn to head-butt? She goes forehead to forehead, which is ineffective—she needs to ram the crown of her head into the bridge of Stamos’ nose for maximal impact.
Century 21 slathers on the celebs, grabbing Donald Trump, Deion Sanders, and Apolo Anton Ohno. Sort of surprised the notoriously Pollyanna-ish real estate company wouldn’t proclaim a housing bottom and declare it once again safe to overbid on that condo. But perhaps they’re gun-shy after creating a notorious boom-time commercial featuring the nastiest wife in television history.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.