The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

Advertising deconstructed.
Feb. 4 2013 6:58 AM

The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

Go Daddy is sexist, Amy Poehler is charming, and BlackBerry reminds us all why we don’t have BlackBerries.

(Continued from Page 1)

A second crowdsourced Doritos ad shows us a dad crossdressing in order to steal his daughter’s Doritos. How do you know you live in a post-Modern Family world? Before, the punchline here would have involved gay panic when the guy’s macho pals catch him cavorting in women’s clothes. Now, that’s merely the premise. The punchline arrives when the pals crossdress, too.

Calvin Klein debuts its “Concept” line of underwear, using slo-mo shots of a dude with a washboard stomach wearing nothing but his skivvies. Is this a reminder that the Super Bowl audience is nearly half female, and that these ladies occasionally like to buy underthings for their dudes? Or is it a reminder that you can never go wrong marketing to guys by exploiting their abdominal aspirations?

This year’s Cars.com ad was mediocre. But it did include an adorable wolf pup. Hypothetically: Where might one adopt a wolf pup? Also: Do you think my condo board has rules that specifically govern the keeping of wolves?

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Go Daddy is back with a second ad. Couples from around the world—accents ranging from Cockney to Hindi—bicker over their lazy male half’s failure to launch a brilliant business idea (with a .co address from Go Daddy). At the close, we see the one guy who didn’t hesitate, flying aboard his private jet. Ugh, why is it only the men who have entrepreneurial ideas in these couples? Women start web sites, too! You are killing me, Go Daddy! Don’t make me sic my wolf pup on you.

Yes, it is officially titled Star Trek Into Darkness. But to me it will always be Star Trek: Cumberbatch.*

In an ad for the Hyundai Sonata turbo model, the car gets stuck behind a motorcyclist with his butt hanging out, a truck full of smoldering fireworks, two dogs emitting streams of drool, and so forth. The car’s turbo acceleration allows it to zoom past these various scenarios that you presumably don’t want to get stuck behind. A nice little ad. The premise demonstrates the strength of the product (its acceleration), it displays the product in action, and it manages to be fun. It pulls off that all-important two-step jig that brings a memorable image and product attribute together in the consumer’s mind.

A Volkswagen ad shows us a white Minnesotan guy who talks like a Caribbean islander. Why? Because his VW makes him so happy he just needs to lilt. There have been accusations of racial insensitivity leveled at this ad, but I can’t get worked up over it. Seems fairly harmless. And the tonal calibration is excellent—the island persona could have been way over the top, played for campy silliness, but the actor gets it just right. I laughed when he assured his friend at the vending machine, “The steeky bahn cahm soon.” Every office might benefit from a cubicle Rasta.

Coke’s second ad is on a grand scale. Cowboys, ruffians, and showgirls all race through a desert toward an enormous bottle of Coke. Cleverly conceived, as I empathized with these parched characters—I could imagine how refreshing a cold Coke would taste amid the sand dunes. But I didn’t like the interactive aspect of the ad. The spot encourages us to choose which group will win the race by voting at CokeChase.com. And then it doesn’t let us vote for the poor fellow we see dragging a camel at the beginning of the ad. Why can’t Camel Guy win? Write-in campaign for Camel Guy! (Incidentally, CokeChase.com was also the domain name for my late ‘90s blog chronicling the Manhattan club scene.)

Was this Subway ad toasting longtime spokesman Jared Fogle a bittersweet valedictory? Something in the ad’s tone seemed to suggest we won’t be seeing much more of Jared in Subway marketing. If so, cheers to him. Kind of mindblowing that an obese man could became a multi-decade celebrity just by going on a diet.

Elderly geezers sneak out of a nursing home to live the thug life and eat Taco Bell. This ad demonstrates primarily that Fun’s hit song “We Are Young” is even more grating in Spanish than in English. Would not have thought it possible.

A guy in Skechers running shoes outpaces a cheetah. Oh, cheetah, if you ever went extinct what would we then use as a shorthand symbol for extreme rapidity? A further question: At this point, does anyone believe that a shoe will make him faster? Provide better arch support, sure. More ankle stability, maybe. But faster? Brand overpromise alert!

An ad for the Lincoln MKZ hilariously includes a brief shot of a man wearing a stovepipe hat. Yes, it is Abraham Lincoln in fuzzy silhouette, brooding as he gazes out at the horizon, as though he were a Michael Mann antihero. I know Abe is hot these days. But can The Great Emancipator really sell sedans? I am not convinced this endorsement is fitting and proper.

HALFTIME: And God said let there be fierce. And there was fierce.

The NFL thanks its fans by having players jump out of giant, giftwrapped boxes in people’s driveways. Have you people been following recent NFL news? If you saw a pro football player suddenly leap out of a box, wouldn’t you back away, wide-eyed, anticipating erratic behavior due to chronic brain trauma? 

A promo for the CBS show 2 Broke Girls is basically the lead actresses writhing around on a stripper pole. I bow to no man in my appreciation for Kat Denning’s combo of comic timing and eye-popping curves. But this seemed in poor taste. Regressive, even, following as it did on the heels of Beyonce’s all-female, girl-power stage show.

THIRD QUARTER: I don’t want to distract us by talking about the game. But the beginning of the third quarter may have had disastrous effects on ad viewership. First, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff for a touchdown to lopside the score at 28-6. Then, the stadium power flickered out, causing a 34-minute delay in the action. No doubt a fair amount of people—thinking the game pretty much decided, and not knowing how long the outage might last—departed Super Bowl parties at this point and drove home, or just flipped over to another channel. I’ll be interested to see if ratings dipped. (I’m sure CBS producers were not thrilled when commentator Bill Cowher said, mid-blackout, “This is just like another, longer halftime.” Yes, except instead of watching Beyoncé dance on stage we were watching dudes doing stretching exercises in murky halflight.)

A groom faints at the altar when he realizes he’ll be sharing a house with his mother-in-law. “Is there a Century 21 agent in the house?” asks the bride. A realtor comes to the rescue. Sorry, but I will never forgive Century 21—particularly when it comes to creating portraits of marriage—after it made the worst, most evil ad in history. An ad that cheered on a wife as she bullied her husband into buying a house at the very top of the market. If I had a wolf pup, I would sic it on that ad.

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