Spot On!

The Super Bowl Is The Super Bowl Of Advertising

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
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In Super Bowl XL, held last weekend in Detroit, somebody won and somebody lost. … Moving on. The big battle wasn't between sports teams, but between advertisers. Seriously. Companies forked out $2.5 million per 30-second spot, and many viewers were watching the ads as attentively as they watched the game.

This year, the commercials were notably less obsessed with sex and crude humor than in previous years. (No farting horses here.) Despite the fact that this was the Super Bowl, advertisers seemed to be reaching beyond the usual male jock demographic. (Dove's product-free promotion of self-esteem among young girls seemed positively groundbreaking for Super Bowl Sunday.)

As always, Budweiser came on the strongest with multiple memorable ads, scoring big using both humor and sentiment. Faring far less well were silly, celebrity-filled spots for Diet Pepsi and a string of unappealing movie trailers. (Chris Berman did no favors to Disney calling play-by-play on a stinky looking remake of The Shaggy Dog, and Bruce Willis' new cop movie 16 Blocks looks like a movie about, um, cops.)

The Best of Super Bowl XL:

1. Bud Light “Magic Fridge”–An apartment dweller tries to hide his stash of Bud Light using “the old revolving wall trick.” Unbeknownst to him, the fully stocked appliance revolves into the next apartment (“It's back!”) where it is worshipped as “the Magic Fridge.” This was the best of Budweiser's many spots. Following close behind were a heartwarming spot in which a young Clydesdale tries to pull the Budweiser wagon (with a little help), and an amusing addition to the annual saga of horses playing football. (This year, a freshly shorn sheep invaded the field as a “streaker.”)

2. Fed Ex “Prehistoric Delivery”–Unpredictable and very clever, this expensive commercial featured a caveman trying to send a package (a stick) via airmail (a pterodactyl) and failing miserably. Berated by his boss for not using Fed Ex, our harried caveman protests, “But Fed Ex doesn't even exist yet!” Good use of humor, splashy use of special effects and a good plug for its maker.

3. Burger King “Whopperettes”–BK has made some weird advertising decisions lately (like the “Coq Rocking” Chicken Fries), but this nutty spot earned some laughs. Staged like an over-the-top Busby Berkley musical number, the ad featured women dressed as ingredients being stacked onto a gigantic burger. Strange but hard to get out of your head.

4. Sprint “Theft Protection”–Unexpected humor scored big in this spot. Two mobile phone customers argue the merits of their respective cell phones. The Sprint customer touts his phone's “theft protection,” then demonstrates it–by hurling the phone at his friend's head. Big laughs.

5. Sierra Mist “Airport Security”–Sierra Mist's snarky sitcom-esque “Mist Takes” commercials have left me ice cold. But this spot, featuring Kathy Griffith as an airport security guard making beeping noises in an effort to confiscate Michael Ian Black's soda, actually worked. I'm still drinking Dr. Pepper, thanks, but good ad.

The Worst:

1. Gillette “Fusion Razor”–Gillette unveils one of the most useless products ever (a five-blade razor!) with this ridiculously pompous ad, attempting to prove to us that it's the greatest high-tech invention since the personal computer. Guess what? We didn't believe it when you introduced the three-blade razor or when you introduced the four-blade razor. … And we won't believe it when you introduce the six-blade razor sometime next year.

2. Diet Pepsi “Diddy/Jackie Chan”–Both of these spots featured Jay Mohr (funny only in certain circumstances) as an agent representing his client, Diet Pepsi–first as a singing sensation and second as an action movie star. The spots only proved that A) Diddy is one of the most irrelevant people in pop culture, and B) Chan–having paired up with Claire Forlani, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Chris Tucker–isn't all that far from teaming up with a Pepsi can in his next movie.

3. “GoDaddy Woman Returns”–The busty gal from last year's spots returns. Once again, she's popping out of her top. … Unless sells porn, this is an awful commercial. It's memorable, sure, because it has a hot chick in it. But what in the holy hell does sell?

4. Pizza Hut “Jessica Simpson”–Jessica Simpson spits out a parody of last summer's non-hit “These Boots Were Made for Walking” (a song written, performed and made famous by someone else). If the sight of the newly divorced Ms. Simpson performing “These Bites Were Made for Popping” isn't enough to convince you her career is dead and gone, nothing will.

5. Overstock “O as Life”–For the entire history of the company, nobody has ever liked an commercial. Vaguely attractive as she is, that redheaded spokesmodel is extremely annoying with her smug conviction that is the solution to all of life's problems.

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