It’s the Super Bowl of advertising: advertising during the Super Bowl Game.

    This year, it cost a cool $3 million for your :30 of glory. Many paid but who got played? Here’s my blow-by-blow of winners and losers.

    The Bud Light “Budget Meeting” spot where the team is discussing ways to get on budget. There’s some iced down Bud Lights in the center of the table (just like there is in all of corporate America). A smart aleck dude mentions maybe not having Bud Light at meetings would be a way to get on budget. Cut to exterior building shot. The guy is thrown out the fourth story glass window (lovely broken glass effect). He says “It was just a joke.” Yes, yes it was.  The Drinkability campaign starts losing yardage early.

    In Audi’s spot we see car chases throughout the ages (another spot with breaking glass). Art direction is superb, various cars of various makes try to elude the bad guys, but still our hero’s in trouble. Finally, the hero comes to modern times and the new Audi A-6 with Turbo Charged engine. Va va vavoom! He can’t be caught in this baby. Progress is good. A gussying-up of classic tried and try car commercial. Hardly a creative tour de force but at least some top spin.

    In a McDonald’s Ronald McDonald House spot, a little girl swipes the pennies from her dad’s penny loafers and they go to McDonald’s, she drops her newfound two cents’ worth into the collection box for RMH and an announcer tells us of the good works it does. We learn her pappy’s a cancer survivor, making the little girl’s stealing from his loafers all the more shameful. I don’t like this little loafer thief. Does anyone do genuine heartfelt spots anymore?

    Pepsi has Bob Dylan and Will.i.am. singing Dylan’s “Forever Young”. That’s one great anthem, oh yeah. The spot is littered with celebs of pop iconography (accidental pun): Gumby, Shrek, Belushi, Jack Black, Bruce Lee to name but a few. Cool song, cool cover by Will.i.am. The spot has everything but Shia LeBeouf juggling bowling balls on a unicycle. The point of it all? Pepsi’s what the cool kids drink. It’s overkill. The song would have been enough, thank you very much.

    Doritos “Snow Globe” spot. An office goofball shows his pal his “crystal ball” that predicts free Doritos from the nearby Doritos vending machine (Stevie Wonder can see where this spot’s headed). He then flings the snow dome at the machine. Yee-ha, more breaking glass, FREE DORITOS! The man eats and blah blah we end up with a gag of a guy hurling the snow dome at his boss’s crotch. Really? A crotch gag? Even The Three Stooges would give this sophomoric humor slapstick mess a low score. I do, too. 

    The Bud Light spot with Conan O’Brian. Simple premise, Conan’s agent talks him into doing a cheesy Bud Light spot that will air “only in Sweden”… Conan accepts the boatload of money, does the ridiculous spot, and it ends up airing in the US, on the big screen of Times Square. Conan must live down the shame. Fun spot, good use of celebrity. Bud Light gains some ground.

    Toyota Venza. A copywriter discovers new swanky words in his thesaurus, mounts Mt. Presumptuous and pontificates. The art director finds all sorts of lame visual analogies from a dude’s artistic house to his new car, and an authoritative voiceover challenges us “are you Venza?” Uh, no, afraid not. Go back to Mt. Presumptuous, please.

    Bridgestone Tires has Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head driving down a curvy mountainous road. She cautions him all the way, backseat driving from the front seat. He stops suddenly for a herd of sheep in the road, her lips fly off and down a hill still yacking. She puts on some angry eyebrows. Gratuitous use of tubers.

    The Castrol Edge spot starts with monkeys working on a guy’s car (finally, someone uses lower form primates in advertising, thought I’d never see the day!). The man is wearing an air filter on his head like a crown and tells a pal “they’re grease monkeys.” Oh, it’s only going to go downhill from here, I think, and it does. The end gag line? “These are strange days.” Yep, strange someone decided this was worth $3 million of public humiliation.

    Doritos, round II. A man walking down the street discovers the amazing crunch power of his Doritos. He crunches the dress right off a beautiful woman walking down the street (there ought to be a law against things). He crunches an ATM and a flurry of bills shoot forth. An angry cop approaches, the man crunches the lawman and the cop turns into a small monkey in a big cop suit (hooray, a monkey, me so happy!). The man has now eaten all his Doritos and WAH WAH WAH, he gets hit by a bus. Cut to product shot. But wait, folks, the man’s not dead, no, he is comically on the windhield of the bus holding on for dear life. See, dead people can’t be seen in Doritos commercials. Pitiful, this.

    Budweiser has another Clydesdale tale to tell. In this one, a Clydesdale falls in love with a circus horse. They are separated. The Clydesdale leaves his stable and travels clear across the country to get her as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” plays. Finally, our Cylde takes his beau away, but first she dumps her rider on her butt during a performance. The horses gallop away from the circus. Awww, be still my heart. End gag:  one clown says to another, “I didn’t know Daisy was dating.” Nice line, but a long way to get to it, and not worth the miles.

    G has a spot with ominous and moody black and white shots of with all sorts of known and known-by-hipsters celebs talking about G. Nothing new here except the desperate try for coolness. No thanks, no G for me.

    cars.com features the story of David Abernathy. An amazing story of an amazing man who can do heart operations with a ballpoint pen and other such wondrous things, but needs help buying a car so turns to cars.com. O.K., at least the whiff of an idea, nicely executed. I’ll bite.

    Then we have the infamous “1 Second” Miller High Life spot. Actually, it was four seconds. The one second was spent with the High Life delivery guy screaming “Miller High Life” in front of a display of the stuff. Big points for the idea of a one second spot and all the buzz it got. Brilliant P.R. But geez, I wanted a little more story…

    Various car manufacturer’s around the world are angry about Hyundai winning Car of The Year. We’ve seen this idea before but the copy has a fresh turn: “at least now they know how to pronounce our name.” Well produced, smart idea, good take. Nice.

    E-Trade has the talking babies. Oh, we’ve come a long way with talking baby technology and as much as I don’t want to like this stuff, I’ve got to give it props for fresh writing and actually working to make the product have some part of the message.

    Another Bud Light Drinkability spot features a couple pals at a ski lodge. One of the guys uses their magic scoreboard technique whereby what he draws affects people. He draws a ramp, a skier jumps. He draws a tree, a skier wipes out. Oh, yeah, the technique works hard to bring some levity to the premise supporting the “drinkability” of Bud Light. Nope.

    H&R Block has the Grim Reaper going back to his accountant hacked off because the number man missed some deductions and Mr. Death paid more. He learned this by going to H&R Block. I’m a sucker for Grim Reaper spots, so I give it a nod. The end kicker is nice. Grim Reaper wants his parking validated. Silly death!

   Teleflora runs a spot where a woman receives some boxed  flowers and her coworkers tell her all the awful things that boxed flowers mean. Huh? Somehow flowers in a box are bad and insulting so you’ve got to go Teleflora for delivered in a vase flowers?! Afraid I’m not buying this stretch at all, even if it came from research.  Any takers?

   Chester the Cheetah is sitting with a cool woman at an outside cafe. She’s enjoying some Cheetos. At the next table an obnoxious woman is spreading her obnoxious poison to the world. The cool woman consults Chester, he nods approval, she tosses some Cheetos on the ground by the obnoxious woman and a flock of dirty pigeons from across the street fly over to decorate the obnoxious woman. A fresh gag, and Chester does look pretty cool. O.K., go to the head of snack products.

   Go Daddy has a college dude at his computer. His pals come over and ask what he’s doing. Well, he’s college watching Danica Patrick take a shower because of some power Go Daddy gave him. The pals ask him to throw in the German secretary “from the Dean’s office” to take a shower, too. Oh, you naughty boys. Go Daddy is sooooo bad. I do mean bad, too.

   Pepsi Max. A series of guys get dealt major doses of pain, electrocution, pratfalls and respond with “I’m good.” Voiceover tells us men can take all forms of pain except for Diet Cola, until now… Pepsi Max. Funny spot, borrowed interest pays off in a big way. Pepsi got their money’s worth on this one, time honored execution courtesy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but very well done. One of the best spots all night.

   Pedigree Adoption Drive. A rhino, ostrich, warthog and bull make lousy pets as we see. We are asked maybe we should get a dog. Again, borrowed interest pays handsome dividends. Simple, fresh, nice, relevant. Head to the pound, people!

   Budweiser. The guy who drives the Clydesdale wagon tosses a stick for his dalmatian to fetch. The dog does it quickly. A jealous Clydesdale looks on, then gallops down the road and brings back the large limb of a tree and drops it at his master’s feet. The man says, “Showoff.” Indeed. Not a hall of fame Clydesdale moment. Can someone please teach theses old horses some new tricks?

   SoBe Lifewater. Athletes dance a goofy dance, animated lizards dance, they bump each other and get all West Side Story, violence ensues, reptiles fly. Enough said. Hateful. Truly, truly hateful. 

   Sprint roadie spot. Roadies handle all aspects of a flight from luggage handling to piloting. Their Sprint talkies do the trick for instant communication. Take off time, here’s a light show with pyrotechnics down the runway. Amusing but relatively anemic.

   NFL ware or NFL channel or whatever something NFL-branded. Athlete runs through different scenes throughout the year, his NFL garb changes, he ends approaching the stadium tunnel to the  gridiron in full uniform. Yawn.

   Toyota Tundra tugs 10,000 pounds up  a metal mountain set afire. No problem, Tundra’s got the cheese to do the deed. Tough truck. There apparently is no stopping the stuff truck adfolks must put their trucks through to prove the vehicles are really, really, REALLY tough. What next? Driving through this economic recovery?

   Priceline. I didn’t care for the William Shatner “Negotiator” campaign when it first came out, but it keeps getting better and better and now I feel the fool. This spot is a gem. A man hears from his wife that they can’t afford a vacation. But wait, the man gets a direct feed in his ear from Sir William who happens to be parked in a van outside the house. Capt. Kirk informs the man what to say to his wife to talk her into the trip with Priceline. He feeds him the lines in his earpiece. The gag? Our man sounds just like Bill Shatner as he relays the info from Shatner’s mouth to his wife’s ears. Simple, effective, fun. 

   Carlos Boozer takes little kids on a web spendfest on Overstock.com. Some fresh dialogue, but lame turn to Olympic gold medal and 20 years of dedication to earn it. Pretty forced, the well-worn pro athlete and little kid routine.

   Universal Orlando Resort. A little kid in hero garb approaches his adult self (or is it his kooky runaway son?) and they stare at one another. Message– your inner hero is calling you to Universal for fun and a special deal. My inner hero wasn’t touched.

   LMAO for NBC and a flock of other clever NBC spots, including a big budget Heroes pimpfest. Conan promos– hey, NBC self-promos were some of the best spots on the show. Nice work NBC.

   Best Buy testimonial spot. Come on. Not ready for prime time. Save your $3 million next year if this is all you’ve got.

   In a Coca-Cola spot we see real people using technological devices as they turn into avatars.  A young dude walks down the street. He enters a small diner filled with whacky avatars. Our dude orders a bottle of Coke, and a monster avatar sitting next to him reaches for the bottle, touches it and turns into an attractive young woman. He offers her the bottle, wait, she has her own bottle of Coke delivered by the waiter. They sip and smile. No copy, but a pretty compelling message. Coke helps make human connections. A big, simple idea in a techno-crazed world. Me likey a lot. Pretty amazing to have a fresh take on the world’s most famous brand.

   Bridgestone. Some space explorers take their space craft vehicle across the terrain of a planet as hip hop music blares. They get out, dance, collect samples. They return to see their vehicle on cinder blocks. Their Bridgestone tires have been stolen.  Announcer, “For drivers who want to get the most out of their cars, it’s Bridgestone or nothing.” Simple idea. Nice. I liked this better than celeb Potato Heads.

   Denny’s has mobsters in a booth talking about Benny “who’s talked.” Well, he’s gonna be taken care of, declares the head man as a waitress comes in and adorns his pancakes with a smiling face of whipped cream. Message: Denny’s thinks it’s time America takes breakfast seriously– so they’re offering a free Grand Slam breakfast on Tuesday. I suspect you’ll see mobs at Denny’s (bad pun, I know). Terrific idea and execution of a business proposition.

   In a Monster.com spot a fat cat is seen relaxing beneath his lavish office and the mounted moose head on the wall. Camera passes through wall, we see a guy working beneath the back half of the moose all to get the gag “need a new job”… A long way to go, but I suspect it’ll score well. Not so much for me.

   In a Budweiser spot, we open in Scotland, 1933, as we see a Clydesdale on the countryside. A Scottish voice narrates the tale “of my grandfather.” The Clydesdale comes over to America, has a hard time finding the right job (hmm, did he ever think of mounting his head on the wall– no wait, that’s the moose in the Monster.com spot above). The horse is not good at helping lift pianos for a mover, he’s horrible at horse racing, isn’t happy being decorated with flowers and pulling a carriage ,but wait– he sees the Budweiser Clydesdale wagon and runs off to join the team and now we go to modern day and his grandson announces he is Jake and is proud to be on the Budweiser team he loves this country and my goodness, did we have to travel 75 years for this lame commercial?

   careerbuilder.com delivers a Hail Mary spot detailing all the indicators of a bad job: you hate going to work (a woman screams in her car), no one respects you (a boss says “Hey dummy”), you dream of being someplace else (riding a dolphin), you cry constantly, you daydream of punching small animals (a koala with glasses no less), etc… well, it’s time you looked into careerbuilder.com. A funny spot, no moose necessary. Expect watercooler buzz at the job you love, or the one you hate.

   Another Coke spot has big budget CGI as the insect world takes hold of an unopened bottle of the brown elixer from a sleeping man apparently on a solo picnic. A ladybug, grasshoppers, bees, dragonflies, moths, they’re all in on the caper and yes, they get their sugar fix. It’s one of those spots trying for magic. It’s no Macy’s Day balloons though.

   Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes goes a long way to have Tony the Tiger by a ballfield. The message, we’ll help you build and maintain sports fields for kids. Hmm, sugary cereal does good deeds. I don’t feel all that special. Sorry, Tony, still love you, dude, but Chester the Cheetah’s the new cool for school…

   NFL Super Stories. A long way to go. I didn’t much care about it.

   Heineken. The green bottle tells us to drink responsibly in a stylish and decidedly unhip way. John Turturro is tasked with delivering this message in desperate attempt at cool. Trying way too hard, people.

   Toyota Camry has a pretty woman who tells us “reliability is the new cool.”  Not buying it.

   Hyundai has a huge idea. Buy one, if you lose your job in less than a year, Hyundai will take it back with no impact on your credit. Smart marketing isn’t just clever ads, it’s clever business ideas. This one’s huge. 

   Coke Zero does the full-on spoof of the classic Mean Joe Green spot (starring Steeler Troy Polamalu) of dejected athlete in the tunnel and cute kid offering his beverage– but the Coca-Cola brand mangers break it up because “they stole our taste, but they are not stealing our commercials!”  The end gag is the player rips the brand manager’s white shirt off him to toss to the kid who forked over his bottle. One-upping pop culture’s bound to get buzz. This campaign continue its smart approach.

   Ed McMahon (billed as “TV Personality”) shills for Cash4Gold.com. MC Hammer helps him. Between the two of them, they have a lot of gold they’ll be selling. The kicker is Ed getting misty-eyed with the thought of parting of his gold toilet. Faded celebrity is never pretty, especially when it mocks itself. At least now we know Ed is still alive…

   Vizio runs a simple spot of nothing but titles and attitudinal copy. Not much on the creative front, but I suspect the mission is accomplished. Vizio is branded as the good “cheap” TV. Good work, people.

   Taco Bell. A man meets a girl at a party, she suggest he call sometime, shazam, he calls seconds later, has dinner (from Taco Bell) and introduces her to his parents. Creepy stalker overtones in a mexi-wrapper. Uh, no thanks.

   G.E. spends a buttload to buy “If I Only Had A Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz” and has it sung by a creature created from a power grid that looks like the scarecrow but is made of wires and metal (dressed a little too much like the Tin Man methinks–– confusing). The message is GE Smart Grid Technology saves energy. A lot of money and hoopla to get that message out. If only it had a heart, too.

   Hulu employs Alec Baldwin in a fun way to extol the virtues of this techno-wonder that brings entertainment that turns your brain to goo. But for some reason, Alec is an alien. We don’t need that plot twist. Why can’t Hulu just be goo-inducing for the brain and that’s plenty enough with Alex Baldwin in the lead. It’s like putting frosting on top of icing.

   Pepsi dumps a ton of money to funny talent from SNL for their franchise spoof MacGyver, MacGruber. Yeah, it’s fun, but why do so many Super Bowl spots have to vampire celebs and now entire properties from elsewhere? Oh, the postmodern ironic world just doesn’t seem to create much new anymore…

   Bud Light Lime  has a dude carrying a six pack of the stuff through winter scenes and magically transforming them into warm scenes. I believe this idea was done before in the early 90’s. Penalty flag.

   Go Daddy goes for the long ball with Danica Patrick and a couple other busty beauties in a courtroom setting accused of “enhancing”. Yes, Danica confesses, she has enhanced– with Go Daddy domain name and sites. A busty woman wants to show her enhancements and clutches her shirt to open it. Can you say lame”? Oh, Go Daddy, always so naughty. Take a cold shower, calm down, fella.

   That’s it. All in all, a pretty below average showing. Was there a breakout spot? I don’t think so. Some great marketing ideas–– Hyundai, Denny’s come to mind. Overall, the disappointing thing is how advertising has come to lean on pop culture to cast a shadow on the products. Whatever happened to finding a product benefit and bringing it forward in a compelling, creative way?

   Oh well. Now I’m going to read the newspapers to see what spots the public liked and probably see my tastes are out of touch.

   But at least Pittsburgh won, just as I predicted.

 


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