It's amazing, really, given how many ads we all see every day already, that companies still manage to drum up any excitement or anticipation whatsoever for Super Bowl commercials.
We already deal with web ads, print ads, ads before movies, billboards, subway ads, radio ads and no matter how quick we are with the Tivo remote, way too many TV ads… so, get excited: Here come more ads! Yay?
In fact, in order to watch some of these ads ahead of the game, I had to watch other ads beforehand. I blame society.
Anyway, this year's crop of Super Bowl ads was a disparate bunch. Given that advertising time was going for around $4 million for a 30-second spot, you'd think they'd at least all share high production values… but then there was cure.com, which apparently put everything they had into just securing the space to the point where they had to get some VP's nephew's roommate to do up the ad itself.
Best Super Bowl Ads
This ad is just unfair, and horribly conflicting. Our mediocre-beer overlords at megaconglomerate InBev have gone ahead and figured out the one thing that even dedicated beer snobs who hate them cannot resist: yellow Labrador puppies. Of course it helps that this commercial has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the actual product.
Yes, in the end, I love puppies more than I hate Budweiser. Please join me in my new mission: to steal this poor little dog and raise it to appreciate good local craft beer.
Bears: Not quite as good as puppies, but still pretty awesome.
Admittedly this kind of yogurt has some issues with producing toxic waste, which is probably not so great for bear habitats, but you can't really blame them for not getting into that in the commercial. This also has the distinction of featuring a Bob Dylan song in a non soul-crushing fashion.
Clearly, advertising firms have been carefully studying our weaknesses: not only puppies, but Muppets too. This could be an ad for any car, pretty much (although unlike Budweiser's blatant pander, this does at least feature the product it's selling), but that doesn't matter because MUPPETS. Fine, okay, you win.
"A man… a man and his truck" will clearly never be anything but a punchline again, so props to Chevy for realizing that, rolling with it, and making a decently funny ad.
Right in the Middle
On the one hand, this is kinda gross: There's certainly nothing wrong with John Stamos and his lady friend incorporating Greek yogurt into their sex lives if that is their thing, but I'm not sure I need to know about it. I'm also not sure that Dave Coulier needs to be five feet away watching them make out -- but to each their own.
On the other hand, I appreciate that this works as a Full House nostalgia-fest for people of a certain age (nearly as irresistible as puppies and Muppets for some of us), but still works as a blowjob joke for everyone else. Or at least everyone else who's old enough to know what a blowjob is.
Worst Super Bowl Ads
This is an unbelievably pretentious ad, and a fairly obnoxious one for a sports car that almost no one watching this game can afford. I really wasn't losing sleep worrying about people who own Maseratis being prepared for what life throws at them. Those people employ other people whose entire jobs are to make sure they're prepared. What's worse, the company is trying to present itself as the little guy here. David versus Goliath, "small but fast… being clever was more important than being bigger" -- that's supposed to be Maserati?
Anyway, it turns out the answer to tsunamis, twisters, fires and unexpected acts of god in general is… something that costs many tens of thousands of dollars, so probably don't worry about it. I'm sure you'll be fine anyway, though. Why don't you grab a beer while the rich people talk about it.
Also: is "walk out of the dark… and strike" the best approach anyway when dealing with, say, a tornado? I'm not entirely up on the latest safety techniques, but I'm skeptical.
Jaguar tried to troll Maserati about this on Twitter, and certainly Jaguar had the more fun and less obnoxious ad with its British movie villains, but trolling just doesn't really work with brands this snobby. "Oh I say, did you see that Preston wore the wrong sort of boat shoes to the yacht club for the regatta today? The Colonel was quite appalled! Chortle!"
I give them points for the llama and for Arnold Schwarzenegger's funny cameo role here. But that's still not as good as puppies.
Mainly, though, this is a very sanitized view of a super weird and random night in New York. Twins, Reggie Watts, Don Cheadle in an elevator, and Minka Kelly giving you a sports coat? Is that all you've got? I guarantee you that hundreds of people in New York City had a weirder night than that this past Saturday, without any help at all from Bud Light.
If they had any guts, they would have handed this entire ad over to David Lynch and let him do whatever he wanted. "Ian" would probably not have made it, but the commercial would be very memorable.
I almost put this in the "Best Ads" category just out of appreciation for Axe's restraint in not using Nazis in this commercial. Because you know they wanted to.
Nevertheless, this is a profoundly stupid ad. Love has as much to do with Axe as a lost remote control has to do with a halibut -- and the only thing Axe Body Spray will ever have to do with warfare is if it's adapted into a chemical weapon (which shouldn't take much) and subsequently banned by the U.N.
I like Ellen -- I mean, I'm not a monster -- and this seems like a fine ad concept in general, but for some reason I can't get past the fact that there's a wolf there with the three bears. The entire plot construct here is Goldilocks, not Little Red Riding Hood. Yes, she's wearing a hood in the beginning, but there's nothing else to suggest Red Riding Hood; no grandmother, no woodsman, no "my, what big teeth you have." The whole plot is Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Maybe this bear family has a crazy wolf uncle or something? But then which playlist was his? Was there any actual reasoning behind including the wolf or did they just think it would look cool? I realize that I'm overthinking this, but it's distracting.
Sorry, I'd like to test out your product but now I'm too busy deconstructing fairy tale tropes.
Time Warner Cable: "Enjoy Better"
The ad itself is whatever -- Duck Dynasty probably wasn't the best choice, but that's just one of about 12,000 cameos -- but that's not why it's here. It's here because, for ten years, I had no choice but to pay Time Warner's exorbitant fees for cable and Internet along with truly dreadful, end-times-bad cable service. And I am still mad.
Look, by now, it's silly to be upset when an artist -- any artist -- does a commercial. Calling someone a sellout is every bit as clichéd as selling out itself. And if a musician wants to make a few bucks, well, who are we to say he shouldn't.
Still, this is Bob Dylan, and a small pang is inevitable. The cinematography is great, to be fair, and there's nothing at all wrong with Buying American, but the very first line here sets the empty tone: "Is there anything more American than America?" Is there anything more tautological than a tautology?
"Spiritual technology!" Peace and enlightenment are just a few maxed-out credit cards and cashed-out retirement funds away. Even the guys who made the Axe ad wouldn't expect us to swallow this.