Advertisers love a Super Bowl during which the two opposing teams are well matched and the action continues until the last second of the game. That was literally the case with Super Bowl XLII as the New England Patriots and the New York Giants played a close game right until the end. With such a close game, viewers were engaged rather than running to the kitchen for another beer.
In fact, the fourth quarter was so engaging, viewers couldn’t help but notice the insanely idiotic AMP ad in which a plump mechanic affixes jumper cables to his nipples, takes a few swigs of AMP and helps a woman get her car started. Thankfully, most of the other ads during the game weren’t that bad.
Of course there were those E-Trade ads in which a talking baby with enormous eyes babbles about financial services and then suddenly pukes. Yes, babies always do well in advertising but it’s unclear just how well people will receive this wise-cracking baby.
The best ad during the game was the Coke’s “It’s Mine” ad during which two Macy’s Day Parade balloons battle over a floating bottle of Coke only to have none other than Charlie Brown rise up and snare the bottle for himself. Created by Wieden + Kennedy, the ad is soothingly reminiscent of Coke’s past work which always focused on Coke’s bringing a smile to one’s face and creating a general sense of happiness. A beautiful balloon ballet, this ad caused one to pause and literally drink in its beauty.
Other top ads came from Audi for which San Francisco agency Venables Bell & Partners crafted a commercial that mirrored a famous scene from the move Godfather in which one of the movie’s characters finds a bloodied head in his head. In the Audi ad, however, there’s no bloody horses head rather the grille of an early model luxury car and lots and lots of motor oil. The ad says very strongly, there’s a new guy in town, Audi’s R8, and it would be best not to mess with it.
For Procter & Gamble’s Tide to Go, Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi created an ad in which the stain in a man’s shirt is so distracting during an interview that every time he speaks, the stain emits an annoyingly garbled mess of sound making it impossible for the interviewer to concentrate on the interviewee. The analogy is perfect as we’ve all been in like this from time to time when, unbeknownst to us, the equivalent of a giant piece of broccoli stuck between our teeth is simply making it impossible for anyone to speak with us without being terribly distracted.
A bit more silly but still very good were two ads from Pepsi created by BBDO New York. The first starred Justin Timberlake who, while having lunch with his friends, suddenly found himself yanked out of the restaurant and on to the street. From there, he was mysteriously dragged through car doors, up the side of buildings, through the water, into a mailbox and into a backyard where three women are, yes, sucking on their Pepsi’s. The announcer intones, “Every sip gets you closer to Justin Timberlake MP3s, HDTVs and million of songs from Amazon.”
The second Pepsi spot falls squarely into the category of “I can’t get that damn song out of my head.” Most of us have heard the song “What is Love” made famous by the movie "Night at the Roxbury" in which the characters Doug and Steve Butabi continuously bob their heads to the infectious tune. The ad features Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Macy Gray, Missy Elliott, Troy Aikman, Joe Buck and a host of other whose heads bob sleepily until they get their hands on some Diet Pepsi Max which shifts the bobbing to a far more energetic level.
Bud Light had several ads in the game. Two were quite funny. In one, men use a baguette and a large round of cheese to smuggle Bud Light into their ladies’ wine and cheese party. It’s the perfect guys-will-be-guys approach to beer advertising. Another envisions the ability to breathe fire as a very good thing when on a date and candles need to be lit. It’s very elegant and sweet until the man sneezes and his fire breathing abilities become unhinged and result in a bit of a disruptive dinner date.
As with any Super Bowl, there’s good commercial and there’s bad commercials. By far, the worst commercial in the game came courtesy of agency Arnell for Gatorade. For 25 seconds, viewers were treated to a dog drinking from a water bowl. For the last five seconds, viewers were shown the tagline, “Man’s Best Friend” and a visual of three Gatorade bottles. Is the dog a man? If so, why? Is the dog drinking water from the bowl or Gatorade? Is Gatorade a dog’s best friend?
A couple of commercials for Salesgenie.com which were created by the company itself have caused some to label them slightly racist. One ad portrays a boss berated an Indian worker. Another ad portrays a family of Asian panda bears. Whether or not they are racist is up for debate but strange would be a perfect label to apply to them.
A Careerbuilder ad in which a woman’s bloody heart rips its way out of her chest and plops down on her keyboard makes some wonder how children might react. Of course, the message of the commercial is to follow your heart to a better job and Careerbuilder can help you get there. It’s just not clear whether or not a bloody heart is the best way to convey that.
In all, the ads in this year’s Super Bowl were, excepting a few, quite tame and reserved. That’s likely due to the pendulum swinging to the conservative side of things following Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. Give it a few years though. As with all pendulums, they always swing back.
Steve Hall writes the daily advertising blog Adrants.