It was an epic battle of the creatures Sunday night in the Super Bowl ads, ranging from the cute to the menacing to the inexplicably rhythmic. A band of lizard-like reptiles cutting the rug to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"? Hey, it's the Super Bowl.
Much is riding on the ads, which are the most closely scrutinized of the whole year, as well as the most watched and the most expensive. This year's 30-second spots on News Corp.'s Fox network broadcast were fetching as much as $2.7 million. The price edges higher nearly every year.
Last year the game drew 93 million viewers, a level that many believe could be surpassed this year given the strong matchup between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, as well as the Patriots' chance to go for a record unbeaten season.
Using critters is hardly a new trick in the ads for the big game, but this year saw some novel and clever uses of animals.
FedEx Corp.'s ad took a decidedly Hitchcockian turn when a corporate underling entrusts shipping operations to a huge squadron of carrier pigeons — eerily reminiscent of "The Birds."
When a tribe of giant pigeons winds up wreaking havoc by accidentally dropping huge boxes into traffic and picking up parked cars and hurling them through windows, a cool-headed supervisor decides that calling FedEx would be a good idea.
Toyota Motor Corp. took a stab at the critter theme with a clever spot for its Corolla model, boasting of the noise-blocking ability of the car by putting a young guy in the drivers seat next to a sleeping family of badgers that will gnaw his face off if awakened. The cannons firing around him aren't the problem, but he would have been better off putting his cell phone on vibrate.
PepsiCo Inc.'s Sobe Life Water brand brought out some dancing lizards to bop along with Naomi Campbell to Michael Jackson's '80s classic "Thriller," whose 25th anniversary edition is coming out later this month.
Elsewhere, job-search site CareerBuilder.com was back in the game — not with the cast of monkeys it used for several years — but with a jarring yet effective ad featuring a bored female office worker whose heart literally jumps out of her chest, struts down to the boss's office and jumps up on the desk with a little sign saying, "I quit." The lesson: Follow your heart, literally.
Anheuser-Busch Inc. was once again the largest advertiser in the game, with a series of humorous spots for its Bud Light brand and a heartfelt "Rocky"-inspired story of a Clydesdale horse that doesn't make the first cut for the carriage team, but succeeds after a year of training with an unlikely coach, a Dalmation dog.