It's become a truism in American society: people gather at Super Bowl parties and don't watch the game, instead focusing on the commercials. And for many (though not all) years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the games tended to be blowouts, that was the way to go for many people.
In those years, too, the commercials were more innovative and interesting. Over the last several seasons, when most (though not all) of the games have been competitive and close into the fourth quarter (if not to the final minute), it's been more about football and less about the advertising, on which companies are now shelling out an exorbitant $3 million per 30-second slice of life. That means that some companies, like Chrysler who ran a two-minute ad, are spending far more than that -- and perhaps why we didn't get to see the full one-minute version of Volkswagen's "The Force", generally acknowledged to be not only the best of the bunch last night, but one of the best ever.
Let's take a look at some of the hits -- and misses -- from last night. First, here's that Volkswagen ad. Not only is it brilliantly edited -- perfectly timed to the music -- but the reaction of the kid when the car actually starts is priceless.
Another cleverly done ad from last night was the Doritos "powder" commercial that brings things back to life.
It wasn't enough that the house-sitting friend cleaned up the mess he'd made over the past few days and brought the fish and plant back to life -- the Doritos did the same to grandpa after the buddy accidentally knocked over his urn of ashes.
Motorola poked fun at Apple's "1984" ad:
This is not only a commentary on the famous ad from 1984, where Apple "breaks through" with the Mac -- but a sly little dig at how Apple is now the company of uniformity. Is the Motorola Xoom the product that will "break through" that? Maybe not, but it at least gets you thinking. It's visually interesting, too.
I liked the Eminem Chrysler ad for its outstanding visual portrayal of the city of Detroit:
But seriously, Eminem? To sell "the finer things in life"? Personally, I think Eminem has jumped the shark himself. They could have made the same spot with another Detroit spokesman... and no, I can't really think of one off the top of my head.
Homeaway.com had me interested in what they're selling -- vacation homes instead of hotel rooms when you travel -- but then a "Test Baby" got smacked against a wall:
Visually interesting, but ew. Would you want your baby to suffer that fate?
There was the usual selection of animals in last night's round of commercials, mostly selling beer. But this one for Bridgestone tires was one of my favorites:
Not only is the story told quickly and concisely -- in 30 seconds, not taking a full minute or even two -- but the animation of the animal is one of the best I've seen. Further, unlike a lot of these spots, which have very little to do with the product itself, this tells you how good the tire can be in an emergency. Well done. On the other hand, this Budweiser ad ranks high on the weird-o-meter:
The dogs look really strange and unlifelike and they're apparently creeping out the guests. Who would want to come to a party like that? Big fail, Budweiser. Another beverage -- Pepsi Max -- had a similar swing and miss:
Sorry, Pepsi. You hit just about every dating stereotype, but didn't do it in a clever way or have an interesting ending. Would you go out with either of those people?
Another car company -- Mercedes -- had a home run (yes, I know I'm mixing my sports metaphors) with this one:
Nicely done, Mercedes, particularly the use of the Janis Joplin song. But Chevy gets a big "fail" for this one for the Cruze Eco:
Really, Chevrolet? Making fun of old people's inability to hear is going to sell cars? The target market for this car is those people's grandchildren. Are they going to buy one after you dissed grandma?
Best Buy also has a big "miss" with their "buyback program" commercial featuring Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne:
Not only is Ozzy way past his expiration date (and Bieber ought to be), but the commercial doesn't sell the service. Until the end, did you have any idea what it was for?
And haven't you had enough of these?
The talking baby -- seriously, this is so 2006. It's getting tiresome instead of inventive, and why would it make me want to use their services? All it does is make me want to avert my eyes from the TV screen when it's on.
The bottom line is, I think, that companies and ad agencies are trying to get more and more clever each year with their Super Bowl ads, because of the large amount of money spent and the huge potential audience; ratings for the game aren't available at this writing, but they were expected to eclipse last year's 106 million viewers, which was the most-watched program in TV history. Further, with many of the commercials available on YouTube before Sunday, that takes a lot of the excitement of seeing them for the first time away. Even the VW Star Wars commercial -- which may be among the best in Super Bowl TV history -- was floating around and watchable last Thursday, when I posted it here at SB Nation Chicago.
So although there were still some good ads during last night's game, there were more misses than hits, and all that's going to do is up the ante for next year's Super Bowl. (Please. Ditch the talking babies and the weird-looking humanoid animals already.)