Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Meh: This year's Super Bowl commercial fall flat.

     The majority of sporting events viewed on television in the Steinberg household are Bulls basketball games, and usually we start watching 15 minutes or so after the game begins, which means that, through the miracle of DVR, my younger son, who jockeys the remote, can fast-forward through the commercials.  
      At first, I would argue that we should watch them —I don't watch much TV, and am interested in what advertisers are ballyooing and how they are doing it. Commercial are  fun, or can be. But I lost that argument, and now just sort of gaze wistfully at the images flashing past. Though to be honest, since a significant percentage of all commercials on TV are those horrendous AT&T "In my day" ads, I don't feel that bad, since every one of those missed is a minute added to your life. The only time I make him stop and back up is when Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has another commercial claiming the multi-millionaire is a normal person, and that government is the one area in life where having no experience whatsoever helps you succeed. Those I want to see.
     The Super Bowl was an exception — here are where the costliest, most seen commercials on TV make their debut, and since I do think advertising is an art form, or can be, I wanted to watch them. So I saw them all.
     Few even reached the level of "good." Radio Shack had a cute spot on the theme, "The 80s called, they want their store back" that featured 1980s cultural figures — Hulk Hogan, Twisted Sister, Mary Lou Retton — ripping a store apart and hauling it away. The ad not only was clever, but addressed the central problem of Radio Shack—it is indeed stuck in a time warp, and since they can't change the name — Computer Shack? I don't think so — a store makeover is the next best thing.
     What else? Coke had an emotional tribute to immigration, with various American minorities singing "America the Beautiful" in a variety of languages while engaged in ordinary activities, that was moving but probably flew past most viewers, except of course for a few bigots who were appalled.  Budweiser scored with its puppy-and-Clydesdale love story, though really, when you trot out puppies, it's cheating. Audi had a funny commercial featuring a horrendous mix of a big and little dog, the "Doberhauhau,"  though its point "Compromise scares us too" is sort of a strain (though credit to Audi for creating an actual parody public service spot, not seen during the Super Bowl, that featured Lilith Fair stalwart Sarah McLachlan). Which is a general problem that the automobile ads have. Even the effective ones had little to do with cars, and half the time you forget which make was behind the commercial, though Maserati's was strange enough to stand out, with a feral child making a speech about small people climbing out from the shadows to claim their due: memorable, but in a bad way.
      While leads to the Bob Dylan ad for Chrysler, a follow-up from the excellent 2011 Eminem commercial for Detroit in general and the Chrysler 200 in particular. But while that ad had drama, and impact, and beautiful scenes of Detroit. Dylan's begins with, er, Dylan, a black-and-white photo of the back of his bushy 1960s head, and the fall-flat-and-lay-there question, "Is there anything more American than America?" (Why no, Bob, I guess not. America is the most American thing there is. Why?) By the time present day Bob steps out of an old-fashioned elevator cage, looking around the eyes like a transvestite at his day job and sounding, with his grizzled drawl, a bit like Albert Finney in "Big Fish" -- "American prahhd" — I remembered that nothing guarantees failure quite so much as trying to ape your past successes.  The commercial didn't make me think about Detroit cars so much as think about Bob Dylan, and who wants to do that? Like Detroit of 1995, he's been coasting for decades on past success, trying to pretend his various misfires didn't happen.  Maybe people a few years older than myself have this enormous store of goodwill for him, and will be happy just to lay eyes on the guy. But to me, he's the singer who put out the superb "Blood on the Tracks" in 1975, followed it up with the less good but still alright, "Desire," and "Hard Rain" and then found Jesus and became a parody of himself.  It wasn't quite Chrysler having Woody Allen narrate their commercial, but in the same realm of creepy old recluses you don't want to find prowling your living room. 
    But we've strayed from Super Bowl commercials. The Bud Lite "Are you ready for whatever happens" fantasy date went nowhere — again, the creepy Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wig playing ping pong probably seemed wild and fun on the storyboard, but was just weird and off-putting (though I liked Lilly the Llama, not enough to redeem the ad). 
     This was a year when the football game was far better than the commercials, though given that the game was a 43 to 8 blow-out that the Broncos were losing from the first play, that isn't saying much. 


  1. Couldn't agree more. The commercials lacked originality, weren't funny or clever, and pretty much seemed to spend the evening trying to one-up each other.

    The best one, I thought, was the Doritos Time Machine spot, which was created not by an ad agency, but by an ordinary person who won a contest. Telling.

  2. I agree as well. Honestly, I didn't see all the commercials and missed the Budweiser puppy one that I wanted to view. My husband was watching the game while I was in the next room on the desktop. Whenever a commercial came on I ran in to watch it. I got plenty of exercise since there were so many, but none of them stood out in my opinion. At halftime I gave up, because it seemed obvious the Seahawks were going to win and I lost interest. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but the commercials I saw were generally disappointing.

  3. Love the photo of the doughnuts, though -- I want one now :)

  4. Every single ad sucked. Big time!
    The worst was that idiotic & truly boring Maserati one. It made no sense at all.

    And I too use my DVR so I rarely have to watch any ads.
    Only when there are more than two shows on at once, my DVR only can record two at once, do I watch anything live.
    And don't even try to watch any dramatic show on ABC live. It's 6 minutes of program, followed by 4 minutes of ads, repeated for the entire hour!
    That totally wrecks the continuity of the show.

  5. The Eminem ad Chrysler aired for the Super Bowl was from three years ago and two years ago was the "Halftime in America" ad.

    1. Thanks Monica -- it's fixed now. Rushing too much.

    2. Trump prob has less time to view porn now. Or less privacy to do so.

  6. "Infidels" is underrated. "They say that patriotism is the last refuge / to which a scoundral seeks / steal a little and they throw you in jail / steal a lot and they make you a king." It also has a song that Bibi Netenyahu could love ("Neighborhood Bully"). Problem is that you have to buy the Bootleg Tapes box set (vol. 1) to hear it at it's best, as some of the outtakes are even better than the songs that made the cut.

  7. Re: the Dylan ad. Why would anybody, given the explosion of fantastic beers being made in one's neighborhood, let alone the city or the U.S.A., for that matter, settle for letting their beer be made in Germany? That's as '80s of a concept as Radio Shack, to say the least.

    I agree with the first comment about the Time Machine Doritos ad being good. Also, no love for the "cowboy" Doritos ad, Neil? I guess I'm just a sucker for a kid riding a big dog...

  8. Ridiculous what people spend for sports tickets then claim no money to help kids in college or in their own old age.People need to be practical.


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