The Sorry State of Super Bowl Commercials
I tried, I really did. I watched every single commercial on this year’s Super Bowl telecast. Unfortunately, I’m terribly spoiled by my DVR. I think I’d give up Diet Coke before I’d give up my DVR. Consequently, my tolerance of the sorry state of commercials is quite low. So my assessment of this year’s crop of spots is not particularly kind. Nor coherent. Nor relevant. I was not impressed. There were, however, a few bright spots.
Routinely, while watching trailers at the local AMC 53-plex, or highly pixilated commercials on my supposed high-end HDTV, I’m alternately moved to yawn, cry, occasionally laugh, but mostly shake my head in disgust and mutter “We’re all going die…then go to hell.” Today, Super Bowl Sunday, it appears yet again some evil cabal, clad in tattered rags, cackling in delight while dancing around a cauldron filled with bat wings and the limbs of corporate media buyers, has brewed up an especially foul potion, casting an evil spell over the creative community. Agency Directors were surreptitiously replaced by humorless doppelgangers devoid of creative powers, sense of design or comedic skills. The only way to survive this year’s game-day commercial-palooza was to gouge your eyes out with a Dorito. Or crush your head under the wheel of a new enviro-friendly Chevy Cruze Eco. Or Snickers your way into a diabetic coma.
In no particular order, here are some random thoughts.
My favorite commercial – Teleflora.
No animation. No talking dogs or erupting volcanoes. Just Faith Hill, some ambiguous slacker at a sound board. He yearns to send his girlfriend flowers but can’t find the right words to express his feelings. Faith encourages him to write from the heart.
And so he writes, “Dear Kim. Your rack is unreal.”
Move over, Anthony Bourdain. This dude is my new hero.
In an age of WAGs, Kardashians and FHM.com, it’s refreshing to know that Teleflora has made it “OK” to celebrate the wonder of a woman’s breasts. We’re not pervs anymore. We can come out of the closet. A glimmer of hope in these dark, dark times.
Bud Light - Fail.
Pepsi – Complete Fail. I know in 6 hours I’ll get several press releases describing how vfx house XYZ’s creative team spent four months creating digital doubles of a Pepsi Max can. 60 people handling previs, modeling, compositing, color correcting. Suddenly, I’m feeling a sharp pain behind my left eye. Must be the kebab skewer I’ve pushed into my right ear to deaden the pain.
Coke – much lesser Fail, but Fail nonetheless. Where is that phenomenal 2006 Psyop spot that shows the magic within a coke machine? What about the polar bears? If you put some polar bears to work, at least for a few hours they’d forgot how far they have to swim these days to find their next meal.
Doritos – Epic Fail on such a grand scale I was left speechless. A man eats the dusty Doritos cheese remnants off the finger of a co-worker. By sucking said co-worker’s finger into his mouth, like a Goth cheerleader in a game tester’s post-apocalyptic high school fantasy. Then he sniffs the spot on a co-worker’s pants where said co-worker wiped his Dorito-crusted fingers. This would have creeped out Jeffery Daumer. Further words escape me. I’m going to go kick the dog.
Must every Fox promo for the upcoming Daytona 500 involve such wanton destruction? I suppose these cg environments mean a few months of decent cash flow for some beleaguered vfx houses but still, since when besides the last Michael Bay movie did car racing involve the destruction of a town?
Another favorite – Volkswagen and a kid dressed as Darth Vader.
Nice pacing, an actual story I could follow, a good, funny finish. You’d have to work hard to mess up the iconic comedic value of Vader and thankfully, this spot didn’t.
While not a complete list, we saw trailers for the following movies:
- Thor – Can’t wait.
- Rio – Can’t wait.
- Cowboys & Aliens – is it me, or does Daniel Craig class up anything he touches? Can’t wait.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Hope springs eternal and the jettisoning of Megan Fox has me crossing my fingers. Question - What would a Prius transform into? A robot sent to Earth to guard Whole Foods?
- Fast and Furious 17 – Teleflora said now it’s OK for pervs to celebrate boobs, so this movie looks like a winner.
- Super 8 – not sure. But it’s Spielberg and his track record is pretty good.
- Captain America: The First Avenger – Avenger is a cool word, so this could be cool.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Not hot on the name, but Ian McShane could make a Doritos commercial riveting. I’m sure this will be good fun.
Snickers – Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr. Last year, the Snickers spot with Betty White and Abe Vigoda was creative brilliance personified. This year’s spot was not as good, if only because the bar was set so high. But it's pretty close. I’ve always been a fan of Richard Lewis, who is both a master of the whiny New York Jew AND can be left around kids without supervision. Watching Roseanne get throttled by a giant log was a pleasant surprise, like finding $5 in your pants pocket while sorting the laundry.
CareerBuilder.com – Getting pushed around by monkeys. Another spot in an ongoing campaign pitting Mr. Meek average Joe worker against the uncaring corporate monkeys that ignore his efforts, insult his intelligence and push him around. Now if this average Joe was losing his hair, his hearing and wore boxers when fetching the paper each morning, I could really relate. Unlike so many commercials trying to drive home a point by beating it over the head with a lifeboat oar, this one actually does a good job. Have you ever seen animals, especially monkeys, used so effectively and in such a subtle manner? Well done.
The all new Chevy Cruze with real time Facebook Status Updates.
I got news for you, actor in the car who just kissed a chick for the first time. Your Chevy Cruze may have just announced your girlfriend’s Facebook status as, “He’s the best first kiss ever,” but then she followed that with, “But I doubt I’ll ever go down on him because I’m totally hot for his dad.” SNL’s Seth Meyers won’t be sleeping much tonight, mumbling, “Really???” over and over until he wakes up in a fog tomorrow morning and starts hitting himself in the head with a shoe. Can you possibly imagine a more asinine “feature” for a car than real-time Facebook status updates? How about Lil Wayne’s latest Tweets displayed on your steering wheel? Maybe you can “audibly skin” OnStar with digitized celebrity voice filters? Imagine Joe Pesci telling your grandfather, “Hey asshole, yah, you in the Buick, turn left in 50 feet…moron!” Please tell me I’m not dreaming. Further proof we’re all going to die and go to hell. In that order.
It’s RAM Truck Month - I have a sudden urge to buy a sleeveless undershirt. If I had an axe, I’d go next door and chop my neighbor’s gazebo into kindling for the blast furnace I think I’ll go buy at Home Depot.
Chatter.com – WTF. If the social network du jour has money to spend on Super Bowl commercials, then maybe the dot-com boom is back. Does this mean my decade-old stock options might be worth something?
Halftime – Musical mashup, Black Eyed Peas "in da house!", Slash slinging his Les Paul wearing the same expression he wore in the first Guns & Roses video, except now his top hat and leather pants are blinking. Dick Dale’s priceless Miserlou sampled and sung by people dancing in unison with lit boxes over their heads. I was mesmerized. I felt like I was playing pong for the first time – I was so excited, but I wasn’t sure why.
Time Warner Cable – stop spending money on media buys and spend some money on your customer service.
Best Buy – It’s sometime in the distant future and here comes…Ozzie Osborne, all aboard the 5G train! My dog just lifted two toes on her front paw and is shaking her head up and down. Now she just pulled Seasons in the Abyss out of my cd case. Good girl!!! Justin Beiber holds up a 6G phone. Ozzie walks around in a daze. Sharon Osborne asks, “What’s a 6G?” Ozzie asks, “What’s a Bieber?” Brilliant!
Promo for Chicago Code on Fox. Makes me wonder…if I carried a gun and tossed people through windows, would I get more sex? Make a note to test theory this coming April at Passover.
“Who will be the next American Idol????” Curious minds want to know. Feeble minds as well. A more important question might be, “Who will be the next president of Egypt????” Or, “Who is going to clean out the produce drawer in the fridge????”
Chrysler – A long, sleek, thoughtful commercial featuring Eminem and the new Chrysler 200. The tag line is “imported from Detroit.” Nicely done for a car commercial. No salt flats, falling trees or kids. I understand Eminem doesn’t do commercials. Except for Chrysler. And Lipton Brisk Ice Tea. Yes, the stop-mo Brisk commercials are back, at least for today. The only Chrysler I’ve ever owned got backed up onto by a giant trash truck. My wife, who was driving, jumped out, confronted the driver, and while trance-channeling a New Jersey longshoreman, launched into a colorful tirade that would have made George
Carlin blush. It was fantastic.
Yet another cell phone commercial. Jesus Christ, you aren’t technologists, you’re toy makers! There’s more useful technology at work in my barbecue tongs than there is in my Android. Don’t get me started. My brand new Vibrant is a piece of [insert vulgar reference of choice here]. My tongs…they’ve yet to fail me.
The new Volkswagen Beetle. Photo-real animated bugs galore! Nice shot of the beetle sliding around a treacherous mountain trail, like Indiana Jones in hot pursuit of Cate Blanchet’s undergarments. While I don’t, as a general rule, like bugs in any way shape or form, even doing purportedly funny things (squirrels, they’re not), I think praying mantises are very cool, so this spot gets a pass. The animation looked pretty good.
And finally, the Fox promo for House. Wonderful takeoff on the 1979 Mean Joe Green / young kid / Super Bowl jersey / Coke commercial. Whereas Mr. Green tossed his jersey to a young kid, Mr. House tossed his cane to a young kid. The cane, of course, brains the kids and knocks him out. I am always in favor of kids getting caned, so this promo was especially uplifting.