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IT Confidential: Computers And Football: Made For Each Other

The Super Bowl has been the stage for some entertaining and provocative computer commercials. Here are a few more that we may--but probably won't--see this coming Super Sunday.

I'm not a football fan, I prefer mixed martial arts, but that's another story. I'm looking forward to this Sunday's Super Bowl, though, mainly because I believe, like a lot of other people, that the commercials are almost always better than the game.

The computer industry has a long and distinguished history of innovative and entertaining Super Bowl commercials, from Apple's "1984" commercial, first aired during Super Bowl XVIII, to Go Daddy's "wardrobe malfunction" ad, shown two years ago during Super Bowl XXXIX. (OK, not always so distinguished.)

I called a friend who works at an ad agency to see if he could tip me to any interesting computer commercials slated for Super Bowl XLI. He told me he was sworn to secrecy about an ad Cisco was working on featuring Janet Jackson, something about "the naked network." The next day, he sent over a DVD with these commercials:

  • Black screen. The beginning strains of Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra." The lights come up on LeBron James, the talented and popular forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, driving down the lane, elevating, floating, spinning, and then slamming the basketball through the hoop with a resounding wallop. Cut to a sweating LeBron James on the court, who says, "No defense." A logo appears on the screen: Windows Vista--Embrace The Inevitable.
  • A young boy sits at a PC, obviously enthralled. His parents stand behind him, watching him with contentment. Father: "Johnny sure loves our new Hewlett-Packard PC." Mother: "I do, too. I can find recipes and book reviews so easily on the Internet." Enter Gen. Michael Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former director of the National Security Agency. "How does Hewlett-Packard know what you need in a PC?" he says. "Because HP's got your number!"
  • Two executives stand in a small room, talking over a battered midsize computer. One executive says, "They must have walled up this room years ago, before we moved in." The other says: "Yeah, and when they broke through the wall, it was still working." Close-up on the brand name of the computer--IBM. Logo appears on the screen: Believe It Or Not, We're Still Here.
  • A young boy is staring down at a kitchen drain. "Daddy, where does the water go?" Cut to a middle-aged man, puzzled, scratching his head. Voice-over: "Admit it. You don't know how your car engine works. You don't know where your electricity comes from. You don't even know where your garbage goes. So why do you need to know how a search engine works, how they determine those lists, and what happens to all that search data?" Logo appears: Google--What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You.
  • Little kids playing in a playground, except most of them aren't playing, they're talking on cell phones. Close-up on Billy, who pulls an Apple iPhone from his backpack. The other kids stare at him with envy. Then a bigger kid walks over and grabs the iPhone out of Billy's hand and walks away with a satisfied grin. Voice-over: "Apple's new iPhone. You have to have it. And if you have to ask why, you don't get it. ... No, really, if you keep asking why you need another cell phone, Steve won't give you one, so stop asking. I'm not kidding. Steve will get mad. And we don't want Steve to get mad." Logo: Apple--Now Who's Calling The Shots?
  • I'm hoping these are the rejects.

    Can somebody named Peyton really win the Super Bowl? Send me your pick (including point spread), as well as an industry tip, to or phone 516-562-5326.

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