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2/3/2008
10:06 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Rating The Super Bowl Commercials

As always, the real contest at the Super Bowl was among the commercials. (Admittedly, the game, in which the Giant upset the Patriots 17 - 14, was exciting, too.) On Fox, there were some 50 ads, which went for upwards of $2.7 million for each 30-second spot. Based on the preponderance of beer ads, it must be an American truism that you can never be too rich or have too much Bud Light.

As always, the real contest at the Super Bowl was among the commercials. (Admittedly, the game, in which the Giant upset the Patriots 17 - 14, was exciting, too.) On Fox, there were some 50 ads, which went for upwards of $2.7 million for each 30-second spot. Based on the preponderance of beer ads, it must be an American truism that you can never be too rich or have too much Bud Light.There were also a surprising large complement of tech- and Web-site ads, which gives me my excuse for blogging this Super Bowl ad report-card. Dell, Go Daddy, Garmin, Careerbuilder.com, and T-Mobile were all represented, albeit in mostly tepid fashion.

In crowded marketplaces, as in life, sometimes the best way to get one's message across is to speak softly. That was the case with the best commercial; admittedly not a huge honor amid such a weak field. Nevertheless, my winner is "Doritos Sing Along," which stepped back from the smart-ass ad agency meme to feature a new singer, one Kina Grannis, doing her song, "Message From Your Heart." There's an interesting back-story here: The ad came out of Doritos' "Crash The Super Bowl Challenge," which Grannis won, along with a contract from Interscope Records.

In a less high-minded vein, I'm forced to admit that the most memorable ad was "Booooood Light." This commercial for Bud seemingly attempted to flip stereotypes about non-English-speaking Americans on their ear, but only ended up reinforcing them in the most boorish manner. (Which is why this also was probably the worst among the Super Bowl ads.)

Here, then, are my ratings, in the order in which the commercial appeared during the Fox broadcast (tech ads noted via red titles):

1) Bud Light Dinner Date Fire-Breathing Guy. Unusually well-manner guy -- presumably he hasn't started tanking up yet -- having dinner a deux at his date's apartment. Demonstrating his biggest skill before the meal is served, he lights the candles the way most people blow them out. But then her cat enters the room and, being allergic, his sneezes ignite the rest of the room. Smokin? A little. B

2) Audi Godfather. Stealing a scene from the Coppola classic, a guy wakes up screaming, but to a car grill, not a horse's head, in his bed. Interesting, if contextually misplaced, reference. Points for reinforcing the automobile's brand; I'm mean, who even knew Audi was still a factor in the U.S. market? B

3) Diet Pepsi Max Announcer Guys. SuperBowl announcers Troy Aikman and Joe Buck appear on screen, so you almost think the game didn't cut to commercial. But no, they're "announcing" the intro to a commercial. A boring commercial, which doesn't tip its hand until way too late to get me excited about Diet Pepsi Max. Pass me the Diet Coke. C

4) Animated Salesgenie Guy. I've always wondered about Salesgenie.com. Do you get 100 free sales leads, or do you get 100 free leads that work? The guys from Glengarry Glen Ross want to know. D

5) Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. House ad for Fox series about a superbabe with a steel plate in her head. (I'm not rating the house ads or the public-service announcements.)

6) Bud Light Cheese Wheel. Guys acting stupid over football and beer in the kitchen, while the pretty girls are left alone in the living room. What's wrong with this picture? The commercial's mildly effective, though, at tying the watery beer brand to youthful male camaraderie. B-

7) UnderArmour Nation. Another ad which was hard to place, I'm thinking, this has gotta be a Nike ad. Not the strongest brand when your ad's look-and-feel suffers from such apparent me-too-ism, even more so when this company apparently occupies a unique niche as a purveyor of form-fitting athletic wear. C

8) Bud Light Screeching Animals. A bunch of rodents and an owl wailing as a car speeding down a winding country lane comes dangerously close but manages to avoid turning them into road kill. Not driven by a Bud Light drinker, I hope. What was this one about? Couldn't tell until the end, when the Bridgestone tire logo appeared. B-

9) Doritos Sing Along. The one straight commercial which didn't need schtick to make its point. The ad wasn't about the chip, but rather has a new singer, one Kina Grannis, doing her song, "Message From Your Heart." Very nice. A+

10) Prudential Retirement. Not memorable, though one might wish that these ads would be the ones that'd stick with you, rather than the booze commercials. We'd all be happier in our old age. C-

11) Derek Jeter for Gatorade. Who doesn't like Derek Jeter? Plus, there's no steroid taint. This one wasn't flashy, but it's effective. B

12) Go Daddy. This one hints at the Web domain registrar's infamous Super Bowl ad of several years back, where a busty babe was poised to drop her top before a committee of superannuated Senators. (Hope they had a CPR kit handy.) This time, race car driver Danica Patrick, seen on a video screen -- how meta is that? -- threatens to peel down the zipper on her top. Why? Still, you gotta hand it to these guys: How many domain-name sellers are known to the general public? Undoubtedly just this one. B+

13) Buy Dell. A funky, MTV-generation commercial which picks up Dell's new Red product theme. It moves, and is short and to the point. B+

14) FedX Carrier Pigeons On Steroids. Birds gone wild attack the city, prompting white-male middle manager to suggest that his younger minion pick FedEx for his future shipping needs. Huh? C+

15) Cars.com Doofus Death Match. A twenty-something buyer comes to the used car lot armed with data on his planned purchase, salesman doesn't give him a hard time, so he says: "Good, otherwise I'd have you fight Klondor over there in a death match inside the wheel of fire." Who says creativity is dead? For all that, I knew that this one was for cars.com right from the get-go. For this reason, it gets a B+

16) Tide Job Interview. As this one unspolled, I was thinking it had to be CareerBuilder.com, because I'd read they'd purchased a commercial. For CareerBuilder, this would've been cute, since it had a guy inappropriately talking past his interrogator during a job interview. However, since it was for a stain removal pen by Procter & Gamble's flagship detergent brand, not so much. C-

17) Budweiser: Hank The Horse. Oh, I get it, he's a Clydesdale, and he's pulling a freight train, to the theme from Rocky, the better to prove he's worthy of joining the beer-toting horse team. You know, if they spent one-fiftieth of the money they pour into beer commercials on medical research, they could cure cancer in a week. B

18) Iron Man, the Movie. Robert Downey Jr. is out of rehab and CGI-buff as the latest Marvel super hero to hit the silver screen. Coming this summer.

19) Toyota Corolla. The high point of this very muted car ad is that the voice over was by the Peterman guy from Seinfeld. C

20) George Clooney, Leatherheads. Another movie ad.

21) Garmin GPS. Some kind of French vibe going on, with a Euro car driving through some non-American looking city, an actor dressed up like Napolean, and French rock 'n roll in the background. Sorry, I only know Ca Plan Pour Moi. B-

22) CareerBuilder: Follow Your Heart. A throbbing, disembodied heart leaps off a keyboard and makes its way into the bosses office. Ah, this is the CareerBuilder.com ad. That sound I hear is Monster.com not being worried. C-

23) Thriller/Life Water. I really should know who that model bopping with a bunch of lizards to strains of Michael Jackson's Thriller is. Naomi Campbell, right? (Nah.) A fun little commercial, in spite of itself. Loses half a grade since I still don't know what Life Water is. A-

24) Yukon Hybrid from GMC. "Never Say Never." To what, high gas prices? This commercial was so muted, it made me wonder what kind of internal constituency hybrid technologies have inside GM. Certainly, this is not one of Bob Lutz's "gotta have" cars. D

25) Boooood Light. A continuation of Bud's series where non-native speakers from India and China are initiated into doofus bad-beer lingo. This time, though, the ESL geek gets the pretty girl. This commercial is so idiotic and aberrant that it's ... memorable. So it gets a high rating, but please don't tell anyone I said that. A

26) Planter's Cashews. Unattractive 30-something woman bops down the street to strains of Frankie Valley's 1967 hit, "You're Just Too Good To Be True." Grabs a handful of Planters nuts, still looks the same, but suddenly all the guys are chasing her. See, it's not just about looks! Kinda heartwarming, actually. A-

27) Charles Barkley for T-Mobile. The cellular service provider is doing the hard sell for its "Friends and Family" plan, with the former basketball star calling his son, or maybe Dwayne Wade, or maybe both. I couldn't really tell. Yawn. Hey, I'm still waiting for Sir Charles to run for the senate. C-

28) Justin Timberlake for Pepsi. The once and current pop star is hurled into the air, through traffic, and all about the city, literally, but survives. Dating Britney couldn't have been this rough. B+

29) Doritos Chair Guy. Guy in chair eats Doritos, gets beaten up by guy in giant mouse suit. Forgettable. C

HALFTIME

30) Cars.com. Now our data-laden auto buyer is threatening to have the recalcitrant dealer's head shrunk. Hey, it wasn't funny the first time, but I get the "cars.com" tag, which is presumably why they paid the $2.7 million. A-

31) Salesgenie Panda. Now they've got an animated panda named Ling Ling, doing a Charlie Chan voice, pimping for the sales-lead site. In most workplaces, including mine, that wouldn't be allowed. D-

32) Shaquille O'Neal Vitamin Water. The basketball star wins a horse race and gets a cold, nonalcoholic beverage as his reward. Most memorable moment: Little kid in stands inserting finger up nose. Decent (the ad, not the pick), but not Super Bowl-worthy. C

33) Bud Light Cave Men. In ad terms, this one is an oldie but oldie. D

34) Carmen Electra/Ice Breakers Gum. The breath-freshener preferred by "D" listers? D

35) Alice Cooper/Richard Simmons Bridgestone. In the second chapter of this tire saga, our winding-road driver has passed the animals and finds a couple of celebs in his path. There's a couple of hundred bucks in it if you get them both, buddy. (I originally thought Alice was Ozzy Osborne, until a commenter below corrected me. Makes more sense; Ozzy doesn't need the work.) B-

36) CareerBuilder's Wishing. The job site tries to move the needle in its battle with Monster with this "Wishing Won't Get You A Better Job" ad. Doesn't. C-

37) E-Trade Baby. Toddler in high chair buys stock on line, upchucks. Like you or I, after we've checked our 401(k) balances the past few weeks. B-

38) Bud Light "Flying." The watery brew now gives you the ability to fly, the ad posits. If you've been chugging every time a Bud ad has come on during the game, well, yeah. C

39) Music Girls For Sunsilk. Marilyn Monroe, Shikira, and Madonna for some kind of hair product (I couldn't figure out whether it was shampoo, or what, from the site.) Bet only two of them have used it. B

40)Stewie Griffin for Coke. The Family Guy character, as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon, vies with Pluto {correction: Underdog) for a Coca-Cola, but Charlie Brown snaps it up at the last minute. Where's Lucy when you need her? B

41) James Carville and Bill Frist for Coke. Whaaaaaaaat on Earth is this? One of the most off-putting commercials I've ever seen. What demographic is this one aimed at? Dead people? Pass me a Pepsi. Please. F

42) Toyota Sequoia. "The dishes will have to wait" is the theme of this one, as our SUV owner goes out for a spin. About as flashy as your average Toyota. B

43) E-Trade Baby 2. This kid's diaper must be leaking by now. B

44) Taco Bell. Just what you want when it's a nail-biter of a fourth quarter and the Giants are up 10 to 7 over the Patriots. C

45) Gatorade: Man's Best Friend. A very big dog slurps up Gatorade from his water dish. And this is supposed to turn me on to their drink how? C

46) Will Ferrell for Bud. The egregiously unfunny comedian pitches the watery brew in surprisingly humorous fashion. Best is Ferrell's close: "Bud Light. Suck One." A

47) Hyundai Genesis. Straight car commercial; gets the message across. B

48) Victoria's Secret. The game's almost over, promises the tag line, as a beautiful babe tosses a football askance. Maybe Tom Brady's after-party. I give it a wishful-thinking B-

49) Fat Guy for Amp. The Red Bull competitor gets the almost Full Monty, as a hip-hop-dancing tow truck driver chugs the energy drink to get "amp'ed" enough to jump-start a stalled car. This all makes sense in the world of $2.7-million Super Bowl ads. B+ Here's the Kina Grannis video:

If you want to see any of these ads, they're all posted on Myspace.com/superbowlads.

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