If yesterday’s Super Bowl is any indication, the Pittsburgh Steelers may not be at the top of their game but at least a portion of the American advertising industry is. (Far as I’m concerned Chrysler, VW, and Bud Light appear to be thriving.) Let me preface this by saying that when I was little we lived in a house with an old-fashioned pantry behind a glass-paneled door. On any afternoon I could be found seated inside this kitchen closet creating elaborate commercials for the breakfast cereals, the rice, the ketchup, the peanut butter, the flour, the jams, the soups, the cat food, the dog food, and just about every other kitchen product that warranted any kind of advertising. Fortunately for those few who actually got to hear my daily commercials (my audience in those days was limited to said dogs and cat) I also happened to be the announcer for each of these :30 or :60 second masterpieces. I loved creating commercials almost as much as I loved watching them. Advertising was, and is, an obsession for me, and clearly there are few better opportunities to see ad agencies pull out their biggest creative guns than during massive events like The Super Bowl. That said, did you watch the Big Game? Are you willing to pardon Christina Aguilera? And what did everyone think about the Black Eyed Peas? I generally skip the actual running/playing part of the Super Bowl, and yet I usually manage to catch the halftime activities. That said, why is it that all those engineers (or whoever handles this) have such a tricky time getting the sound right for what has to be one of the most fussed-over, expensive audio shows on earth? (Fortunately, once again, Usher did not disappoint.)
Let’s talk about the commercials. First of all, is it just me or have the actual stakes in commercials become so heightened that everyone’s getting punched or ejected or blasted out of buildings/cars/bars with an overwhelming degree of physical force and peril? Clearly this could simply be a factor of what audiences are demanding, but everything seems about 130% more violent. The Doritos dog commercial was violent but the pug gave it to the man (quite literally) so we didn’t mind it so much. Knocking a girl off a park bench with a Pepsi can and then fleeing the scene? Completely inane to me. By and large, I thought the use of celebrity involvement was lose-lose. Adrien Brody isn’t known for enough self-effacement (or comedic chops even) to make his lounge singer shtick work. The Eminem Brisk Tea spot was just creepy; using Joan Rivers as a sex symbol even more so. Richard Lewis and Roseanne were bizarrely cast, and Tim Hutton was a horrifying & true affront to anyone’s geopolitical landscape, even if he was shilling one of today’s most popular discount services. On the other hand, those advertisers who understood just how savvy and wise the modern consumer is about advertising in the first place fared best. A good example here is Bud Light’s spot about the value of product placement (and by parodying themselves, they win us over doublefold). Bud Light also scored with their makeover show parody. Similarly, I felt that the auto makers this year had the most compelling commercials, largely because they weren’t trying to be funny so much as resonant, powerful and not a little patriotic – witness BMW talking about making their cars in America, which worked beautifully. The Eminem Chrysler spot about Detroit was gorgeous, lump-in-your-throat stuff, and my favorite commercial of the entire broadcast was VW’s Passat meets the Child Darth Vader. I know the one that may be generating the most buzz right now is probably the Ozzy and Justin Best Buy commercial, so let’s put that in our poll for today as well. I probably couldn’t tell you anything about the Super Bowl itself (besides who won it) but I did feel that the whole event showcased some genuine creativity (with the requisite amount of sophomoric unintelligible stuff, too). Football aside, it was clear that essentially America’s still pretty good at selling, well, the American Dream.
1) Best Buy (J. Bieber, O. Osbourne)
2) Bud Light (Product Placement)
3) Chrysler (Eminem)
4) VW (Darth Vader)