A Closer Look the 2012 Super Bowl Ads

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By Mike Malone

Well kids it’s that time of year again, the New York Giants won another Superbowl, Madonna vogued us back to ancient times and now it’s time to rehash & relive the most interesting and fun parts of the game…. THE COMMERCIALS! The Superbowl commercial is a place where anything can happen and usually does, whether it be good, bad or ugly (sometimes all three at once, i.e. Pepsi’s spot in the 1st quarter w/ Sir Elton & Flava Flav). This year’s batch of commercials didn’t disappoint. It had everything from the standard cameos of pop culture icons & celebutards, businessmen monkeys & dorito-snatching babies, improbable sitcom-esque situations, to a male super-ego, testorone fueled dream courtesy of a snafu by the Sandman. Nothing is more entertaining to me than these illustrations and exaggerations of real life which are supposed to mirror the pulse of our culture. Advertisers putting on this million-dollar dog & pony show that is trying to convince us to buy the newest gadget, innovation or less filling beer with a subtle smile, wink & nod, is much more riveting to me than any hail Mary play ever will be. In this twitter and facebook world which we inhabit, the response and success of these commercials is measured instantly with hash tags & facebook pages abound, thus bringing me to my expert analysis & summary of this year’s big winners and losers. 

For my money, the most important ingredients for the Superbowl formula to be a winner is for the ad to combine smart & zany humor along with brand integrity, a shadow of relateability and the intangible pop factor. For example in the relateability category, once again Pepsi sticks out in my mind, because, quite frankly who hasn’t wanted to send Elton John down a trap door at some point in their life?  The smart & zany humor category had a few shining examples, but more often than not most of the ads fell flat. The Acura spot with Seinfeld, The Soup Nazi & America’s least­ funny late-night host, Jay Leno, was way ahead of Matthew Broderick being forced into a Ferris Beuller retread. This commercial fell so flat and the premise had such promise. The biggest flaw with this commercial was it lacked the charisma that the movie and Ferris exuded back in the 80’s.  By the way, where the hell was Jeanie, Cameron, Grace and most of all, Ed Rooney. Somebody should SAVE FERRIS from this commercial, and fast. Conversely, the combination of Jerry Seinfeld trying to bribe a man who is first on the list for a new Acura model with The Soup Nazi, the last living Munchkin and zip lines over NYC and America’s least-funny late-night host Jay Leno as Seinfeld’s nemesis was a piece of pop-culture/commercial gold. It was fast moving, clever and everyone was in on the joke. Something that Broderick seemed to forget.  I especially loved Jerry’s well-known phrase of “Newman” altered to “Leno” at the end in a moment of exasperation (which is later echoed by his outerspace friend in a familiar scene of the cast sitting at a table in Monk’s diner).  

The little boy doing the pee-pee dance and ultimately relieving himself in the pool along with the Doritos stealing baby got much bigger laughs from me than the naked M&M and beer-fetching rescue dog in the Budweiser spot. Although it was nice to see an advertiser attempting to be kind to animals (even though the rescue dog was now a parlor trick for his owner and inane drunk friends) in stark contrast to the worst commercial of the game, Sketchers! This was the WTF moment of the game for me and I was totally baffled by the scenario and message. How Sketchers could think they could use dog racing in a cute or entertaining way to market their crappy shoes is beyond me. This knocked Go Daddy and their boring themes and mostly naked women off of the worst spot for this solitary year. 

As a pop culture junkie I adored the Volkswagen and Met Life ads, quickly vanishing the bad taste left in my mouth adult Matthew Broderick trying to have another Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Seeing a who’s who of beloved cartoon characters promote a solid & happy message for Met Life scored big points. Plus it was great to see He-Man along with Voltron, The Fat Albert Gang, Mr. Magoo, The Jetsons & my favorite, Jabber Jaw all co-existing on a happy, animated hill.  In the Volkswagen vignette, the commercial in which an old dog is trying to get back into shape so he can fit through the doggie door reveals that it’s being watched in outerspace’s favorite watering hole, The Mos Eisley Cantina. And when one of the intergalactic patrons argues that the dog is funnier than Vader in last year’s spot, he learns of Darth’s Sith powers first hand.  Lastly, the final highlight of this year’s offering came via Best Buy with an ad that didn’t highlight some reality TV talking head or a mostly naked body dancing across the screen. In a refreshing change, it was a thank-you card to technology vanguards that have influenced and shaped our modern lives. People who have brought us the camera phone, the text message and even the smarties who bought us Words With Friends in a not so subtle vignette that was meant to replay Alec Baldwin’s in-flight incident a few months back.

So there you have it, the hits and misses of this year’s Superbowl commercials. We saw Vampires turn to dust from daylight-like headlights, David Beckham dance around in his undies and once again, laughed as we saw Elton plummet into the dungeon with Flava Flav. Oh, and for those of you who didn’t know, thanks to Budweiser you no longer have to watch Boardwalk Empire, prohibition ended!

By Mike Malone


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