Monday, February 2, 2009

Best and worst Super Bowl ads

As everyone did, I watched the Super Bowl partially for the ads. They really have become a touchstone for conversation, haven't they? Yahoo rounds them up.

Some people didn't like it, but I loved the Troy Palomalu ad for Coke Zero, which so clearly referenced the classic Mean Joe Greene ad. Ripping off a classic isn't really an issue, because it's Coke stealing from itself. What made it work for me was the last few seconds, where Palomalu tackles the guy in the suit, rips his shirt off, and then throws it to the little kid. That was hysterical.

I also loved the Doritos "Crystal Ball" ad. That was just wonderful, and I think that's a universal reaction. Who wouldn't love to vent a little frustration like that? I also liked the ad because it was very cheap and easy to produce, unlike some of the other ads, which clearly cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions. I liked the production design of the Doritos ad. Note that in the first scene, the left and right sides of the screen are filled with bland colors - the guys are wearing boring shirts and ties - while in the middle are the very colorful Doritos. Nice touch. I didn't think the ending was that funny, because I thot it was a little cliched, and I could see something like it coming - oh, great, a guy gets hit in the nuts. Never seen that before! But that's minor. Still a great commercial.

I liked the Jason Statham ad for Audi, I thot that was clever (it was also shot about three blocks from my office), although blatantly unfair to the competition. Let's see, what happens if we drive a very old Mercedes Benz, an ancient BMW, and other crappy but once-expensive cars? Oh, yes, we don't get away from the bad guys. And yet, when we drive a brand new Audi, voila! We are a great action hero. Clever, and well done, but a little silly.

I was also very impressed by the Pepsi ad, which I didn't even realize was a Pepsi ad. Absolutely loved the juxtaposition of Baby Boomer and contemporary images. That was stupendous. And was the perfect person to do it, since he made that great Obama video way back when. I might even buy a Pepsi (I don't drink Pepsi willingly). Only could have been better if his bandmate Fergie was in it.

In the interest of fairness, I also liked the Coke "Avatar" ad. That was cute, although not as good as the Pepsi ad.

Geekdad at Wired thinks this was a terrible year for the ads, and particularly cites the sexism of some, notably the GoDaddy ads and the Carl's Jr. I thot the GoDaddy ads were tasteless and puerile, as well as stupid and counterproductive. Do you really want to associate yourself solely with horny teenage boys? I like Danica Patrick, and I don't blame her for making money off her image. And, let's face it, she's a race car driver - she already sells advertising all over her body. But what exactly does she have to do with selling domain names? Shouldn't you be letting the world know about whatever technical expertise you have hosting Web sites?

I completely agree about the Carl's Jr. ad, tho. That was by far the worst. OK, there's a beautiful woman getting dressed, showing some cleavage. That's normal for advertising. Sometimes that turns me off, because it's so sexist, but sometimes it can be funny, like the Danica Patrick ads. While I didn't think they were effective ads, they also weren't meant to be taken seriously.

But I really did not get the point of the Carl's Jr. ad. OK, I'm supposed to want to go out with this beautiful woman. Fine, no problem, that's normal advertising. A little tacky, maybe sexist, but normal. But then she's disgusted by her date, who is a stupid, insensitive slob. Am I supposed to identify with this guy? Am I supposed to think that pissing off a woman who has spent hours getting ready for a date is a good thing? As it happens, I went to Carl's Jr. the night before the Super Bowl and had exactly what they were advertising - some new steak sandwich. It wasn't very good, and I woke up the next morning with a headache. As if that experience wasn't bad enough to turn me off, this ad clinched the deal.

The movie trailers looked fairly standard. I paid particular attention to Race To Witch Mountain, because I have positive memories of the original, from back in the '70's. I'm not excited about it as an action adventure movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I thot he was decent in Get Smart, and he seems to have a good sense of humor about himself, but my vague memories about the original is that it was charming to watch kids with special powers. It's made by Disney, which does family films well, so there's hope in that respect.

Ending on a positive note, the Bud Light ads were generally good. Conan O'Brien's was funny, as was the guy being thrown out the window. Going to a meeting and being able to drink all the beer you can? Now THAT'S escapism.

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