From the opening kickoff to the final horn, our editors, along with a few guests, reviewed last night's ads as they broke. Here's what they had to say. (First post is at the bottom.)
Jim Hanas writes: Final score: Bucs 48-21 over the Raiders. Hardly a classic. Tune into AdCritic.com tomorrow for some Monday morning quarterbacking about the day's ads. In the meantime, visit our entire gallery of spots from the game.
thinktank3's Makarechi writes in: Given the high unemployment rate, I'm not surprised that HotJobs and Monster are the only two dot-coms that continue to advertise on the Super Bowl.
Monster's wayward truck beats HotJob's attempt to resonate with the seemingly under-employed. It shows employees singing the "Rainbow" song while staring blankly in various directions. It seems that this brand has been mismanaged since it's inception.
This year's Monster spot was much more complicated in execution, and much less lofty in its message, than their humorous efforts in the past where children aspired to become "middle-managers" and "brown nosers" when they grew up. Those spots were inspired and made people want more out of their jobs and possibly provoked them to look for more fulfilling work. Now the message is: people need jobs, we have job listings -- which isn't really much of a message. You could just say Monster.com and people would get that. It was an obviously expensive spot to produce. A truck without a driver is out of control and happens to be causing havoc in the vicinity of a diner where an out of work truck driver happens to be. I get the metaphor. I just think those early spots with the kids were what made Monster a recognisable brand and if it wasn't for the fact that I'm sitting here in between commercials waiting for the football to end, I'd never even remember this new Monster spot.
Chiat/Day's Jaeger and Vulkan write in: We have to agree with Jim, the game is slipping towards an inevitable conclusion and with it the audience is slipping towards the fridge to see if there is anything more satisfying. We're hoping the last quarter has a few interesting advertising surprises (and maybe Gannon could throw a pass that connects as well).
The Reebok spot was nicely executed and very funny, but whether its going be talked about tomorrow we're not so sure. And like so many of the ads tonight, you have to ask whether it has been $2 million plus well spent.
Jim Hanas writes: I'm with you, Teressa, I love this Reebok campaign. And if it's half as popular in America as it was in our office, it will be a huge hit, provided anyone's still watching this slaughter. You're right that it doesn't look like a Nike ad, but -- just to play devil's advocate -- it's worth mentioning that it doesn't entirely escape the lock Wieden + Kennedy has on sports. After all, it could easily pass for a SportsCenter campaign.
Teressa Iezzi writes: Ah, the old "what’s her mother look like," saw. This spot for Bud Light starts off promisingly enough. A nice setup, as a newly committed boyfriend expecting his lady and her mother for dinner receives some unsolicited advice from a friend: check out the mother, that’s what your girl will look like in 20 years. The tone is pure Bud, but then things go awry -- within the spot, and in terms of the quality of the spot. Looking through the peephole in this apartment door, the guy sees a fairly well preserved future mom-in-law, but upon welcoming the ladies in, discovers that Mommy’s got back, and then some. The mom has an ass the size of Sputnik. I think this spot might hit the bullseye for some, but it doesn’t belong in the pantheon of great Bud work. The grace notes of the best of Bud spots are missing here.
Teressa Iezzi writes: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. God help me, I love these. This campaign, from a film by Rawson Thurber which was picked for Reebok up by Arnell, is, first and foremost, laugh out loud funny. The basic premise is well known: Terry Tate, a mountain of a linebacker is employed by Felcher & Sons to keep employees in line with applications of pain -- tackling errant office mates who make the mistake of playing computer games at work, making unnecessary long distance calls, or eating a workmate’s food from the refrigerator. The lines in these spots are sure to assume a life of their own. "You kill the Joe, you make some mo!" "You know you need a cover sheet on your TPS form, Richard. That ain’t new baby!" But the greatest thing about the lines is that they are delivered after Terrible Terry has leveled the perpetrator with a truly bone-crunching tackle. The execution here is flawless. Every tackle is awesome in its violence, and the result is as impactful as the beefy Terry’s tough-love ministrations. All very good, but is this a good campaign? Well, it has the advantage of being unique in the game. This will stick with viewers. It leverages sports and also resonates with office culture. It also does something fairly difficult for an athletic shoe advertiser -- it’s unique in its category, and by that I mean, it looks nothing like a Nike ad. Reebok has struggled in the past with its positioning ("Lets U B U" being one example). Here, you have a film that confers an attitude on a brand by association and creates a cool halo around it, without a direct brand pitch. Bud, of course, did it with "Wassup." But will it work for shoes? That is less likely. But for sheer entertainment, this campaign gets my vote.
Stefano Hatfield writes: It's Woodstock revisited for Diet Pepsi as an open-air festival crowd rocks out in the mud to a band that we hope and pray are singing, "I'm so tired of masquerading," Covered in mud, a guy turns to his neighbor freaking out on his left only to realize it's his dad. It's harmless enough fun, and the son's stunned expression is worth a glnace, but it all feels like it could have been made at the time of Woodstock 1, and hey, isn't it time Pepsi redesigned those dowdy cans? Well branded, but instantly forgettable.
Stefano Hatfield writes: Um, those Coors twins weren't supposed to be in the game, were they? We’re sitting here in New York, having a Bud, watching the game, true. But, the sweet Clydesdales aside, it was a disappointing first half display from Bud and Bud Light. Then this comes on. The local station risks never taking an Anheuser-Busch dollar again. The Coors "Twins" ad on fast forward to all the bits that are about those twins, and then a cheeky message with double meaning to use your remote control. A bit of much needed levity among a lot of advertisers that are taking themselves far too seriously.
Teressa Iezzi writes: NFL. It's "Crazy." Crazy good. Harnessing the genius of actor Don Cheadle seems like a no-brainer but we've seen other celeb spots go horribly wrong. This spot from Y&R for the NFL is a simply compelling, eminently watchable ad extolling the magical virtues of this crazy game we call football. Big ups to the writers here. "Crazy knits a sweater for a hamster" is but one of the gems that refer to the general state of craziness. Then it narrows down to the game: crazy, they say, is that a baby on "strained peas and baby formula will shatter Emmett Smith’s rushing record." Referring to football as "this thing of ours" (from the Italian Cosa Nostra -- see Sopranos) is gravy on the big slab of meat that is this spot. Even more impressive considering the latest spots in this campaign were shot in 48 hours at the stadium a few days before the game.
Stefano Hatfield writes: This new Levi's spot is set up to be "Odyssey 2" right down to the casting. But there is absolutely no sex in the air, no chemistry between the principals, none of that je ne sais quoi that makes Levi’s commercials so special. Even the music is unspectacular. I hate panning a Levi’s ad, because the combination of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Levi’s consistently makes some of the best commercials in the world. This is so not one of them.
Teressa Iezzi writes: H&R Block. Tax issues and Willie go together like watching the Super Bowl and putting your hand down your pants. It’s a great association and Willie comes through like a champ. As the hapless spokesperson for a sporty shaving product, Willie is incongruously endearing, repeating, "My face is burning" to great comic effect. H&R has done some good spots and this one does not let the team down.
thinktank3's Makarechi writes in: Everyone's been wondering about the 5th dentist for years. This is a brilliant strategy and execution for Trident, a brand that hasn't been top of mind for years. Bravo to the creatives for getting this through. (I like the "Fly" version as well.) At this point I'd venture to say that people will remember this spot too, right along with the Pepsi Twist spot featuring Ozzy's genuine struggle with the rim of the plastic garbage pale.
Stefano Hatfield writes: This Visa spot with Yao Ming ran out of ideas once the Chinese basketball giant agreed to be in the commercial. I guess at this stage of his career in the USA there's not much more you can do than play on his name. Visa's problem is also that the novelty value of his appearance was lessened by Apple beating them to it earlier this month. This is a celebrity ad by the numbers from a company that usually gives us more. What do I know though? Tomorrow morning "Yao!" will probably be the "Whassup!?" of 2003.
Jaeger and Vulkan write in: Thanks Dodge for the public health message -- it's always important to know how to administer the Heimlich by truck.
It's obviously going to be a good year for action movies -- Hulk is a HULK SMASH! As for The Matrix, it looks like those clever people with weights and pulleys have been working overtime again, but it's Bud Light's "Clown" that gets the popular vote here.
Stefano Hatfield writes: BBDO and FedEx deliver a clever spoof of the Tom Hanks Castaway movie, which almost uniquely for its genre, turns out to be funny and spot on. The guy is great, earnest and plaintiff, wanting to know what’s in the box. He has the beard down to a T. The patient customer waiting for her package for five years is suitably wide-eyed with astonishment. What’s in the box? Oh, just a GPS phone, a water purifeier and seeds! It’s a good joke very well told, referring back to one of the finest moments in FedEx history (the movie, not the plane crash!). Genuinely funny. A winner!
Jim Hanas writes: I agree that the Osbournes will be a big hit, but the most deft use of a celebrity has to be Willie Nelson in the H&R Block spot. The problem with the Pepsi Twist spot, is that the Osbournes seem less real than they do on the show. Nelson, on the other hand, seems completely real, vulnerable even, as he tries to pitch a shaving cream. "My face is burning!" My vote for this year's catchphrase.
thinktank3 CD Sharoz Makarechi writes in: Finally, the truth about Castaway. It wasn't a movie, it was a two-plus hour commercial for FedEx.
Stefano Hatfield writes: I am absolutely sure that everyone will be talking about this Pepsi Twist spot all week. A year after Super Bowl XXXVI, who remembers any spot other than Joe Pytka's Britney Spears extravaganza that was universally panned by the industry? This time around the combination of Ozzy, Jack and Kelly with Donny and Marie Osmond and Florence Henderson (Ma Brady) should take the popular vote. But let's be honest, while Ozzy is just Ozzy and he should be canonized or Hall of Fame'd or something, Jack and Kelly's performances are dire. That shouldn't exactly be a surprise. They just play themselves in The Osbournes. Here, they have scripted lines, and not even Bryan Buckley's considerbale talent can enliven their plank-like delivery. As the Osbournes' popularity begins to wane, so it seems the Osmonds are back! Donny and Marie really do throw themselves into their song and dance with gusto. They are old pros who could teach the Osbourne brats a lot. Florence is a nice touch, and Ozzy is the best thing about an endeavor, which is otherwise surprisingly stilted. But does it matter that it's labored? The public WILL love this. No question about it.
TBWA/Chiat/Day/New York group CDs Doug Jaeger and Johnny Vulkan write in: Ummm. Hardly an auspicious start. The zebra by a nose we think and Quiznos? NO!!!!
I'm not sure about the whole Celine thing -- she really should be keeping her eyes on the road instead of singing into the sun roof of the weirdmobile.
Teressa Iezzi writes: OK. Here's a question about the pre-game spot "Ring" for Pizza Hut, out of BBDO. Will this spot get the knickers of the media world in a knot? Will it appear and be debated by goons on Crossfire? Probably not. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this spot is more significantly and deeply offensive than the spot that was the subject of the above brouhaha -- Miller Lite's "Cat Fight."
In "Ring," a hang-dog boyfriend shows up with a surprise gift for his simpering girlfriend, who immediately assumes it's an engagement ring ("Does it come in a box? "Is it gold?!" "Is it a gold ring?!!") and goes into a tizzy. The end of the spot has the gullible gal sitting on the couch with her eyes closed, at the insistence of her sadistic mate, while he devours even this paltry pizza non-gift he has cruelly misled her into thinking was a ring. Where do we start here -- how about the portrayal of women as marriage-hungry idiots, willing to sit, eyes closed and wait until the controlling man chooses to bestow the coveted ring upon her. Yuck. (And that's to say nothing of the horrid product in question here: A pizza with a cheese filled crust which is then subject to the layering on of additional slices of CHEDDAR cheese? Double yuck). At least Miller was fun to watch, over the top and depicted women with, um, a point of view.
Teressa Iezzi writes: "It's the money." (Watch the ONDCP's pre-game spot.) Chilling. Putting aside philosophical issues with the connection these spots make between casual drug use and drug underworld terror, kudos to Caitlin Felton for the directing job on this one. What could have gone, terribly, laughably wrong ends up being fairly hard-hitting -- spooky and weird and cinematic. In the spot, a little ghost girl visits a late-working white collar woman in an upscale office, and cuts to the chase with her opening gambit: "You killed me." Of course, the point here is that nobody can just expect to indulge in a little recreational drug use without being mindful of the connection between one's disposable income and the criminal activities of those up the supply chain in the drug business, or in the words of the spot's end tag: "Drug money Supports Terrible Things." Great direction and terrific editing by Go Robot's Adam Liebowitz and Joe Kirksciun -- all involved have a great handle on the thrill genre a la The Sixth Sense. That the girl appears in different places in the room seemingly at the same time is a nice touch and her performance, delivering lines like "They can't do things like that without money," is bang on.
However. Many of us have a bit of an issue with the whole argument behind this spot. And -- is it effective? Anti-drug advertisers have, I think, one of the most difficult jobs of all. It's exceedingly rare to see a spot that doesn't induce titters in its target audience. I'm guessing people who smoke pot will likely co-opt the spot's whispered end line "It's the money," (think: "I'll never tellllll" in the movie Don't Say a Word) as a catch phrase. One wonders if that or "The Pain Train" will emerge as the gag of the Bowl this year.
One other criticism: the woman in the spot looks like her drug of choice is more Xanax than ganja or coke as she appears a little on the sanguine side for someone who's conversing with a dead child with a huge chip on her shoulder.
Overall, though, a very good effort to break through on this tough mandate.
Jim Hanas writes: Four hours until game time. You know that means? ABC is beginning its pre-game coverage. Some marketers started even earlier, however. Pepsi has already posted the behind-the-scenes footage of its Osbournes ad at www.pepsitwist.com. And Reebok's microsite devoted to "Office Linebacker" Terry Tate has gone live. Click here to watch the first of four short films starring "The Pain Train."
[ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS: Jim Hanas is editor of AdCritic.com. Teressa Iezzi is editor of Creativity magazine. Stefano Hatfield is a contributing editor to Creativity and Advertising Age.]