The AdCritic - Super Bowl Edition

Our editors rate the ads of Super Bowl XXXIX.

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FedEx "Top Ten"
FedEx: Top Ten

The hype around Super Bowl commercials has reached such a pitch that consumers have to be starting to buckle. On the one hand, it leads people to expect a "1984" every year, despite the fact that there hasn't been one since, well, 1984. On the other hand, much of the popular talk about Super Bowl ads focuses on their price, and the morning after chatter usually includes a fair amount of backlash, suggesting viewers might be tuning in just to laugh at the foolish corporate suits who pay so much for so little.

FedEx's advertising has always been knowing, although it's Super Bowl commercials used to be better -- as when its offering consisted of nothing but color bars, allegedly because some knucklehead shipped a company's spot with some other service. FedEx owns that tone, at once cooler than IBM, yet smarter than, say, Budweiser. This commercial is a great example, as BBDO and director Bryan Buckley have fun with the very idea of a Super Bowl commercial, outlining the top ten essential clich├ęs. Contextually -- and the best Super Bowl ads are contextual, taking advantage of their position in the big event -- it's even funnier, since viewers saw every single one of these tropes in other commercials that aired during the game. And when Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" cut in behind the logo, FedEx's target of youngish media-savvy decision makers must have found it pretty hard to resist. (JH)

Bud Light "The Lady"
Bud Light: The Lady

If one ad symbolized the general tone of Ad Super Bowl XXXIX and the cultural climate at large at the beginning of 43's second term, it's Bud Light's "Lady." The spot, which brings new meaning to the term "cock blocking," is very funny, well written and directed with finesse by John Immesoete.

But the subtext is also brilliant and, well, chilling. The fetching female who sidles up to the bar may as well represent pulchritude, or just good times, in general while the bar stands in for the entire country. Try and score some action here, and you will be slapped, my friend. The trash talking parrot who steps between the wannabe lothario and the babe (to complete a labored metaphor) stands in for any "morality" enforcing henchman of your choosing. (I'm picturing lesbian-cartoon banning Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.)

The bird's final words sum up the spot, the game, the entire year in indecency: "Ju don't want to go there, papi." (TI) "Broadcast Hearing" Broadcast Hearing

Well, somebody had to do it, and it figures that it would have to be a company with little to lose. While Budweiser backed off its own plan to air a "wardrobe malfunction" ad during the game, this ad for domain registrar was a success long before it aired, as the previously unknown brand received buckets of mainstream ink it would never have gotten otherwise. The ad itself, now that we've seen it, is a funny and deft play to everyone who is sick to death of the hand-wringing that has attended the first anniversary of NippleGate -- not an insignificant audience. By tapping into this semi-forbidden borrowed interest so brazenly, GoDaddy will rewarded with plenty of water cooler play on Monday. For an online company in a niche that has yet to find its Google, that seems like a pretty good gamble. (JH) "Monkeys" Monkeys

In another time, a commercial that starred monkeys, chimps in particular, wouldn't really have required much commentary. As a genre, chimp work would have been beyond reproach. Last year's Budweiser chimp spot, the abysmal "Smooth Monkey," blew that assumption off the books, though, so a review of Career Builder's is in order.

Competitor Monster has already set the ad pace in this category, building upon the basic job site angle and refining the pitch with collar-specific jobs (the "Driver" spot from SB 03, this summer's campaign featuring Olympians and waitresses) and the promise of finding the perfect boss (last year's excellent "Soulmates.")

But, lets face it, the hilarious I-Have-To-Get-The-Hell-Out-of Here spot is still a worthwhile beast in its own right, especially at the Super Bowl, and in "Monkeys," and in the campaign's other spots "Titanic" and "Whoopee Cushion," it reaches poetic new heights. The spots rest on a simple gag that translates the garden-variety superiority complex we all feel at work into a hairy, unproductive reality, with a frustrated office worker who literally does work with a bunch of monkeys. It does what a Super Bowl spot should do -- it entertains, it uses monkeys, and it creates a scenario that will stick with viewers until at least a week from the game.

The execution is interesting -- intentionally or not, the monkey office is just a tiny bit menacing, instead of just straight up goofy. Just like your own job. (TI)

Ameriquest "Minimart"
Ameriquest: Minimart and Surprise Dinner

These spots from first time Bowl advertiser Ameriquest were the surprise comic gems of the game. Executed with cinematic subtlety, they draw you into situations where people end up looking like something they're not -- a lead-in to Ameriquest's pledge not to judge borrowers too quickly. A man cooking dinner winds up looking like a cat killer, while a man talking on his cellphone comes off like a stick up artist. Of course, the bonus in the latter is that he meets the fate many believe cellphone talkers deserve. (JH)

Cadillac "Barrels"
Cadillac: Barrels

Like the Patriots, Cadillac has been a consistent Super Bowl performer and this year's effort, out of the Mark Tutssel led Chemstri team, is slicker then ever. The "Barrels" spot, part of a campaign touting the prompt 0-60 acceleration of the new V Series, is a particularly high class kind of car porn, directed with finesse by Gorgeous' Peter Thwaites, who has demonstrated a need for speed with some previous beauties for Nascar.

Cadillac has combined a compelling design story with high quality ads in reinventing itself as a forward thinking luxury player rather than a victim of nostalgia. (TI)

Budweiser "DD Dance"
Budweiser: DD Dance

At the best of times Super Bowl spots are held to a different standard than "real" ads. Big game spots, of course, are judged more on spectacle and recall factor than on the sheer power or originality of the idea involved. But this year that dynamic was stretched almost to breaking -- with most advertisers nervous about running afoul of the family-friendly police, it seemed that a larger than usual portion of the game's ads were warmed up versions of tried and sometimes true formulas we've seen before. This year it came down to how well those standards were reinterpreted. Case in point, the Bud spot "DD Dance" with Cedric the Entertainer unwittingly inventing a new dance in a club. Sure, it's not a groundbreaking gag, but the spot is executed nicely and Cedric is fairly glowing with likeability here. It's cute, it's fun, it's a 2005 super Bowl ad. (TI)

Tabasco "Tan Line"
Tabasco: Tan Line

It would be hard to go broke overestimating male football fans' interest in seeing humid footage of hot girls in bikinis -- and the babe in this spot certainly has 15-minutes of Ali Landry-style quasi-fame coming her way -- but then what?

The only thing that pulls this above lukewarmness is the somewhat clever tanning conceit that demonstrates that Tabasco is hotter than the sun. (JH)

Diet Pepsi "Guy Watcher"
Diet Pepsi: Guy Watcher

This spot is perfect -- if its goal was to demonstrate the unimpeachable heterosexuality of Joe Pytka and Lee Garfinkel. Because, come on, there is absolutely no sense of male appreciation here.

As a supposed beefcake showcase, the spot doesn't stand up. Shots of the "hunk" are murky, with no lingering, loving frames devoted to the study of taut male flesh, even under clothing. The guy in question strides awkwardly down the street in a non-descript, grey, loose fitting shirt, wearing some silly looking headwear. The soundtrack is tired, the whole effort just seems off-key. The sexy, lingering, pout-fueled scenes are saved for the female reaction shots, as a series of lovingly-lensed babes, interspersed with more regular gals -- and, eventually, Queer Eye's Carson Kressley -- shoot do-me rays out of their eyes. Yep, Joe knows the ladies. Cut back to the guy: is that a little gut we see poking through his shirt??? What gives?

Cindy looks great these many years later turning her role of prey to predator. But after watching this spot a few times, I still couldn't pick this guy out of a line-up.

Leaving aside the fact that combining two classic 90s spots -- the original Cindy Crawford gas station spot and Diet Coke's Lucky Vanous vehicle, "Break" -- seems a little silly, the spot might have at least hooked casual viewers with a more memorable execution.

For a lesson in delivering Woman-on-Man Objectification spot, see this Archer's work from Bryan Buckley and Mother. (TI)

Ford "Roadhouse"
Ford: Roadhouse

Like Cindy Crawford looking longingly at another's beauty, this ad gives us a cute role reversal for our times. The spot opens with a middle class family traveling the open road and encountering a biker gang. Nothing much happens, but then the gang pulls up to a diner and is scared away by the sight of a line of Ford F-Series trucks in the parking lot. The spot has some predictable lines but the delivery is good -- particularly in a scene featuring a hirsute biker talking about the salad bar being better up the road.

But the not-so-tough biker gag has been done many times, and there's no one in the ad industry who hasn't seen the great Mercedes spot in which bikers are afraid of the Benz, so there's no excuse for using this scenario again. (TI)

Lay's "Fence"
Lay's: Fence

MC Hammer? Really? Sure you want to do that?

This commercial doesn't have everything. No connection to the product. No sense -- your neighbor stole your '72 Impala? It does, however, feature MC Hammer, complete with a cringe-worthy "Can't Touch This" stinger. What year is it? I've been asleep so long. (JH)

Silestone "Diana Pearl"
Silestone: Diana Pearl

One doesn't often see commercials for quartz surfaces in the Super Bowl. I suspect there is a reason for this, since this was the most bizarre media buy in the game. Let me help you out. Silestone is a quartz surface that, according the the company's website, is "ideal for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanity tops, shower wall cladding, flooring, table tops, and so much more." And Diana Pearl? She's a color. Not that you could have gleaned any of this from the commercial. The three guys? They used to be involved with the Chicago Bears football organization. Dennis Rodman? He used to be in the NBA. This is a complete head-scratcher. (JH)

(THE REVIEWERS: Jim Hanas is the editor of Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine.)

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