Seriously, have you not noticed that Jesus gets as many plugs as the Monday night prime-time lineup? The players kneel in prayer circles. Guys with rainbow wigs flash John 3:16 placards. And the winning quarterback tends to first thank not his teammates, but his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. (Oddly, the losing quarterback never blames Jesus, which is either hypocritical or extremely gracious.)
This year, on-the-jersey-sleeve religion even made it to the ads. Never mind Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. Tim Tebow stole the show by simply promoting adoption, which would be noncontroversial if the implicit message from this famously Bible-thumping quarterback were not anti-abortion. The amazing thing isn't that CBS chose to run the thing (it's kind of hard to declare adoption controversial). The amazing thing is that Planned Parenthood and NOW didn't submit uncontroversial awareness spots showing teen mothers with ruined lives.
We won't say where we stand on this issue, but having seen the rest of the ads, we will say this: We are totally pro-TiVo.
First, anybody who complains about the media buy is an idiot; the taxpayers are trying to sell Dodge Chargers to men, and this is the most-efficient place in the world to do so. Second, even in a pop culture lately awash in Man liberation, this is as crystalline a proposition as you will ever find: "I carry your lip balm, I'm driving the car I want." Third, the copy and actors' defeated expressions are priceless. Finally, see how you can reach manly men without bullying girly men?
Magner Sanborn, Spokane, Wash., and Agency 3.0, Los Angeles
OK, yet another take on being emasculated by the ol' ball-and-chain. But a very funny one, set in women's-wear hell. The remedy: the FloTV hand-held. CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz is simply fantastic, especially when he says, "How 'bout not?" A second spot, a baby-boom newsreel montage, reminds you to be watching TV when things happen. Nice.
Budweiser Select 55
Momentum, St. Louis
No horses, no babies, no jokes. Just 15 seconds of interesting news: "The lightest beer in the world." The brewer's best spot of the game.
We've seen this idea a lot -- anthropomorphic animals in a panic over the food chain -- but the public doesn't care about novelty. These nervous chickens will have a lot of people lined up at Denny's Tuesday for their free breakfasts.
Grey, New York
"Milko-whaaa?" Once again, adorable and hilarious toddler traders. Fair warning: The � la Xerox, � la Geico point of the campaign -- online trading so easy a baby can do it -- is getting lost in the comedy.
Of the Bowl's two men-in-skivvies spots, this is by far the funnier. Casual Friday at this stupid office is way too casual. Still, if the "I can do better than this" message is implicit, it could stand to be at least as explicit as the semi-nudity in the ad.
Electronic Arts, 'Dante's Inferno'
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Gamers like action, detail, fantasy, swords and babes. To the rest of us, all those countless pixels just represent an inner circle of hell. Turns out, we're all correct. An amazing trailer.
No pop-culture icon is too dated for the Super Bowl. This year gave us Abe Vigoda, Kiss and, here, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as the Griswolds -- from the "Vacation" comedies of the '80s. The pitch: If you don't want their luck, skip the crappy motel and rent somebody's house. It scans.
The new Honda Crosstour crossover is multifaceted, in its function and its sheet metal. It also has a lot of storage space, hence the metaphor of a squirrel stuffing objects into a tree trunk. The visual gimmick, though, is striking animation that cuts facets into each object as if it were a gemstone. Way cool.
Everybody will love the cute fiddling beaver, but, once again, a Monster spot from BBDO is simply confusing. Yeah, the furry violinist applies for jobs online, but why is he next busking in the subway before playing Carnegie Hall? It doesn't even make sense, much less illustrate the new search algorithm.
Anomaly, New York
Holy, hell ... a teen-masturbation joke on the Super Bowl! And it's funny. Even sweet (even with the Union Jack on the door. Hmm.) Megan Fox sends out a bubble-bath self-portrait and damn near brings the country to a halt. Yo, you idiots at GoDaddy, this is how you do a sexy, witty ad. Unfortunately, Fox doesn't quite properly enunciate "Motoblur" -- whatever that is -- so we don't know what makes Moto other than a commodity smartphone.
Grey, New York
Us, big fans of NFL football, but not of the NFL, an organization so authoritarian it makes Comcast look like a hippie commune. But we gotta hand it to them; this super-ultra slo-mo superbly captures the astonishing virtuosity of the players, the drama of the game and the emotion of the fan experience.
Redemption! After last year ruining a perfectly reasonable USP (you never known what a wilted mess boxed flowers will be) with cruel ridicule of homely women, the same folks found a creative solution that sharpens the pitch and lets Plain Jane triumph over her smug colleague.
Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco
An HD TV formatted for web content is dramatized by some industrial robot plucking stuff from the web culture: the "Numa Numa" song, the kid drugged from his dental visit ("Is this real life?"), Twitter, Flickr and other precious e-sources. Unnecessarily bombastic, but point taken.
Ah, the mysterious "punch buggy" phenomenon (here called "punchdub"), liberally applied beyond Beetle sightings to cover all 13 VW models, and here with adults socking one another in the shoulder. Quite adorable -- even the cheap Stevie Wonder kicker.
Prodigy Timothy Richman grows up knowing everything -- until he goes to buy a used car, whereupon he reverts to being a clueless mere mortal. Alas, the set-up is two scenes too long and begs for Timothy to be seen, at the end, flummoxed and stammering at a car lot. How did they blow this?
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
These spots might do well on the Ad Meter because they tell stories and "The Simpsons" one has a sweet ending. But they're still bad ads. "Sleepwalker" is like a warmed-over Pepsi spot from the '80s, minus even a glimmer of wit or relevance. "Hard Times" commits a blasphemy by making the Simpsons warmhearted. And "Open Happiness" will never, ever ring true.
A charming montage "manthem" to the William Tell Overture depicts the treacherous path to manhood. So far, so good. And the "be comfortable in your own skin" tag is great. But in between, nothing to explain, let alone sell, a real brand benefit for this line extension.
Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco
An Intel geek in the company lunchroom is bragging about the new Core processors -- "the greatest thing we have ever made" -- and hurts the feelings of the bus boy. Who is a robot. Ahhhh. Soooo cute.
Various outsize toys have a nighttime joyride and associated thrills in a sporty Kia Sorrento, then in the day revert to ordinary toy-ness in the backseat of the family Sorrento. Not shown: Gumby shacked up with a tranny hooker.
Charles Barkley doing some weird hybrid of rap and Dr. Seuss against a surreal backdrop that's itself a weird hybrid of the "Gotta Dance!" sequence in "Singin' in the Rain" and "Grand Theft Auto." But Chuck does mention the $5 box meal, over and over.
Anheuser-Busch: Bud Light
Cannonball, St. Louis
The new tagline is "Here we go." Nope. Here they stall. Bud Light used to be good for laughs, and even a bit of battle-of-the-sexes honesty. Now it's just obvious gags, bad acting, tired formulas and punchlines you can see coming before the opening kickoff. In five spots, the only laugh is the misogynistic kicker to a vignette about a guy stuck at his wife's book club. She: "How do you feel about 'Little Women'?" He: "I'm not too picky."
Palm & Havas, Chicago
OK, Lance Armstrong drinks its, but evidently Ultra isn't as ultra as Select 55. This is the problem with too many brand extensions.
Kiss. There's a "little kiss" of cherry in every Dr Pepper Cherry, so they show the metal band Kiss alongside midget versions of themselves. Hmm. Aging C-list rockers, tortured premise, gag stolen from "Spinal Tap," dubious line extension. Luckily, the message somehow penetrates the mediocrity.
BBDO, New York
This was "Terry Tate, linebacker" (the old Reebok spot) only with Betty White and Abe Vigoda as the tackling dummies. The joke gets less and less funny, and the selling premise -- when you're hungry, you're not yourself -- rings false compared to others spots in the campaign.
Two spots, both awful. One, titled "Payment," considers Bud as a barter item -- a germ of an idea, sprouting nothing but drivel. The other shows thirsty people forming a human bridge for the beer truck to roll over. Just unfathomably unsurprising, unimaginative, unfunny and unhelpful for the brand. Even the Clydesdale spot is regurgitated treacle -- although no doubt the AdMeter-ocrities will disagree.
Richards Group, Dallas
Are these tire ads or retreaded Bud Light spots? In one, a guy (for some reason from the post-apocalyptic future) loves his tires more than his superhot wife. Horrible. Somewhat better is a "The Hangover" ripoff, about three bachelor partiers who have somehow ended up with a whale in their SUV. No tires will be sold, however.
DraftFCB, San Francisco
This advertiser has bet $3 million that America will be so amused by men without pants, singing an anthem to pantsless-ness, that we'll be coveting khakis we barely get to see. More likely, Dockers will lose its shirt.
Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
The tag -- "Awesome Plus Awesome = Awesomer" -- is funny. The actual spot is a tortured ripoff of the Gob character on "Arrested Development," here featuring a blowhard marine-park performer who has trained humans to leap like dolphins for snack food. Lots and lots of nothing.
Grey, New York
Funny Groundhog Day bit; the mayor of Punxsutawney pulls famously furry Troy Polamalu out of the tree stump. But ... TruTV ... is what? What new show? The joke referred to what? Comedy: good. Advertising: fail.
U.S. Census Bureau
DraftFCB, New York
If you've paid attention to the serial till now, you might pick up on the limp absurdity of gathering every American to pose for a gigantic snapshot. But -- heh, heh -- we wouldn't count on it.
180, Los Angeles
Remember the "Super Bowl Shuffle," a terrible yet adorable rap by the 1985 champion Bears? Well, here's the pitiful, majorly unadorable geriatric version, brought to you for some inexplicable reason by the barely mentioned Boost Mobile. Abysmal.
One funeral, one man being choked and one gym rat being impaled in the neck by a Doritos hurled by a snack-chip-obsessed martial artist. Three "winners" proving once again that what consumers generate in their ads is mainly vulgar and trite.