Hot dogs on the gridiron have appeal, but most other ad players lack sizzle
The conventional wisdom for Super Bowl XXX was the Cowboys having the Steelers for lunch. Viewers got lunchmeat, all right: two giant weenies and a bunch of baloney.
Lots of computer animation and Emmitt Smith up the middle were plenty predictable. But who would have guessed two separate advertisers would run $1.2 million commercials featuring the Wienermobile? At 27 feet long, the world's most illustrious mobile frankfurter was used by Oscar Mayer Foods and Mail Boxes Etc., making it yesterday evening's second-biggest hot dog (right after Deion Sanders)--and one of the few genuine delights.
For who would have guessed, too, how lackluster the advertising would be? This was the year when not a single made-for-the-Super Bowl ad stood out with the epic quality, crystalline purity of brandedness or sheer entertainment value worthy of the most prominent ad venue in the world. The best spot of all, football playing Clydesdales from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, had been on the air for a month. And not a single commercial rated 4 stars.
3 1/2 STARS
Oscar Mayer. Auditions for the new "I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" kid were priceless. The goal, reinvigorating a leading brand name, is well on its way to success. J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago.
Pepsi. Amusing, as always, with three big winners: a Coke delivery man seen, by a store security camera, sneaking a Pepsi; a Pepsi-drinking goldfish named Sparky; and Deion--meep, meep!--as the Roadrunner. BBDO Worldwide, New York.
Bud Light, Bud Ice. Charton Heston said, "I love you, man,"and got the Bud Light. And, in a spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, two guys in a rickety cabin fended off...a 2-foot-tall penguin? Weird and cute, provided the brand stays with the penguin. Otherwise, just a non sequitur.
Doritos. Reasonably funny spots from Frito-Lay, especially one with a mashed-potato sculptress, that said not much about Doritos but still won points on style. BBDO, New York.
National Pork Producers Council. When one of the prettiest ads of the Super Bowl is a montage of pork recipes, that's a poor sign. A porcine poor sign. Now that the client has dropped that ridiculous "word on the street" claim, damn if that other white meat doesn't look good. Bozell, Chicago.
Primestar. Once again, the satellite TV company eschewed glitz for a copy-point-laden sales pitch. But the computer image of a programming beamed to a rented mini-dish, "starting at about a dollar a day," was the game's strongest sell. Adler Boschetto Peebles & Partners, New York.
Plymouth. More bright and attractive ads touting Chrysler Corp.'s bright and attractive line of Plymouths. The one in which a Neon coupe leaves acres of bursting popcorn in its wake was the cleverest image of the night. Bozell, Southfield, Mich.
Owens-Corning. Simple animation straightforwardly communicated brand benefits of fiberglass insulation. Still, the message was communicated and the Pink Panther, one of the great ad characters, is still batting a thousand. Fahlgren, Toledo, Ohio.
MasterCard. A cashless Aussie bush pilot used a reloadable smart card to buy a sandwich. In another spot, set in a Tim Burton-ish, subterranean lair, a cheerful old forger altering signatures of stolen credit cards was foiled by MasterCard's technology. "Smart Money"? Yeah, we'll buy that. Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York.
Nike. More Pee Wee Football, wonderfully produced by NFL Films in its characteristic slo-molodrama. The implication: Nike cares deeply about sports at every level. Duh. Pee Wee feet fast. Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Mail Boxes Etc. As seen previously on cable, the Wienermobile's office on the road can make your life easier, too. Kenneth C. Smith Advertising, San Diego.
2 1/2 STARS
McDonald's. Through the magic of computer animation, a museum's T Rex skeleton came to life to eat a security guard's large fries. By today's standards, however, a ho-hum effect--and not nearly as magical as the slice-of-life vignettes this advertiser does so well. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.
Ford trucks. Jack Palance is such a tough old cowboy, and the new F Series is so rugged, that he can rope a butte and close a river gorge with a lariat. Cheesy effect. Stupid joke. And insufferable personality. But still probably the most memorable Ford truck ad ever. JWT, Detroit.
Yamaha. It's the old gas station on the lonely highway setup with a spectral twist: the ghosts of bikers past admiring the new but hauntingly retro Royal Star. Sort of a two-wheel Miata, but not as well-evoked. Saatchi & Saatchi/Pacific, Torrance, Calif.
Toyota 4Runner. Negotiating the unforgiving terrain of the frozen north, tracked by a pack of wolves. Yes, the fetching nature footage communicated "rugged." A secondary claim about a luxurious interior, however, was unsupported by visual evidence. Saatchi & Saatchi/Pacific.
Quaker State. Handsome, perfectly respectable spots for Slick 50 fuel additive and Quaker State motor oil were mainly drowned out by the surrounding Super Din. Temerlin McClain, Dallas.
Kinko's. Goodbye, straightforward talk about service and convenience. Hello, Dali. Image-bending surrealism puts a dark, phantasmagoric cast to "The new way to office." The severity presumably is meant to convey down-to-business seriousness, but it's a disservice to the bright, inviting stores themselves.
Nissan. When last the Pathfinder was on a serialized trek, the destination was Central America. Now, as this teaser ad previewed for us, it's Africa. Nothing to build your TV viewing plans around, however, safaris I can tell. TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.
1 1/2 STARS
Master Lock. It's the Super Bowl! It's a TV event! Your country is a hellhole of crime and violence! In its 21st year on the big game, Master Lock offered a disturbing montage of urban helter-skelter, but for the first time its padlock seemed a pitifully impotent defensive measure. Cramer-Krasselt, Milwaukee.
Copyright January 1996 Crain Communications Inc.