Super Bowl

Bob Garfield Reviews the Super Bowl Ads

Plus, Watch the Garfield Post-Game Video Interview

By Published on .

Hope you enjoyed the Sell-Out Bowl.

Speaking for all aging baby boomers, we were delighted to see that the Rolling Stones lived long enough to perform

Garfield names his best and worst of the Super Bowl.
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at halftime. The only pity is that the band, which rocked the 15th century world with its anti-commercialism anthem "Satisfaction," was sponsored by Sprint-Nextel. Should have been Fossil.

Actually, we've all long since become comfortable with the idea of the Rolling Stones as a cottage industry. The shocker Sunday night was seeing our beloved Kermit the Frog whore himself to Ford Motor Co.

"It isn't easy being green," Kermit crooned. No, but evidently it's pretty easy counting it. We admit this was a perfect way to promote Ford's Escape hybrid SUV, but good Lord. When Sesame Street characters start taking spokespuppet deals, can the end of civilization be far behind? Big Bird, check your BlackBerry. Burger King wants to film you in a garter belt.

Then there was, last year's heroic defender of cheeky speech, this year cashing out for a zillion dollars worth of cheap publicity over a sleazy, unfunny breast-capade. What a discouraging night. The only thing that didn't immediately sell out, it seems, was the ad inventory itself.

Budweiser, DDB, Chicago
It's easy to trot out special effects, but it isn't easy to make them special. That requires understanding the jadedness of the audience and the confining nature of the small screen. Bud manages to wow the crowd by using computer graphics to simulate the oldest special effect of all�stadium cards. Simply stunning.

Burger King, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami
The latest in the storied genre of overproduced, tongue-in-cheek floor-show production numbers: The Whopperettes, dancers dressed as hamburger ingredients. The costumes are magnificent and hilarious. (The tomato could be in a couture collection. The beef patty couldn't.) But the payoff comes when the creepy king pulls a cannon lanyard to unleash sandwich assembly. It's vivid, we'll say that. And what the GoDaddy babe was last year, the King's fianc�e Brooke Burke will be in 2006.

Dove, Ogilvy & Mather, London
We remain skeptical of this campaign on hypocrisy grounds, but as the father of three daughters we can't but root for Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" to cultivate girls' self-esteem. Body-image obsession is a corrosive force, and the sentiment behind this beautifully photographed spot is unassailable. Though these children aren't models, they're absolutely lovely.

FedEx, BBDO, New York
A prehistoric air express delivery�of a stick, via pterodactyl�is stymied by a hungry tyrannosaurus, leading to the first-ever mailroom firing. Adorable and funny. Also, how can you fault a strategy (nobody ever lost his job for choosing FedEx) that's 40 million years old?

Ford, JWT, Detroit
We really can't blame Kermit for taking this gig, because he doesn't actually exist. And we can't blame Ford for making a tart of him. This is a charming, charming way to overpromise the eco-benefits of a hybrid SUV.

Hummer, Modernista, Boston
We like this spot in the Super Bowl more than we did when it broke on mere-mortal TV. Monsters give birth to a cute, little(r) H3.

MobileESPN, Arnold, Boston
A guy walks down the street in a city populated only with athletes in competition�from baseball to bass fishing. In other words, in ESPN's familiarly eccentric style, total sports immersion. In other words, according to the ad, "Heaven." We concur.

Motorola Moto Pebl, 180 Amsterdam, Amsterdam
A meteor falls to Earth and erodes over the eons, eventually washing up on a beach as a Pebl wireless phone. A good idea exquisitely realized. The coolest spot on the Super Bowl.

Newell Rubbermaid's Sharpie, McCann Erickson, New York
How to introduce a retractable Sharpie? Why, with a theme-park pirate, of course. He can't pull off the cap because he wears a hook, so now he can sign autographs for little kids with ease. The guy in the pirate get-up is great. So is the ad.

Sprint-Nextel, TBWA, New York
This is not the USA Today ad meter, OK? This is not a who-can-make-me-laugh-loudest contest. This is about selling messages and strategy and reaching the consumer. That said, the guying throwing his Sprint phone at the other guy's head to demonstrate the "crime-deterrent" function will make beer spurt out of America's nose. A second spot, about music downloads, is more absurd and almost as funny.

American Home Health,
Ronin Advertising, Coconut Grove, Fla.

You can go to great lengths to prevent germs�wearing a biohazard suit 24/7�or you can use the new PS line of disinfectants. A solid product intro�despite dreadful packaging and logotype.

American Honda Motor Co.,
Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.
The pinup silhouette on the mud flaps of your truck comes alive and slinks into the passenger's seat of the newish Honda Ridgeline pickup. A simple and witty way to reach the blue-collar male�compared to the testosterone-poisoned appeal to the same audience for Coke's new energy drink (see FullThrottle, below).

Ameriquest, DDB Direct, Venice, Calif.
We were probably insufficiently exuberant about last year's spots, which were brilliantly, hilariously acted and directed. We doubted that the selling point�Ameriquest doesn't rush to judgment on your loan application�was clear enough. This year, we have no such concerns, but the spots just aren't as crisp and funny. One, about a woman trying to squeeze from her coach seat to the aisle, is plausibly funny. The other, about the abuse of defibrillation paddles, is just absurd.

Beer Institute, DDB, Chicago
In reaction to a steady drift toward harder drinks, this is really an Anheuser-Busch spot in support of the entire industry. It's a surprisingly unsentimental ad that merely shows beer drinkers young and old, from the world 'round, toasting in their native language. It's a reminder that beer is not just a refreshing beverage and means of getting stinking blotto, but also a cherished tradition and important thread in the social fabric. OK, we'll drink to that.

Budweiser, DDB Chicago
Clydesdale colt sneaks into barn and harnesses himself to the Bud beer wagon, as the adults (equine and human) look on. Go ahead; you sniffle. We're gonna puke. We're more partial to a second cute critters spot, "Superfan," the latest in the charming animal-football-game series�only this gridiron contest is interrupted by a little lamb trotting through the action. A streaker, see? Cute, yes, but this one bypasses the gag reflex., Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago
The chimpanzees are back, and we have to give them their due. Last year, they propelled CareerBuilder to 75% revenue growth and arguably supremacy in the online-resume category, despite our skepticism about the allure of malcontents who deem their coworkers a bunch of monkeys. This year's spots aren't as funny as last year's, but no doubt the Web site will be inundated once again�whereupon prospects will encounter Monk-e-mail, history's third-greatest human achievement, after only democracy and Velcro. Send a message with a chimp lip-synching your voice.

Degree, Lowe Worldwide, New York
Revisiting Stunt City, where nothing is done the easy way and commuting to work is a hair-raising thrill ride. This is cool and funny and way fun, even if the tail of the TV-spot premise seems to wag the dog of the positioning: "Three times the protection for men who take risks." Risks?

Emerald Nuts,
Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

Machete enthusiasts? A networking druid? The idea to using tortured mnemonics to remember Emerald Nuts is inspired�because the letter associations are so overwrought nobody could ever remember them�which is exactly why they will remember Emerald Nuts. Suddenly a badly designed logo on a low-interest product will be a shopper magnet at retail. This brand is basically putting all of its nuts in one sack at Super Bowl time, and it will pay off., In-house, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Last year its send-up of craven censorship was sly and heroic. This year's follow up is just a cheesy, gratuitous bosom show, displaying no wit whatsoever. No matter. This advertiser's Super Bowl campaign ran for two weeks before the game, a contrived stunt of getting 14 previous versions of this spot rejected by ABC. Cynical genius. If only the network had nixed 15, as well.

Michelob Ultra Amber, Cannonball, St. Louis
Terry Tate lives, in spirit anyway. The clever introduction of a darker light beer uses the metaphor of a co-ed touch-football game suddenly getting very serious: a cute babe being body slammed by her male opponent. The joke isn't new, but it's still very funny�and exponentially more relevant than it was in the old Reebok campaign.

Sierra Mist, BBDO, New York
This ad hoc improv act, The Mist-Takes� is just plain funny, and the bit with the TSA employee wanding a Sierra Mist bottle is terrific. Not the most eloquent selling message, but nice brand attitude.

Toyota Tacoma,
Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, Torrance, Calif.

A good example of Super Bowl cinema: simple and dramatic. Some moron leaves his pickup on the beach at low tide. It is soon swallowed and battered by the surf. But when the dope returns, when the tide is again low and the truck back above the water line, he jumps in and drives away. Indestructible, is the message.

United Airlines, Fallon Minneapolis
Another magnificently animated vignette�this time the technique is something like orgami�with layered paper for texture. The story itself is St. George and the Dragon through the eyes of the modern, travel-afflicted road warrior. The slain monster winds up being a toy for the kid. For the cities in this limited spot buy, a lovely interlude designed to assure that United understands and cares. As if. Oh, United does understand your problems. It does not, however, care.

Aleve, BBDO, New York
Leonard Nimoy? What, Clutch Cargo was unavailable? Our sense of dignity wants to be repulsed by a 2006 TV commercial about Mr. Spock. But, well, this is about occasional arthritis pain, such as does increasingly affect the hands of aging baby boomers. And they all know the Vulcan sign of peace. No masterpiece, this, but no embarrassment, either. It does the job.

Bud Light, DDB Chicago
Under pressure to tone down the vulgarity, this year the advertiser appealed to its arrested-adolescent target with a series of loud noises. Crazed employees ransacking the office for hidden bottles, whooping knuckleheads charged up because a miracle revolving beer fridge keeps appearing in their kitchen, a honey-do-list-bearing hubby crashing through a flimsy roof and a hiker encounter a grizzly. Can we go back to slinky women? This stuff isn't as funny and it's giving us a headache.

Cadillac Escalade,
Leo Burnett Detroit, Troy, Mich.

This is beauty photography, ostensibly eye-catching and sexy, in which slinky, exotic runway models strut their couture fashions while dripping with liquid chrome. Then, up from the vat, rises the 2006 Escalade, also slick with chrome. The visual is designed to stop you in your tracks. It won't.

Coca-Cola's FullThrottle, Mother, New York
In the spot immediately before kickoff, a message to the world's philistines. Never mind that sissy Red Bull swill, FullThrottle is the liquid meth for real men. The trucking industry is displeased with the characterization, but the wife-beater set will drink this idiocy up. Sigh.

Diet Pepsi, DDB, New York
Will this brand never get beyond superficial associations with celebrity? In one spot, a Diet Pepsi can�agented by Jay Mohr�co-stars in an action flick with Jackie Chan. In the other, the can cuts a record for P Diddy. Ha! Ha! Three entertainers with diminishing relevance to the target audience! It's formulaic advertising, and the formula is rapidly losing potency.

Gillette Fusion, BBDO, New York
This commercial is self-parody. The best a man can get is now six blades and optional battery power. The explanation, via close-up animation, is the usual. It's not terrible advertising. It's not even terrible Super Bowl advertising. It's just unintentionally hilarious.

Westin, Deutsch, New York
That swirling, bluish void you see is either a near-death experience or the air at the new smoke-free Westin. Very creepy 'til the explanation comes. But the explanation creates an instant USP.

MasterCard, McCann Erickson, New York
An advertising rubric that all of America understands? Priceless. The cost of a spot last night? $2.5 million. How much we'd have spent to cast Richard Dean Anderson vaguely making fun of his old adventure series for no particular reason whatsoever? Zilch.

Nationwide, TM Advertising, Dallas
It has all the Super Bowl ad elements: famous face, exotic venue, comedy twist. Alas, the famous face is Fabio, the pulp-romance model. The venue is Venice, which is irrelevant. And the comedy is uncomical. The lucky lass has Fabio as her gondolier, but when he passes the Bridge of Sighs, he becomes a gnarly old guy. Um ... why? If it's because "life comes at you fast" so you need insurance to be ready, we almost get it, but let's just say we're not especially motivated.

NFL, Triple Double, Venice, Calif.
It's official. Football is a religion. The Super Bowl is a sacrament. And we are all blessed. Sappy, self-congratulatory, but also probably true.

Toyota, Conill, Los Angeles
Is the Hispanic population deemed too unsophisticated, too sentimental, too susceptible to appreciate a modicum of wit, verisimilitude or at least respect in its advertising? This spot, which plays on the idea of hybrid technology by showing a Latino speaking in accented English with his English-speaking little boy, treats the viewer like a moron. Is this how you cultivate an audience�by condescending to it? Embarrassing.

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