Super Bowl

Garfield: Madison Avenue Blows Big Game

On Their Biggest Day, Marketers and Agencies Field a Weak Team

By Published on .

Don't go there: GoDaddy once again covers itself in shame.
Don't go there: GoDaddy once again covers itself in shame.

And advertising people wonder why the public views them with contempt.

The industry's annual showcase Sunday featured commercials that peddled soft porn, sold soda pop as a drug, trivialized charitable causes, ridiculed ethnic Americans, terrified small children and contemplated running over a sissy with a car.

Well, isn't that just super? If this was supposed to represent the best Madison Avenue has to offer, the losers were not confined to the football game.

There were highlights, of course, as always, but watch as the complaints begin to filter in. This was a performance Madison Avenue will not soon live down.

Watch all the spots at

Grey Worldwide, New York
Kind of like Quiznos' "Baby Bob" meets the Xerox chimp ad -- i.e., trading and banking online is so easy a 6-month-old could do it. Who cares if it's derivative? It's also adorably perfect. Especially the spit-up.
Tide to Go
A job interviewee is saying all the right things, but his words are drowned out -- literally -- by a stain on his shirt that utterly distracts the interviewer. The (animated) brownish mark is overtalking the poor job candidate in loud gibberish. A brilliant Cannes winner repurposed.
Bud Light
DDB, Chicago
This spot gave us today's water-cooler catchphrase. After fashioning a circular stone and using it as the world's heaviest tray, insufficiently evolved Neanderthals grunt: "Wheel suck!" LOL.
Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco
To introduce the screaming-fast R8 luxury sports car, this is the "Godfather" horse-head-in-the-bed scene, complete with the bloodcurdling shrieks -- only the "head" is the hood of an old-line luxury car. Very funny, but seriously, did it terrify small children?
Richards Group, Dallas
More screaming -- this time because an ittybittywiddle squirrel is square in the path of a speeding Saab Turbo. The driver's wife screams, all the woodland creatures scream, but no harm comes to the rodent because of nimble tires. Point taken. Non-traumatic hollering. Cute.
Bud Light
DDB, Chicago
Superior drinkability and the ability to breathe fire and fly. The goofy claims are made (breathe fire is quite funny, ability to fly -- not so much) then seen backfiring and then withdrawn, like a Budget-rental-car campaign a couple of years back. Meanwhile, a classically Bud Light battle-of-the-sexes spot shows guys smuggling Bud Light and a TV into a wine-and-cheese party. And most hilariously, Will Ferrell in character as a semipro basketball player endorsing Bud Light: "Suck one." (See "Wheel suck!" above).
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Stewie from "Family Guy" and Underdog are Macy's-Thanksgiving-parade floats fighting over a Coke-bottle float. The epic struggle ends when Charlie Brown, at long last, is the winner. Sweet, if a long, expensive way to go for a national "Awww!"
Diet Pepsi Max
BBDO Worldwide, New York
Everybody keeps nodding off because they're undercaffeinated. But when they swig Diet Pepsi Max, they can use their swivel necks to dance. Cute, if you don't mind soda pop being sold as an upper. (See White House Office of Drug Control Policy, below.)
Kina Grannis, Austin, Texas
From consumer-generated spots to consumer-generated songs, Doritos plays "American Idol" at $100,000 per second. The charming and talented Kina is nacho average talent, and the gamble should pay off.
In-house/BBDO Worldwide, New York
Chester Pitts: supermarket bagger to college walk-on to Houston Texans starter. Amazing Horatio Alger story charmingly told. Shame it isn't entirely true. Shame his team sucks.
BBDO Worldwide, New York
Serial pratfalls by the sporting and surprisingly witty Justin Timberlake, as he is pulled repeatedly into harm's way by a mysterious force: people sucking Pepsi through straws to get closer to free Justin MP3s "with every sip." Classically BBDO (in a good way).
Like last year's, these ads are simultaneously horrible and good, because the "Glengarry Glen Ross" crowd doesn't care whether the cartoons -- written by founder Vin Gupta -- are funny (they aren't) or verging on racist (the "comical" Indian and Chinese accents!). No, salespeople just want leads and will flock here to buy them.
Under Armour
This one is "Madden" meets "The Matrix." A bit jumbled -- and a lot militant -- for our tastes, but our tastes have nothing to do with it. The market is angry, alienated young people and this presses their buttons without actually inciting disrespect or worse.
DDB, Chicago
Built to spec for the USA Today Ad Meter. An also-ran Clydesdale gets a year of training from the beer-wagon Dalmatian and finally makes the team. We gag; many more will mist up, the saps.
DDB, Chicago does such a good job preparing you to dicker for a used car, you won't need to resort to negotiation Plan B: witch doctors and Glondor, the tattooed ancient warrior. Amusing in a classically gratuitous, uninformative Super Bowl way.
BBDO Worldwide, New York
Like Budget rental car and, this year, Bud Light, FedEx tries the "what if/never mind" comedy genre with a giant carrier pigeon that doesn't quite do the job. Good execution of an increasingly tired idea. The "stay with what's safe" message barely survives the commotion.
Well, they've made some progress since last year's mystifying map-eating monster. This year, along with the baffling action, we get to witness the GPS in action, in Paris. Plus there's some suspense: Why can't we see the driver of the '60s Euro subcompact scooting through Paris? Ah, because it's ... Napoleon! Who is short. Get it? So he can't see through the windshield and needs navigation help. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
White House Office of Drug Control Policy
DraftFCB, New York
Your own home medicine cabinet, filled with pharmaceuticals, is putting the corner drug dealer out of business. (So that's where the Lipitor has been going!) Okay, it's a bit overstated, but point taken.
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Does nobody realize that small kids watch the Super Bowl? Two spots -- one with a Disney-esque animated firefly getting eaten by a spider, another with a human heart ripped from a woman's chest -- surely freaked out kids from coast to coast. Meantime, these people had a great spot (a guy meeting many far-more-happily employed versions of himself) and buried it in the postgame. Yo, leave the bunker now and then.
Gatorade G2
Element 79, Chicago
The Yankees' Derek Jeter tries to make off-the-field "hydration" sound like more than a shameless, empty marketing gimmick. He fails.
Glaceau Vitaminwater
Berlin Cameron United, New York
The horserace with Shaq as a jockey is semi-amusing and semi-riveting, but what does it have to do with vitamin water (whatever that is)? Perhaps that message is coded in the announcer's too-fast-to-register call of the race. You know: semiotics.
GMC Yukon
Leo Burnett, Los Angeles
To introduce the Yukon Hybrid SUV, an animated Sisyphus. Great visuals, but wait ... Sisyphus? He pushed and pushed and pushed, but that boulder never did get to the top of the hill.
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
To introduce the Genesis luxury sedan. Roomy, powerful and affordable. So was a Ford Galaxie 500. "We're not sure what USA Today's Ad Meter will say about this ad," the voice-over says. Really? We are.
NFL Network
Triple Double, Santa Monica, Calif.
A decent idea: Preseason predictions come to naught. But badly performed, directed and cut -- with (supremely) predictable results.
Bud Light
LatinWorks, Austin, Texas
Comic Carlos Mencia reprises his tutorial for funny-talking immigrants. Ha ha! The nerdy Indian dude winds up with the babes! Never saw that comin'!
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Democrat James Carville and Republican Bill Frist can't agree on anything ... but cool, refreshing Coca-Cola. No doubt this topical ad will just tickle folks to death, but it's still mega-unfunny. It is to wit what Blair is to fashion. Hard to believe Wieden was involved. Harder to believe: Frist is even a worse actor than he was a senator.
Mother, New York
Laptop as chick magnet. Yeah, right. Let's momentarily accept the cause-marketing justness of using dying Africans as a merchandising opportunity, as the Red campaign does. So isn't saving lives sufficient motivation? Does a Red computer really need to be positioned like Axe?
Ice Breakers
Tracy Locke, Dallas
Carmen Electra at autograph time, meeting one freak after another. But when a piece of minty chewing gum makes her say "Whoa," her goons tackle the poor guy who gave her the gum. Stupid, yeah, but no matter. It's really about her breasts anyway.
SoBe Life Water
Arnell Group, New York
The ultra-connected Peter Arnell somehow got Michael Jackson to license "Thriller" and Naomi Campbell to dance (very badly, with lizards) to introduce SoBe life water, whatever the hell that is. The ad doesn't say or do anything else right. In fact, it is 60 seconds of "Huh?" Oh, well. SoBe it.
Desgrippes Gobe, Paris
Marilyn Monroe, Shakira, Madonna. "Their hair tells their story." No, it doesn't.
Taco Bell
DraftFCB, Irvine, Calif.
It's lunchtime Mexican food, so that means ... a mariachi band in the office! Now there's some $100,000-per-second thinking. Ay caramba.
Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles
Half stolen from an old Trident Super Bowl spot, half stolen from an old Super Bowl spot. Don't awaken the badger or it will attack you -- but luckily you're in a quiet new Corolla. An unfunnily edited rehash of a familiar-looking gag. Also, because it's "comic" hyperbole, it's unpersuasive. A second spot, for the Sequoia, shows a grown man in a tricycle race with kids -- because he knows that and SUV ownership is how to get the most out of life. Oh, shut up.
Della Femina, Rothschild, Jeary & Partners, New York
Hey, it's the big game, so let's have the guys in our spot watching the big game! And we'll have some cheerleaders cartwheeling in the TV room, for no clear reason! All to advertise a product soon to be Blu-Rayed into extinction!
Richards Group, Dallas
Swerve to avoid a deer. Swerve to avoid a ghoul (Alice Cooper, by the way). But if it's mincing, prancing Richard Simmons, at least give thought to running him over. Ha ha. Yeah, he trades on his own annoying, cartoonish effeminacy, but this still seems awfully mean -- and homophobic -- to us.
Speaking of insufficiently evolved Neanderthals, the promised (and surely not delivered) striptease with race-car driver Danica Patrick will drive millions of boy-men to but through the most sexist and adolescent means. There awaits a hilarious joke turning on the word "beaver." CEO Bob Parsons wants this to be outrageous. But it isn't. Just sad.
Victoria's Secret
If GoDaddy's website disappoints, boys, no worries. This advertiser has his back. After the game, the naughty lingerie folks invite you to click onto and masturbate to a supermodel.
Planters Nuts
DraftFCB, New York
Had to watch it six times to get it; turns out to be another Axe commercial. Ugly Betty-ish unibrow girl turns heads all day because she uses mixed nuts as fragrance. Terrible beyond belief.
Ronald McDonald House Charities
DDB, Chicago
A lovely tearjerker about a Ronald-McDonald-House-alumna-turned-healthy-mom turns grotesque in the last second when the McDonald's logo and "I'm lovin' it" flash onscreen. This charity long prospered because it never conflated the brand with the cause, leaving viewers to connect the dots. The branding here is a slap in the face. Shame on them.
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