Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl Commercials: Ten Themes

This past Sunday, couched in one of the world’s largest annual sporting events, a series of television ads aired. Maybe you’ve heard of them: they’re called Super Bowl Commercials. And they are subject to much critical analysis in the aftermath of their airing.

So who am I resist jumping on the criticism band wagon? Of course, I gotta put a Pr*tty Sh*tty spin on the whole thing, so don’t expect a Top Ten list. Don’t even expect me to address some of the best ads shown—including my two personal favorites—or the worst, for that matter.

Instead, forthwith, I give you, in no particular order, Ten Themes present in this year’s—and arguably every year’s—Super Bowl showcase, and offer up a Pr*tty and Sh*tty version of each.

Sex Sells?
Finally, mattress makers address the fact that people do it on their products. Apparently springs are important, the implication being that foam and water beds hinder proper coital maneuverings (anyone care to refute?).

Meanwhile, Kim K. wants to f*ck her shoes. Or something.

Dystopian Alternate Realities
A bold move calling out Apple (even subtly) as just another part of the Orwellian machinations of personal electronics consumption. Instead of a thrown hammer, we get a softer touch, and that’s ok, too. This ad also fits nicely into another theme on this list: Dating In The Digital Age.

Meanwhile, the Droid’s thumbs just made me throw up in the 7 layer bean dip. And why on earth is the set up for this ad a guy carrying scissors? He was sent on a special mission to retrieve some rusty, big ass scissors... to cut some delicate gauze? No.

The Way Things Were
Surprisingly, Chevy had some decent ads this year. And this one strikes the right tone of building on a history of American innovation, and hard work. Reminiscent of, if not entirely effective as, the commercial for Johnnie Walker I reviewed here before.

Meanwhile, Hyundai tries to boast about progress, while taking a big steaming dump on nostalgia. Apparently clothing, architecture, and bicycle helmets are immune to this time warp.

Commercials About Making Commercials
A clever, self-deprecating look at the genre of sports car commercials, that never actually strays from the genre. Nicely played.

Meanwhile, Justron Bieber thinks it’s cool to portray hard-working key grips as fugly pop-illiterates. Nice to see the Geico cavemen make-up artists are still getting work. Also fits nicely into the next category...

One Punchline Will Do, Thank You
Silly perhaps, but it’s got a proper setup and punctuates nicely with the punchline. The added touch of dust coming off of Grandpa brings it on home.

Meanwhile, there’s not enough of a build up toward the finger-licking punchline here. That moment is still kind of funny, but then the weirdo says, “mmm, cheese” and it gets all perverted. Time to spare? Tack on another punchline and up the perversion ante. Good thinking.

Babies, Baby
It’s fair to say the E-Trade talking babies have worn out their welcome. But the inclusion, at the end, of spontaneous baby-ness that happens during shooting lends the little bastard some genuine humanity. They could have edited and digitally crafted the perfect scenario, but they rolled with the punches, and I dig that. Is that Nicky Katt doing the voice?

Meanwhile, launching babies into windows is apparently funny, as long as you give it a gelatinous face and have your annoying spokesman say “test baby” afterward. Never mind the fact that I have no idea what this commercial is actually selling.

Puppet Rappers
Well paced. Well animated. Smartly written. Stays on-brand. Might actually sell some tea. I’ll admit, Eminem’s declaration of not doing commercials brings into question why this is one of two ads he was in this Super Bowl, but oh well. This also fits in the category of Commercials About Making Commercials for those of you designing an infographic matrix of Super Bowl commercial themes.

Meanwhile, yes, barely qualifies as a rapper, and he’s not technically a puppet, but you get what I’m saying. Despite lots of explanation about what I can do with, I’m still not sure why I should use it. And am I the only one who thought this was another Windows “Cloud” commercial at first?

Dating In The Digital Age
I’m just old enough to wonder how useful a Facebook connection while driving is, and why it’s an incentive to buy a car, but the budding romance feels genuine and sweet.

Meanwhile, this is setting up a sappy but charming reveal where we discover he’s actually writing to Faith Hill. Instead we get a tit joke. Guys sure is stupid, ain’t we?

Cars Reinvent Their Legacies
The gospel choir seems a bit much, and throws off the timing of the “Motor City” line, but this is still a powerful ad. And the tagline “Imported From Detroit” is nothing short of genius.

Meanwhile, Kia wants us to believe this ride is epic. Cut to a bunch of disappointed Apocalypto extras who are just realizing it’s a Kia.

Clever Critters
Nice beaver. Miss you Leslie.

Meanwhile, everything about Bud Light’s branding continues to make me glad I don’t drink, while simultaneously making me wish I did.


  1. Thank you for collecting all these ads so I didn't have to sit through a football game to see them.

  2. Thought you might be interested in USA Today feature on veiwer rankings for the ads.

  3. for the literati, Fahrenheit 451 would have been a better match in the Motorola ad than 1984 … but i guess more people 'know' about 1984 without having necessarily read it!