Super Bowl Ads

23:44 Sun 04 Feb 2007. Updated: 00:45 05 Feb 2007
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I’ll probably write about the game itself at some point, but wow, I thought the ads were terrible.

I’m somewhat biased, in taht I tend to dislike advertising anyway, and my tolerance is lower because I haven’t watched television for months, but still, I thought they were really bad ads.

The first Sierra Mist ad consisted of an office scene where the “cool” manager was firing an employee who had a horrible beard-to-head combover. So that ad is basically about making up a character who looks weird and then ostracizing him to reinforce how cool you are—and, by association, how cool the product is. Hardly an original formula.

There was a Snickers ad involving two male mechanics who end up kissing by accident through distractedly eating the same bar from different ends, and who then freak out and feel they have to do something “masculine” to offset this, and tear hair off their chests. I don’t even know where to begin with that one.

There were a bunch of bad Bud Light ads, including some suggesting violence as a way to get Bud Light, and another essentially both making fun of immigrants and welcoming them into the false camaraderie of Bud Light drinkers. “We’re going to laugh at you and consider you inferior until you assimilate, but along the way your best bet to appear more like a ‘real American’ is to drink Bud.”

Yes, I’m aware that the ads are supposed to be funny. But they didn’t seem funny to me, somehow. Also, of course, the “it’s a joke” defense doesn’t work so well for advertising, because the truth is it’s not a joke, it’s a hugely-expensive attempt to manipulate the viewer. This attempt may be wrapped in humor, but that doesn’t mean its essence is humor. Its essence is manipulation through insecurity. And various kinds of mockery that I might consider just fine in comedy aren’t fine at all when part of serious attempts to instill insecurity.

Another Bud Light ad featured lobsters worshipping an ice cooler with Bud in it because it looked like a giant lobster… that was kind of clever, but on the other hand pushed you to want lobster a lot more than Bud Light.

One ad that I just didn’t think worked was a bunch of Chevy owners singing along to songs that celebrated Chevy cars. Maybe it’s just me, but the entire time during that ad, all I could think of was “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”.

A Coke ad that featured an animated fantasy land in which various quirky magical creatures put a bottle of Coke together (for eventual delivery to consumer) was interesting to me because it suggested that the way Coke was cooled in this land was by creating snowmen who were then butchered in a cross between a sausage grinder and a fan, their remains sprinkling over the bottle to cool it down.

I liked a GM ad in which an assembly robot has a nightmare about losing its job at GM and struggling to make a living afterwards, mainly because they animated the robot really well and made it quite expressive. (Of course, you could also look at it as a parable about the heartlessness of capitalism, firing a worker for dropping a bolt…).

Anyway. They were terrible, and the fact that they’re clearly effective (otherwise they wouldn’t be used) is just scary. As is the fact that they don’t just reflect the wider culture, but attempt to shape that wider culture—scarier still, those attempts are quite successful.

2 Responses to “Super Bowl Ads”

  1. Frank Says:

    Heh, the worst part was trying to use GoDaddy today. You’d think they’d have figured out how to handle the load.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Wow, that is pretty bad. I wonder if that’s down to cheapness or incompetence.

    Of course, it’s also disturbing that the ads have such an obvious impact. Not surprising per se, just disturbing…

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