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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Tim Tebow step aside; Jay, Dave and Oprah surprise with Super Bowl's most-talked about ad

7

February

Oprah-dave-jay-2010 Forget about Tim Tebow and abortion debates; the top commercial for me from this year's Super Bowl adfest involved another high profile fight: Jay Leno and David Letterman.

Just a week or so after the two late night hosts traded bitter barbs over the ouster of Conan O'Brien, Leno flew to New York to tape a sidesplitting, totally unexpected Super Bowl commercial with Oprah Winfrey and Letterman.

The gag, reportedly written by Letterman and requiring Leno to enter his rival's stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater in disguise, was the least expected and most entertaining among a crop of mostly mediocre advertisements decidedly lacking in the two things most expected from a Super Bowl ad: humor and spectacle.

387-116Super_Bowl_Advertising_Doritos.sff.embedded.prod_affiliate.36 Indeed, outside of Letterman's low-tech ad, the most entertaining spots came from Doritos, which held a contest asking the public to develop ads they would pay to air during the game. The best one, featuring a toddler delivering a smackdown to a disrespectful suitor for his mom, was available online for at least a week before the game.

Polls of viewers also showed high marks for spots by Snickers featuring eightysomething actress Betty White, E*Trade's famous talking babies and Super Bowl mainstay, Anheuser Busch.

FLO TV, the live portable television service also gets a nod for the best string of ads, from Will.i.am remixing "My Generation" to Jim Nantz needling a guy for missing football games by shopping with his girlfriend without the device (a razzie for the worst string of ads goes to Carmax, which seemed to think having cute animals turn and face the camera was enough to make an entertaining ad).

And Audi's much-anticipated "Green Police" video also managed a nice dig at overly draconian environmentalists -- featuring a police force that will even bust other cops for using plastic or styrofoam instead of recyclable paper -- while touting its own eco-friendlier car design.

Most other commercials could only manage a few entertaining moments -- quite a surprise given that the hefty price for Super Bowl ads kept most of them short, anyway. There was blind singer Stevie Wonder punching Tracy Morgan at the close of a spot about folks jabbing friends when they see Volkswagons on the road; Mike Ditka proclaiming "that's fresh" in a mostly lame remake of the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle video (the years have not been kind of Jim McMahon, let's just say); rapper T-Pain at the end of a monumentally annoying video voiced mostly with auto tune.

Instead, this year's Super Bowl reversed the conventional wisdom, with a thrilling game interrupted by commercials so leaden and brief, you wondered why some advertisers even bothered with the expense (GoDaddy, I'm talking to you).

AOL's Fanhouse sports site asked users to rank their fave ads, with these results:

1. "Doritos: Dog Gets Revenge    4.5  
2. "Anheuser Busch: Clydesdale Friend     4.5
3. "E-Trade: Jealous Girlfriend    4.5    
4. "Google: Parisian Love     4.5    
5. "VW: Punching Game    4.5

USA Today's poll turned out a bit differently:

The top five ads and final ratings are:

  1. Mars Snickers - Betty White and Abe Vigoda in casual football game -
     8.68
  2. Frito-Lay Doritos - Dog with bark collar rules - 8.27
  3. Anheuser-Busch Bud Light - Man builds a house out of beer cans - 7.91
  4. Anheuser-Bush - Clydesdale's friend - 7.82
  5. Coca-Cola - Sleepwalker going through rough terrain gets cold Coke -
     7.36

8_focus_family_100x75  As for the Tebows' ad, it was what you might expect -- for all the pre-broadcast news reports about an anti-abortion message, Pam Tebow made only the vaguest references to the difficulty of keeping son Tim and seeing him grow up to be the award-winning quarterback beloved by the Gator Nation.

Counting on a breathless media to spread their message before the ad even aired, Focus on the Family and the Tebows perpetrated a serious head fake -- implementing a surprisingly cynical media strategy for a group with such lofty, moral goals.

Here's the commercials I found most compelling, starting with Dave, Jay and Oprah:

And here's the Tebows' ad:

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:05pm]

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