Sunday, December 17, 2017
TV and Media

Super Bowl ads short on inspiration

When the game-halting emergency of a 35-minute power outage brings more excitement than half the commercials at the Super Bowl, you know there's something seriously wrong.

But Twitter was ablaze Sunday night with TV fans decrying the state of advertising during the big game, when upwards of 30 companies shelled out $4 million per 30 seconds to reach the biggest audience in television.

One surprise came after halftime, when the Church of Scientology ran an ad that aired in several large TV markets, including Tampa/St. Petersburg, reaching out to new people amid a flurry of news stories featuring longtime members criticizing the organization's current leadership.

The commercial seemed to be a 30-second version of the church's "Knowledge" ad, which features visuals of several attractive people looking at the camera while a voiceover notes "in the eternal debate for answers, the one thing that's true, is what's true for you."

CBS also replayed a couple of commercials for Subway and Budweiser that aired close to the blackout. At $4 million a shot, the network had to make sure everyone got their money's worth. (the swiftest promotion may have come from Oreo, which tweeted a picture of a glowing Oreo during the blackout with the tagline "you can still dunk in the dark.")

The title for most reviled ad likely went to online domain name purveyors Go Daddy, whose commercial featuring model Bar Refaeli noisily kissing an overweight, unattractive computer-using nerd drew loads of complaints online.

Even former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele weighed in, tweeting: "That #godaddy commercial was VERY DISTURBING." The question left for ad experts: Is it a triumph to create an ad everyone talks about because it repulses them?

Other lowlights were numerous and disappointing. Why did Budweiser hire an American icon like Stevie Wonder, then stick him in a pointless ad blessing a cobbled together voodoo doll?.

A commercial for Lincoln cars cobbled together by messages from late night host Jimmy Fallon's Twitter followers featured a German student hitchhiker who gets married by former rap star Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons from Run DMC. Huh?

And an ad featuring Korean rap star Psy pitching pistachio nuts — "crackin' Gangnam Style" — would have been very hip … back in July. On Sunday, it felt like Psy was cracking on his 14th minute of fame.

On the plus side, Taco Bell's "Viva Young" ad, featuring a group of seniors who sneak out of a retirement home for a night on the town, remained a highlight, along with a Budweiser ad featuring an emotional reunion between a trainer and a Clydesdale horse, years after the colt had grown.

Celebritywise, Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco lit up an ad for Toyota's Rav 4, playing a genie who made the car's emergency wheel vanish when an overweight driver wished for her to get rid of his "old spare tire."

And the NFL seemed to take a shot at President Barack Obama, who had said he would think hard before allowing a son to play football given the controversy over concussions. A brief spot featuring kids playing the game flashed a phrase "forever football," in a subtle pushback.

Overall, the ads seemed to lack the surprises and creativity of past years; long on computer graphics and flash but short on real inspiration.

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