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Commercials lack creativity

This might be the first year the Super Bowl ad lineup was more notable for what it didn't air than what it did.

After all, how could any real-life commercial compare with the pregame drama that unfolded over CBS' decision to nix ads from, a liberal political group, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group?

Forget about former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka speechifying on the erectile dysfunction pill Levitra (though he never really explained what it was).

And look past Tampa Bay Devil Rays adviser Don Zimmer asking a Willie Nelson advice doll for counsel before his infamous scrape with Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez (the doll, shown in different situations giving pointedly awful advice, was Nelson's second spot for tax preparers H&R Block).

Instead, Sunday's lineup of commercials might have left you wondering why CBS believed it was okay to air spots featuring a flatulating horse and a man bitten in the crotch by a dog while "advocacy" ads criticizing George W. Bush and advocating for animals were considered out of bounds.

The real answer, of course, is that Super Bowl ads are calculated for mindless fun, an orgy of consumerism that cost a whopping $2.25-million per 30 seconds this year. That's $160-million in total revenue to protect.

(The irony of TV ditz Jessica Simpson following a videotaped montage of celebrities urging kids to choose voting _ kicking off the halftime show by shouting "Choose to partaaay!" _ should be lost on no one.)

In truth, this year offered few signature spots to compare with last year's Osbournes ad or the 2000 spot featuring quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve rising from his wheelchair.

And the malaise reached across the dial. While NBC last year offered a cheeky "Weekend Update" segment to steal attention from the halftime show, this time, they simply rebroadcast Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (Alas, The Lingerie Bowl, featuring women playing football in skimpy outfits, played out on pay-per-view.)

Ad-wise, viewers saw a hissing alien wearing a mask who fools his human co-workers by repeating "Why don't we use FedEx?"; a Pepsi/iTunes ad featuring kids prosecuted for downloading copyrighted music and an anti-smoking ad that compares manufacturing cigarettes with selling Popsicles embedded with shards of glass.

Alert viewers probably caught the evening's best commercial days earlier, as Mastercard peppered the press with its hilarious parody of its "priceless" commercials as done by The Simpsons.

(The evening's oddest moment, when pop star Justin Timberlake pulled off Janet Jackson's clothing to reveal a naked breast during the halftime show, seemed weirdly exploitive and unnecessarily explicit.)

More than a coming-out for status-seeking businesses, Super Bowl ads can be a bona fide stamp of approval for emerging pop culture trends.

This year, that roster included the boisterously bickering Teutul family at the heart of Discovery Channel's American Chopper series (featured in AOL's Top Speed ads souping up a chopper with disastrous results) and MTV-bred dim bulb Simpson, who clowned with the Muppets for Pizza Hut.

Some ads pushed past the boundaries of good taste, including first-time Super Bowl advertiser Charmin's spot with a quarterback admiring the softness of a toilet paper strip sticking out of a center's pants. Really.

Aimed at an estimated audience of 100-million, CBS' flood of in-house promos _ including so many ads for hit Everybody Loves Raymond, it's obvious they're still begging producers to return next season _ left you wondering if that $2.25-million price tag didn't slow ad sales a bit; explaining the decided lack of inspired spots this time around.

Downloading music off the Internet led to Annie Leith being sued by seven major record labels. However, it also led to the 14-year-old starring in a Pepsi commercial for a two-month offer of free downloads.