When you pony up $4.5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial — this year's whopper price to plug away, some $500,000 more than 2014 — you'd probably like a little hype, some bang-for-your-buck hullabaloo leading into the big game.
Alas, despite that hefty expenditure, there's a distinct lack of overall chatter and buzz for the cha-chingy spots that will air during Sunday's brouhaha between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.
Online searches and views for this year's crop of sexy/sad/patriotic/fuzzy commercials are down significantly, despite two of the already-released bits involving Victoria's Secret Angels ( tbtim.es/dbo) playing football (zzzz) and a Carl's Jr. ad ( tbtim.es/dbp) blending nudity and "all-natural" cantaloupes (didn't Mike Myers officially retire that joke in his Austin Powers flicks?)
There's also the fact that some major Super Bowl commercial players are sitting out this year, including Dannon Yogurt, which reunited the Full House gang in 2014 ( tbtim.es/dbq). Those goofy ads went viral weeks before the game, which also brings up another possible question: If you can ride Super Bowl hype via social media — a tactic that costs considerably less than $4.5 million — why bother shelling out an exorbitant hunk of cash on Sunday?
After a slow start, NBC says it has sold almost all of its ad blocks. (It also calls $4.5 million for 30 seconds "a steal." Go ahead and laugh in your Froot Loops.) But generating excitement among sellers was tough, too. Eleven automakers advertised last year; far fewer will take part this year. Among those skipping this year is, regrettably, Volkswagen, which in 2011 was responsible for the greatest game spot of all time: the kid dressed as Darth Vader "starting" his pop's Passat ( tbtim.es/dbr).
In a statement that reflects the general malaise toward Super Bowl ads this year, Volkswagen said, "For 2015, we have opted to not participate due to other priorities and initiatives across all platforms. We hope to rejoin the Super Bowl when we feel it is appropriate for our brand." Jeez, talk about party pooping!
In all fairness to the current lack of buzz, more advertisers are waiting longer to tease or reveal their spots this year. This reverses a buzzkilling trend: For the past few Super Bowls, we had already seen most of the good ads on YouTube days before kickoff. A teaser for a T-Mobile ad starring Kim Kardashian, likably spoofing her narcissism and selfie addiction, was just released ( tbtim.es/dbs), and if anyone can generate online excitement, it's Kanye West's better half.
Ultimately, though, the biggest problem could be a lack of creative spark: The commercials that have been released and teased so far just aren't that compelling. Budweiser is going with the dogs-and-Clydesdales shtick again, but "Lost Puppy" ( tbtim.es/dbu) — a sequel to last year's dog-and-horse-are-besties heartwarmer ( tbtim.es/dbt) — feels played out. Of course, Anheuser-Busch InBev will have more chances on Sunday to redeem itself: The company has purchased seven 30-second ad spots, including one for Bud Light in which a dude plays a human version of Pac-Man ( tbtim.es/dbw).
Somewhat better is BMW's ad featuring Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel ( tbtim.es/dbx). It scores high on the clever scale — it spoofs old footage of the TV stalwarts having no clue what the Internet is — but lacks a zingy punch line: They have no idea how a car works. Then Katie twerks (kind of).
Mindy Kaling is usually adorkable and funny, but something's missing from a Nationwide spot where she thinks she's invisible ( tbtim.es/dc0). Plus a can't-catch-a-cab gag at the beginning of the spot has queasy racial overtones.
One commercial, however, is a flat-out winner: Toyota's "How Great I Am" ( tbtim.es/dc2) is a mashup of the athleticism and grace of Paralympic athlete Amy Purdy and a classic self-hype rant from Muhammad Ali. That one makes you weep, laugh and cheer: the rare commercial that can rival the excitement of the game itself.
Contact Sean Daly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife.