Super Bowl ads amusing, but missing wackiness of past years
Updated: Monday February 2, 2004 1:55PM
By Dan George, SI.com
Remember the good old days when the Super Bowl was dull but the commercials were great?
The New England Patriots' 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII may have been the most thrilling NFL title game ever. Too bad the ads, traditionally the most entertaining part of TV's biggest sporting event, didn't quite measure up.
Oh, don't get us wrong. There were some amusing spots -- it's hard to go wrong with talking monkeys or flatulent horses -- but when a trailer for Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates is giving them a run for the funny, you know something's not quite right.
And that's unfortunate, given that at least one survey shows that two out every five Super Bowl viewers -- estimated at about 90 million for XXXVIII -- tune in for the commercials. Not to mention that this year's ads cost an average of $2.25 million per 30 seconds, up 7 percent from 2003.
Some highs and lows:
Best monkey ad: A chimpanzee not only talks but also puts the moves on his owner's girlfriend while the guy is getting some Bud Light. Best back hair ad, too, although sadly we never do find out how she feels about it.
Second-best monkey ad: Guy walks around with a monkey on his back in search of a family car that's cool (turns out it's a Dodge Magnum). Glad to see that chimp from the old E*Trade ads is still finding work.
Second-best back hair ad: Family needs a special car (turns out it's a Honda Pilot), because the dad was raised by wolves. OK, I'll admit it: It's the first time I've ever seen someone comb a back.
Best technology gone horribly, horribly wrong ads: The guys from American Chopper use AOL's TopSpeed to soup up various vehicles, with disastrous results. Whatever happened to Super Dave Osborne, anyway?
Best theft ad: A bear ransacks a cabin for food, then uses a guy's stolen driver's license to cash a check for some Pepsi to wash it down. Well, it was either a guy or Bigfoot.
Worst football ad: A bear -- yes, another bear -- disrupts a football game with a roll of Charmin toilet paper. Good to know he has the proper paper products when he does what bears do in the woods.
Second-best theft ad: Teens who were sued by the music industry for illegal music file sharing vow to keep ripping songs -- thanks to Pepsi coupons for free downloads of iTunes. Happily, no bears.
Best erectile dysfunction ad: Mike Ditka shows us how well Levitra works by tossing a football through a swinging tire. We get it, Mike.
Second-best erectile dysfunction ad: The narrator spends most of Cialis' 60-second spot rattling off a list of disclaimers, including the news that an erection lasting more than four hours is not a good thing. Say what?
Best horse ad: Guy out on a romantic sleigh ride with his girlfriend -- and some Bud Light -- lights a candle just as the horse suffers a gastrointestinal mishap; pyrotechnics ensue. Well, of course -- you light the candle after, not before.
Worst horse ad: A donkey aspires to be a Budweiser Clydesdale. Let's settle this once and for all, shall we? Monkeys are funny. But donkeys? Only if they sound like Eddie Murphy.
Best dog ad: Two guys demonstrate how their dogs fetch Bud Light. Funny, but if you think the very similar falcon ad from a couple of years back was better, you're right.
Worst income tax ad: Willie Nelson returns for H&R Block, hawking a talking Willie doll that gives bad advice. When Don Zimmer shows up, well, that's just weird. Not hairy back weird, but weird.
Best kilt ad: A guy in a bagpipe band bolts the parade, seeking pleasurable relief from a sidewalk air vent. A kid notes, "That's just wrong, Dad." But, as we're reminded, not unlike the feeling you get from drinking Sierra Mist.
Best senior citizen ad: An elderly couple scuffle over a bag of Lay's potato chips, the woman emerging triumphant when she ends up with the guy's dentures. Will this reality trend never end?
Best Dale Earnhardt Jr. ad: The NASCAR driver drives cross-country to return a lipstick his girl left in his car -- only to be told it's not hers. Hey, it could have been underwear.
Worst Dale Earnhardt Jr. ad: He scores a TD in his race car, then does doughnuts in the end zone. We suspect he'll be hearing from Paul Tagliabue.
Best credit card ad: Homer Simpson takes an appropriately grumpy turn in a "Priceless" spot. Yes, I'll say it: MasterCard's best spokesman since Olive Oyl.
Second-best credit card ad: The U.S. women's Olympic volleyball team tunes up by practicing on a frozen beach. We got goosebumps just watching ... their goosebumps.
Best soap ad: Kids get a mouthful for uttering an expletive at the sight of a new Chevy pickup. We've all be there.
Best office ad: Joe Viterelli -- Jelly in Analyze That -- helps a guy deal with a gangster-like office supply manager. The only thing missing was Martin Scorcese.
Second-best office ad: Two guys warn a co-worker whose only words are "Why not use FedEx?" that they know he's actually a space alien. Well, either that or Don Zimmer.
Worst job-seeking ads: People get up, go for job interviews. Another Super Bowl, another round of odd spots from Monster.com. Two words: Talking monkeys.