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Commercial breakdown

Another disappointing year for Super Bowl ads

Posted: Monday February 6, 2006 1:22PM; Updated: Monday February 6, 2006 2:41PM
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The good news for the companies that advertised during this year's Super Bowl came early. To be specific, when the game began with a taped segment in which Harrison Ford recited spoken-word verse, to the general cadence of Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go," while inserted into various CGI backgrounds and assisted by Roger Staubach, Joe Montana and other Super Bowl heroes of yore. Besides the obvious question of why Ford was chosen -- wouldn't someone who was, say, somehow associated with football be a better idea? -- the promo was peculiar both for its Pee-Wee's Playhouse vibe and Ford's overwrought delivery, which didn't suggest whimsy so much as an afternoon spent with a bottle of Jack. He seemed like a man trying to shout over the crowd at a bar at 2 a.m.; had I been a child, I might have been disturbed by the whole thing.

The point is: once the intro aired, most anything looked good by comparison. Fortunately, this year's ads were an improvement from last Super Bowl. We had themes, first and foremost a celebration of the 80s, through music (True Colors, Cum on Feel the Noise, If you Leave, Addicted to Love), personas (a clever MasterCard ad for MacGyver that would have been more clever 10 years ago, when people still knew who MacGyver was) and the Muppets (Kermit, in an ad that came in behind only the baby Clydesdale for 'aah, how cute" factor). Also, we learned that hybrids are cool and somehow related to bilingualism (though the father in that Toyota ad sounded less like a Spanish speaker talking in English than one of those automated phone voices: "Welcome, you have EIGHT-hundred and Seven-TY dollars in YOUR account").

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There were a few sequel ads, but none really worked; the monkeys in the workplace motif (careerbuilder) was mildly entertaining, but only because what's not funny about monkeys in a workplace? GoDaddy could have done better than to play off of its wardrobe malfunction ad from last year (though, to the company's credit, it tried: its website says the company had 13 ads rejected. Judging by the one I viewed, which involved a car wash and much sudsing of non-automotive parts, this was not surprising).

Here then, the best and not-so-best from last night. 

The Top Five

1. Naked Lamb -- They had me at the horses setting up at the line of scrimmage. Historically, Budweiser's best work has revolved around animals playing football (which I suppose tells you something about the nature of Super Bowl ads). Then we get the sheared lamb streaking, waggling its hindquarters, etc.. It plays off our dual national pastimes of watching sports and anthropomorphizing animals. Funny without being crass, nostalgic without being a let down. Nothing to do with beer, but hey, when I'm watching the Super Bowl I'm already drinking beer, which I've likely already purchased, so I don't really need to be convinced one way or the other. This is more about brand consciousness. The best of the night.

2. Blindside the Blonde --  Some things never cease to be funny, and flying tackles appear to be one of them. They were funny in Old School, in that Southwest ad and in Waterboy. Here we had the twist of a guy dropping a girl, and one who had the gall to wear white jeans to play football at that (commentary from the females I was watching with, who agreed she didn't look like a girl they'd be friends with: "She won't be wearing those jeans again!"). The ad would have been funnier had it foregone the 'payback' ending, however, which felt like forced gender-equity.

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