NFL Playoffs 2001 NFL Playoffs 2001


Commercial appeal

Nostalgia, patriotism and laughs dominate Super Bowl ads

Posted: Monday February 04, 2002 1:34 AM

By Dan George,

Hard to tell what was more disconcerting about this year's Super Bowl commercials, the retiring of Budweiser's "Whassup!" guys or the sight of Britney Spears in a one-piece swimsuit.

But those were hardly the only eyebrow raisers at Super Bowl XXXVI, at least from a Madison Avenue standpoint.

For the second consecutive year, the price of a 30-second spot in the NFL's big game declined, to $1.9 million -- and even then FOX didn't sell the last commercial until last week. One reason, of course: the plodding economy. (Just four dot-coms bought time, compared to 17 two years ago.)

But the upcoming Winter Olympics also left a mark as companies like EDS (the cat-herding folks), Coca-Cola and Nike opted to bypass the Super Bowl and spend their ad bucks instead on the Salt Lake Games.

Still, plenty of advertisers remained true, including Anheuser-Busch, once again the big dog with 10 spots. And why not? One hundred thirty million people worldwide tune in each year. Super Bowl XXXV drew a Nielsen rating of 40.4, compared with Friends' top rating of 15.0 this season.

So what did they give us? Nostalgia, patriotism and, thankfully, a few laughs. Here's how the most notable ads rank, according to's patented (OK, not really) Easy Chair System (ECS):

That bathroom break's gonna have to wait -- well, unless I wet myself right here.
Here's a thought. Dump Yes, Dear and turn this into a sitcom.
Uh, at least Jason Alexander wasn't in it.
This is the reason they invented HBO.

First Quarter
Pizza Hut
The Scoop: Actually, this was right before kickoff, a spot Pizza Hut has owned for six years -- because people order pizza before the game, not during it. Comedian Tommy Davidson gets in our face about the new P'Zone, a cross between a pizza and a calzone. Nevertheless, we may try it.
Bud Light
The Scoop: A BattleBot wannabe takes on more than it can handle when it tangles with a mini-fridge containing a Bud Light. "Oh, ho! No mercy!"
E-Trade Financial
Monkey do
E*TRADE pushes its financial wares with a musical primate.
The Scoop: The chimp returns in a lavish musical -- that gets panned by the press as the "silliest ad in game history." Double punchline about the chimp's new career is a blast ... off.
The Scoop: Did any ad get more pregame hype than Britney's 90-second trip down Pepsi's memory lane? The Marilyn-in-the-malt shop segment also aired in the second quarter, the result of Internet voting. Our favorite? The takeoff on those Robert Palmer MTV videos ... which probably says more about us than we care to admit.
The Scorpion King
The Scoop: Let's see, the Rock is the wrestler, right? And the Scorpion King is the movie character? Or is it the other way around?
The Scoop: Former NYC mayor says thanks for the country's support of his city. Simple, heartfelt and a nice gesture by
American Legacy Foundation
The Scoop: Airplanes fly over a beach, trailing signs warning of the dangers of smoking. In a third-quarter ad, a giant rat sprawls on a city sidewalk bearing a sign with a similar message. Rats always get our attention.
AT&T Wireless
The Scoop: The first of several head-scratching ads plugging something called mlife. Not till the second half did we learn it involved AT&T Wireless. Uh, that's a bad connection.
Bud Light
The Scoop: The return of Cedric the Entertainer. "So how much?" is a worthy successor to "It ain't that bad."
Quizno's Toasted Subs
The Scoop: Generic sub sandwich company has to cheat -- with a dart gun, no less -- to win taste test over Quizno's. Second-half commercial involves a guillotine. Odd spots dreamed up by the same guy who came up with Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" campaign back in the '80s.
Collateral Damage
The Scoop: Schwarzenegger saves the world in this familiar-looking thriller that was pushed back from last fall. Actually what Arnold meant to say was, "I'll be back. And back. And back ... "
Bud Light
The Scoop: Bird wreaks havoc in the city, all in the quest for a longneck. We liked this even more when it was called Rodan.
The Scoop: C'mon, a talking dolphin? OK, Mr. Ed talked. Francis the Mule talked. But Flipper? Not a peep.

Second Quarter
Six degrees
Kevin Bacon pokes a little fun at his own celebrity.
The Scoop: The six degrees of Kevin Bacon come to life as the actor discovers the perils of writing a check without the proper ID. Perhaps more clever than really funny, but you gotta love the inside joke.
H&R Block
The Scoop: After using 97 actors and 60 crew members and shooting 8,000 feet of film, the Coen brothers came up with a spot as funny as anything Kafka ever wrote.
The Scoop: M. Night Shyamalan's (The Sixth Sense) new film with Mel Gibson. Spooky-looking. But then, those mysterious wheat-field circles have always given us the creeps.
The Scoop: The Clydesdales pay silent tribute to NYC. Call us jaded ... but they're horses, for cryin' out loud.
Hart's War
The Scoop: We kept waiting for Bruce Willis to say, "Yippee-ki-yay ... "
Lipton Brisk
Short tempers
Lipton's claymation campaign features a belligerent cast.
The Scoop: A puppet Danny DeVito. Jackie Chiles. Al Roker. Pat O'Brien. Violence in the streets. The only thing missing is Jerry Springer.
The Scoop: Jason Sehorn races Michael Johnson ... and Lightning Bolt ... and John Andretti. If people pay to see pro wrestling, why not?
The Scoop: A '59 Cadillac Eldorado and Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll. But not much else.
The Scoop: Is it just us, or is Vin Diesel just Jean-Claude Van Damme without the accent?
The Scoop: How women and guys buy those special greeting cards. Frankly, just a little too close to home.
The Scoop: "Finally, guys have an answer to the little black dress." We couldn't have said it better.
Philip Morris
The Scoop: Cigarette maker urges parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of smoking. You tell us what's strange about that sentence.
The Scoop: Olympians need jobs, too. Just look at Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Levi's Lightweight Jeans
Walk this way
Levis changes its stride in this interesting ad.
The Scoop: This year's top nominee for the How Did They Do That? Award. Our legs haven't moved like that since that last kegger in college. Hilarious.

Third Quarter
The Scoop: Clever evolution of the "Whassup!" ads continues. Out-of-towner wanders into a neighborhood bar, and when the patrons ask, "How ya dune?" ... well, he tells them. Over and over.
Bud Light
The Scoop: Amorous wife lures husband to bed with a cold Bud Light, and he ends up out in the yard naked. Gotta think the neighborhood association has a rule against that.
40 Days and 40 Nights
The Scoop: Josh Hartnett swears off sex for ... well, take a guess. And this is supposed to be funny?
The Scoop: A sassy stenographer interviews for a job in a way we all wished we could. Cute.
Universal Orlando Resort
The Scoop: Any ad featuring Popeye is aces with us.
Austin Powers 3
The Scoop: They were going to call it Goldmember until MGM threw a hissy.
Taco Bell
The Scoop: The new Steak Quesadilla is getting rave reviews. But, OK, we'll admit it: We'd never even heard of Steak Enthusiast Magazine.
The Scoop: A chatty bunny and a hampster -- heck, it could be a guinea pig, whadda we know? -- who shakes his booty to Maniac. Talking dolphins indeed!
The White House Office of Drug Control Policy
The Scoop: Clever takeoff on MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign, emphasizing that drug abuse helps fund terrorists. A second spot in the fourth quarter takes a different tack but is just as effective.

Fourth Quarter
The Scoop: Guy travels down the wrong conversational road when girlfriend's folks trot out her baby pictures. Still, he did not end up out in the yard naked.
Blade 2
The Scoop: Just when you were beginning to wonder whatever happened to Wesley Snipes. You were, weren't you?
The Scoop: The complimentary hotel chocolate that melts in your hand, not in your mouth. The guy from A&W's "thick-headed" ads shows his range.
Bad Company
The Scoop: The Chris Rock-Anthony Hopkins espionage thriller. We get a bad feeling just saying that.
The Scoop: Guy gets a ride home in Bud's NASCAR racer. A long ride home.
Charles Schwab & Co.
The Scoop: Barry Bonds becomes annoyed during solo BP when a guy -- it's Hank Aaron! -- whispers over the P.A. that Barry should think about retiring. Hank was acting. Barry? Well ...