If you simply can't wait until Jan. 30 to watch Super Bowl ads, the Museum of Television & Radio (locations in Los Angeles and New York) has your fix. Through Feb. 13 it's running an exhibit entitled "The Super Bowl: Super Showcase for Commercials," featuring 68 spots that debuted on Super Sunday.
Many are more ingrained in our consciousness than the games. How can we forget: "Nothin' but net." Spuds McKenzie. "You got the right one, baby. Uh-huh!" Bud Bowls. The "Bud-weis-er" frogs and lizards (above). In the exhibit, narrator Frank Gifford (a broadcaster for CBS at Super Bowl I, which was also telecast by NBC) shepherds you through the catchphrases and characters, noting that while advertisers "paid $85,000 for a 60-second spot in 1967, they now pay more than $50,000 per second." (Even that utterance, made last year, is out of date: At last report a 30-second spot during ABC's broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIV was going for a record $3 million, or double the price quoted by the Giffer.) Our thoughts on XXXIII years of Super Bowl commercials:
Consistency Award: Master Lock, a relatively small company whose ads appeared every year from 1974 to '96. Think about it: How often do you see Master Lock ads the rest of the year?
Big Stars, Bad Ads: Steve Martin looked silly in a 1994 Nike commercial touting a conspiracy that a then retired Michael Jordan was playing basketball incognito. In '95 Jason (Seinfeld) Alexander's skydiving stunt for Rold Gold pretzels had us wishing that his chute wouldn't open. And in '90, what was Paul Newman doing on that miniscooter, and what did it have to do with American Express? One exception: Chevy Chase in '94, spoofing his failed Fox talk show by having his Doritos ad "canceled" midway through filming. "Tough year," Chevy deadpanned.
Why in the World Award: Too many high-concept campaigns (are you listening, Pepsi?) traipse the planet, insipidly stereotyping everyone from Chinese Buddhists to African tribesman. Is this what Michael Jackson's Black and White video hath wrought?
Most Effective Ad: Had you heard of job-search Web site Monster.com before last year's clever spot in which children put a sardonic twist on the familiar complaints of the disaffected white-collar worker (e.g., "I want to be forced into early retirement")?
Most Super Ad: Pepsi's Your Cheatin' Heart in '96. With the Hank Williams classic providing the background, a Coke delivery-man attempts to pilfer a Pepsi from a store display but instead starts an embarrassing avalanche of cans. No words, no stars, just simple human nature. Nothin' but net. Uh-huh!