The commercials of Super Bowl XLIV were heavy on nostalgia and light on the viral stickiness, with several remakes of classic and less-than-classic ads, plenty of lovable old people (oh hey, Abe Vigoda!), and more screaming chickens than you can shake a holographic MVP trophy at. The Times blamed the lack of originality on the economy, and probably rightly so. Advertisers reverted to our comfort zone of baby animals and physical violence (particularly slapping and crotch punches)…
The much-hyped “controversial” Tim Tebow pro-life spot looked like an eHarmony ad in which he dates and tackles his mother. Also, lots of beavers/groundhogs. Here we scrape the bottom of the Bud Light barrel and select 10 ads better than the dumb Taco Bell one with Charles Barkley feebly rhyming “Five Buck Box” with fox, jocks, shots, dreadlocks, rocks. That dude: worst flow ever.
1. Betty White Plays Football, Eats Snickers.
Key Advertiser Fallbacks: Betty White, the elderly.
2. Monster.com’s Fiddle-Playing Beaver
Monster.com demonstrated how anyone, even a mangy outcast beaver, can follow his dreams by finding a job on their web site. Not only was it a touching, American rags-to-rolling-jacuzzi story, it was excessive in all the right places. See: hot tub built into a pick up truck and the babalicious babe therein.
Key Advertiser Fallbacks: animals, babe, groundhog/beaver, America!
3. Volkswagen Punch
A game-changer if you will, Volkswagen employed every commercial cliche known to Super Bowl advertising. Drawing on that classic backseat-arm-bopping roadtrip game Punch Buggy, they created a montage of wholesome physical violence, with a surprise ending featuring Tracy Morgan and Stevie Wonder. Also, Brooklyn’s very own Grizzly Bear on the soundtrack!
Key Advertiser Fallbacks: kids, mocking the Amish, physical violence, surprise celebrity cameos, grumpy old man cop
4. Bridgestone’s Bachelor Party Whale
At first the Bridgestone spot seemed Free Willy-inspired, in which case the truck should have cleared a jetty at the end rather than flinging its captive whale to freedom. However, the The Hangover influence rightfully dominated, with the killer whale filling in as Mike Tyson’s tiger on Bridgestone’s budget.
Key Advertiser Fallbacks: animals, reference to recent movie that was funnier than this ad, possible MJ (R.I.P.) undertones
5. Tru TV’s Six More Weeks of Football
Tru TV shrunk Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu into a woodchuck, who then saw his shadow in Punxsutawney and declared six more weeks of football, in the form of a new Monday-night series called NFL Full Contact. A little passe–Groundhog Day was so last week–but by far the best use of a little person, highlighted by the fact that this played right after that Little Kiss Cherry Dr. Pepper nonsense. Also, athletes with silly hair deserve to be mocked.
KAF: Reverse anthropomorphism, little people, old timeyness
6. Bud Light Gets Auto-Tuned
A clever reincarnation of the ‘Whasssssup’ campaign of years’ past, this one gets bonus points for Super Bowl nostalgia, but slips a few spots due to coming out long after Lonely Island’s “I’m On a Boat.” Plus, given that even Vampire Weekend recently employed Auto-Tune sans irony, the joke’s officially stale. Still, T-Pain saying “guacamole” was pretty rad.
KAF: Nostalgia, T-Pain
7. Brett Favre 2020
The 10-year warranty correlation between Brett Favre and buying a Hyundai was subtle and tastefully presented. The holographic MVP trophy was fucking sweet.
KAF: pro athlete, holograms, Brett Favre is old and cries frequently.
8. McDonald’s Shootout Remake
LeBron James and Dwight Howard reincarnate the McDonald’s classic “nothing but net” shootout between Michael Jordon and Larry Bird with a slam-dunk contest.
KAF: Nostalgia, pro athletes, retired pro athlete
9. Doritos’ Keep Your Hands Off My Momma
…keep your hands off my Doritos. An unoriginal concept, an overwhelmingly cute kid.
KAF: kid, physical violence
10. Denny’s Screaming Chicken (var. 4)
Just when we were about to condemn the Denny’s Grand Slam commercials, they popped out this gem in the 4th quarter, which was probably only funny after watching the other three unfunny ones.
KAF: Screaming animals!