Although I was mainly watching the Super Bowl last night for the football, my interest was unexpectedly drawn to the advertisements. Surprisingly, I thought they demonstrated an appalling lack of creativity, humor, and intelligence, and some were just downright insulting.
As it has been for the last few years, USA Today's "Ad-Meter" is the source for determining the winners and losers of the high-stakes advertising spots (as well was an easy way to watch all the commercials in one place). The ratings are compiled by 250 volunteers in California and Virginia, who watch each commercial live with handheld meters to gauge their response to the ad.
Of the 63 total ads, this year's big winner was Mars/Snickers' football farce featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda, which earned an average score of 8.68 out of ten. The big loser was Go Daddy's truly awful "massage" ad with Danica Patrick, which earned a score of 4.20.
While I thought that Snickers' ad was fairly funny, the rest of the ads rounding out the top ten were not even close to the standard of the past few years. One of the many Bud Light ads (this one featuring a house made out of full cans of beer, yuk, yuk) inexplicably grabbed the #3 spot, with an average score of 7.91. Another head-scratcher was a Doritos (a company who somehow grabbed the #2, 11, 14 and 17 spots) commercial featuring a dog who put his shock collar on his owner. That's it. This had an average score of 8.27, leading me to wonder if these 250 people were seeing the same thing I was.
Another disturbing trend was the slew of commercials either (a. Belittling women, b. Suggesting men need to "nut up," c. Exalting men who are crude and drink beer.) And then there was Jake Gyllenhaal as "The Prince of Persia." That image was permanently burned in my retinas.
Seriously, we had a Dockers bit about men without pants (not kidding), a CareerBuilder ad (#51) about office workers wearing only underwear (I wonder where they got their ideas from?), a Bridgestone bit (#42) where a man gave up his wife instead of his tires, Jim Nantz for FLO TV suggesting that a man dragged to the mall by his wife during "the Game" needed to be "a real man," (#36) two unbelievably coarse and crude Go Daddy spots (#60 and 63, thank god) featuring women tearing off their shirts, a Dodge ad (#23) suggesting a car is a man's only true refuge from all things female, and a scathingly unfunny ad from Motorola (#19) with Megan Fox taking a picture of herself, which somehow caused a bunch of men to slap each other (and people got paid for coming up with that!)
The NY Times has a nice write-up of the evening's highs and lows, and I agree with many of the points made there.
However awful most of the commercials were, there were a few very nice ones. Google had a very innovative and clever ad (#43, somehow) telling a love story through only Google searches, Monster.com had a hilariously irrelevant bit (#10) about a violin-playing beaver with lofty dreams, there was a series of shocking Denny's ads featuring screaming animated chickens (#18, 27, 38), I chuckled at a wry spot from Kia (#34) about a group of stuffed-animals with grand Vegas plans, and, my personal favorite was an inspired ad from Audi (#6, deservedly) about the fictional "Green Police," who are, of course, completely out of control in their environmental passion (Cheap Trick FTW!)
Overall, they may be just ads, but I'm not very comfortable about what these commercials say about America, and what we value.
And Jake Gyllenhaal, for the love of god, please cut your hair.