Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Commercials 2013

American football fans may wish to disagree, but I suspect for many of us the Super Bowl is a series of commercials interrupted by an American football game. It is certainly when many large corporations vie for attention from viewers with what they hope will be their best and most memorable ads. Sadly, this is not always the case and often the commercials aired during the Super Bowl are as bland as those aired during any other time of year. I have always found this odd, as one would think given the amount of money that Super Bowl commercials cost, companies would go the extra length to produce quality commercials.

This year was no different, as many of the commercials were somewhat forgettable. The Becks Sapphire commercial and the Lincoln commercial "Steer the Script."  And while I know a few people who thought Ram Trucks' "Farmer" spot was good, I found it rather dull. While I have always loved Paul Harvey's monologue on farmers, I think it demanded more than a slideshow to accompany it.

Of course, it is definitely better to have a bland, forgettable commercial than one that is outright bad, and a few Super Bowl commercials this year were downright bad. Among the worst of the lot was the Wonderful Pistachios spot "Oppa Psy Style." By now I suspect anyone who liked "Gangham Style" is probably tired of it, not to mention there are a good many people like me who hated the song from the beginning. Kia's "Space Babies" spot just seemed stupid and poorly done to me, which is sad given how much the spot probably cost to produce and then air. As to the absolute worst commercials, I would say the second worst spot was Etrade's "Save It." When is Etrade going to realise that there are many of us (perhaps most of us) think the Etrade Baby is creepy? Whenever I see one of those commercials, I don't think, "Hey, I want to do business with Etrade," I think, "That baby is plotting to kill me in my sleep!" Amazingly enough, Etrade did not have the worst commercial this year. That dishonour goes to GoDaddy's "Perfect Match." First, I think most of us are very uncomfortable watching two people make out. Second, the commercial feeds into the idea that intelligent people (particularly those skilled with computers) are unattractive. Would have it really hurt GoDaddy to have used a handsome actor in horn rimmed glasses? Granted, the making out portion of the ad would have still been, well, gross, but at least they would not be furthering a stereotype that in my experience isn't true.

One thing I do have to say for this year's Super Bowl ads is that they were less sexist this year. And by "less sexist," I am not talking about the objectification of women. Instead I am talking about the spate of commercials the past many years that portrayed men as stupid boors. I still remember Bud Light's commercial "Book Club," in which one man is so stupid that he doesn't know Little Women is a book. While this year's Super Bowl commercials dropped the "men are stupid" angle, at least two have been accused of being racist. One of these was the Volkswagen spot "Get Happy." In the spot a Minnesota born office worker of European American descent who owns a Volkswagen walks around speaking with what is supposed to be a Jamaican accent. While from Twitter I know there are those who disagree, I thought "Get Happy" was racist. After all, whatever humour was supposed to had in the commercial was from a stereotypical, exaggerated, Jamaican accent.

The other commercial that has been accused of racism is Coca-Cola's spot "Coke Chase." The commercial features different groups of characters racing across a desert for a bottle of Coke: cowboys on horses, showgirls in a bus, Mad Max types on motorcycles and in dune buggies, and an Arab with a camel. Arab American groups have claimed that the commercial is racist in that it portrays Arabs as backwards. I have mixed feelings about it myself. On the one hand, the Arab in the commercial does conform to a degree to Western stereotypes about Arabs, both in the way that he is dressed and in that he has a camel. On the other hand, it seems to me that he is meant to be an anachronism, in the same way that the cowboys in the commercial are (cowboys today would not be riding horses). And there is nothing to indicate that the Arab in the commercial is either backwards or stupid. While I can't quite make up my mind as to whether the ad is racist, what I do think is racist is racist is that Coca-Cola had an online poll asking viewers who should win the race for the Coke and the Arab was not included at all. It really doesn't matter if they intentionally left out the Arab or forgot about him, either way being excluded from winning the race is disturbing. In excluding the Arab from winning the race, Coca-Cola effectively applied a different standard to him than the cowboys, showgirls, or Mad Max types. That to me is the definition of racism.

Of course, among the commercials aired on the Super Bowl were a few spots for movies. While it is one of the big summertime movies, I must admit I was underwhelmed by the ad for Iron Man 3. The scene chosen for the spot just seemed to me to be a generic, "superhero rescues people" scene and did not incline me to rush out and watch the film when it comes out. I was even less impressed by the commercial for Fast and Furious 6.  In fact, I am rather surprised that they bought time during the Super Bowl for the film. While Fast Five did well at the box office, it did not do so well that I think it would warrant spending the kind of money one must spend to get an ad on the Super Bowl for its sequel. While I cannot see why there was a commercial for Fast and Furious 6 during the Super Bowl, I can fully understand why there was one for Oz: The Great and Powerful. Not only is it one of Disney's big releases this year, but it is directed by Sam Raimi and inspired by a classic work of literature (L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). As to the spot itself, I thought it was a bit too short. I would have liked to have seen more. That having been said, it was impressive.

As to my favourite spots, I am listing them below along with embedded video.

"Got Millk"? The Mushtache: I thought this was one of the funniest commercials from last night's Super Bowl, and it has a very simple premise. The Rock is out of milk and as he goes to get more he is confronted with the sort of situations he might encounter in his films. It is a hilarious clip and it demonstrates that The Rock can do comedy.

Audi "Prom:" Audi's prom isn't so much a funny commercial as it is a "feel good" commercial. A father lets his son borrow his Audi and it gives him the self confidence he needs. It has a nice storyline that anyone has felt like an underdog can appreciate.

Tide "Miracle Stain:" This could well be the perfect Super Bowl commercial. It deals with American football fanaticism and in such a way that it is connected to the product being advertised (laundry detergent). What is more it is very, very funny. Whether one is a huge fan of American football or not, one will get a laugh from this ad.

Oreo "Whisper Fight:" What happens when two people get into a fight over Oreos in a library? According to this commercial, a lot of hilarity. This commercial unfolds like a classic comedy movie short, with the situation growing more and more ludicrous as it goes along. The fact that everyone is whispering makes it all the funnier.

Taco Bell: "Viva Young:" I suppose some might think this spot, in which a group of old people go out on the town, is exploitative, but I don't myself. Instead to me it has a sense of joy about it. I mean, here are a group of elderly people who refuse to conform to society's view of their place in  it, and instead act as if they were much younger. It is then not only funny, but self affirming in a way. And I must confess I love that Spanish version of fun's "We Are Young (one of my favourite songs from the past few years).

Mercedes Benz "Soul:" This could be the ultimate Super Bowl ad. It was enough that it features Willem Dafoe as The Devil, but it features Kate Upton and Usher as well. It also has The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as background music! The concept behind the ad is simple: The Devil make the offer of a Mercedes Benz and "everything that goes along with it." This commercial is genuinely cinematic in scope, with its own storyline and incredible cinematography and direction. What's more it is very funny.

Budweiser "Brotherhood:" This is my favourite commercial from last night's Super Bowl. It's not particularly funny, although it is very touching and sweet. And if you have ever owned horses, you will know that it also rings true. By the way, the foal featured in the beginning was born on Warm Springs Ranch near Booneville, MO, which is only about an hour from my hometown!

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