It’s a game unlike any other. It pits formidable opponents against one another, each vying for the attention of over 200 million eyeballs. Each determined to occupy a sliver of consciousness and a splinter in the sequoia tree of pop culture. It’s the Super Bowl of advertising and here is the critique of Super Bowl commercials from the editorial board of The Lint Screen.
The ground rules are simple: no pre-game sneak peeks or reading about what’s to air. We walk into this venture fresh with eyes untainted by hype. Here’s the blow by blow.
Ford Focus –– Six Ford Focus cars are going to rally across this great land. Here we meet the teams and their members. Do we care enough to go on-line and follow them? We’re invited. I’m not that intrigued. Pass.
Bud Light–– An amped-up spot spoofing home makeover shows. Our host is over the top enthusiastic about the couple’s ‘new kitchen’ which has a bucket of Bud Lights on the counter. The husband goes nuts, he loves the re-done kitchen. The wife points out it’s the same kitchen, just with a bucket of Bud Lights on the counter. The host agrees and says it is the most popular room of the house. A wild part ensues. Cue the beer pour and a lame end gag with landscapers staking twelvers of BL in the yard. Let’s hope Bud Light didn’t lead with its strongest spot. If they did, it’ll be a long, lame night for them.
Doritos–– A man who inside a house teases his woman’s dog who is outside in the yard. The man thinks he’s safe behind the back door as the dog approaches. Oh, stupid, mean man! Guess what happens? Could it get any more telegraphic? Doubtful.
Audi 8–– Finally, a clever spot. It happens inside a rich guy’s prison as we see the Madoff-rich class languishing in luxury behind bars. Nice sight gags as a prison break is underway. Two fatcats escape. One goes to a Mercedes. The other, an Audi. The Mercedes is a trap– right back to prison for you, richie! The Audi man goes free. Escape the ordinary, there’s your message and there’s even some Kenny G. humor thrown in for good measure.
Doritos–– Creepy guy loves him some Doritos. How much so? So much that he licks Doritos dust from a coworker’s finger and sniffs Dorito’s dust from another coworker’s pants. Well, it’ll probably test well, but I’m not biting or sniffing Doritos dust.
Chevy Cruz Eco–– Ever notice how old people have lousy hearing? I SAID, EVER NOTICE HOW OLD PEOPLE HAVE LOUSY HEARING?! Well, here’s a bunch of seniors watching a Chevy Cruz commercial at ‘the home’ and they’re repeating the copy points they thought they heard. Gratuitous, yes, but I do get that the Cruz gets over 40 mpg, so these gray panthers were not mocked in vain. Well, not too much.
Pepsi Max– A man is trying to sneak fattening foods while his woman tries to keep him on the low cal trail. He gets abused, face mashed in pie, soap placed in mouth, etc. Stupid silly man! Now man is on a park bench and thinks he’s cheating on his diet with a Pepsi Max… but wait, his woman walks up, sits at a bench next to his and is drinking the same beverage! What’s this, great taste that’s got 0 calories?! Why this old fat dog’s learned a new trick. But wait, this old horn-dog also sees a sexy jogger, gives her the once over. This makes his woman so angry that she throws her can of Pepsi Max at his head, but he ducks, and the pretty woman jogger gets beaned. The Pepsi Max-lovin’ couple slink away. Why, it’s like a Three Stooges skit, without the humor.
Bud Light–– Simple premise, a director protests when he sees a product in the scene of a movie he’s shooting. He learns that with product placement, you get lots of products as a reward. Well, now, let’s have wacky hijinks with Bud Lights in every scene of the movie! And go. Yawn.
Chevy Silverado–– A brilliant spot. A father learns that his son Tommy is trapped in a all sorts of nasty places: the bottom of a well, the belly of a whale, a cave, a volcano, etc. Good thing pops has the rugged Chevy Silverado to take him on his adventures to rescue the clumsy little kid. It’s fun, it’s relevant, it’s the good stuff for Super Bowl Sunday sponsors.
Fast Five– Like fast cars, tough guys, sexy girls? Have we got a flick for you opening this April 29 at a theatre near you…
Pepsi Max– A nerd is taunted by preppies who enjoy Pepsi Max. Hey, a cool guy seated by the nerd has a cooler that launches Pepsi Max! The nerd uses the catapulting cooler to deliver a can of Pepsi Max to the groin of a taunting prepster, followed by a can to his head. It’s the first use of groin humor! The second konk to head gag (also by Pepsi Max). The creators on this campaign stink of desperation for grabbing some attention. Sorry, not amusing.
Doritos– A friend is leaving for the weekend and asks his housitting pal to watch the place and feed his goldfish. Time passes (as it will) and the fish is dead. Guy puts a little Doritos dust in the fishbowl and the fish comes back to life. What the….????!!!! On we go as more dead things are brought back to life– including some ashes in an urn that fall from the mantle and the dead rise again. Doritos as Jesus-raising-Lazarus dust? That’s some tasty snacks with incredible power.
Hyundai Elantra– Cool sound design and music, not terribly clever but the point is made without trashing old people. No, we have not been hypnotized to think compact cars are good enough. Here’s the 40 mpg Elantra.
Cowboys & Aliens– Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig. Indy and Bond as cowboys aiming to fight them some aliens. Deal me in. Cool spot, a movie concept that anyone could have come up with– but didn’t and wish he/she had.
Kia Optima– What can you do with special effects? Damn near anything. Poseidon, aliens, Aztecs– they all want this “epic ride.” Goes a long way and spends a ton of money to make the point. The car does look cool. A bit overboard, but point made and made well.
Bridgestone– A simple, terrific premise. Two buddies in office cube farm. One says to other, “You sent this e-mail ‘reply all.” Suddenly, the buddy is up and trashing computers all over town. He drives fast and we see some tires squealing as they hug the road. He ends up back at office and his buddy says that he was wrong. the guy only sent the e-mail to him. “Could you imagine if you had hit reply all?” Cut to Bridgestone logo and bit of copy. Nice spot, well produced.
Chevy Volt We see great moments when history is made for the ‘firsts’ in history. Ben Franklin and his electric kite, TV, Hendrix at Woodstock, Jobs and buddy in garage, NASA launching rockets… all leading up to electricity in the new Chevy Volt. History is made (wasn’t there an EV1 way back when?). Good spot. Good point.
Go Daddy Danica Patrick is introducing the hot new GoDaddy.co girl, a busty sexpot with skimpy jean shorts. Who is this ravishing creature? What– it’s Joan Rivers! Special effects, you are evil for conjuring such imagery. GoDaddy, go to the corner for a time out.
AT&T– A hip song accompanies vines and flowers that are creeping across America and blossoming orange flowers. The point is that AT&T covers 97% of America. Dramatic and nice effects. If only science could get kudzu to grow some orange flowers and AT&T worked well with iPhones…
Budweiser– The Clydesdales are in the old west delivering cold Bud to a bad hombre who sips and starts singing Elton John’s Tiny Dancer as the locals all join in. A long way to go for that gag, and who’d have ever seen it coming? Borrowed interest double-dipping, and not much Clydesdales. No, it’s not one of the great Bud moments, but that Elton John wrote him some tasty tunes.
Teleflora– No effects, one celeb. Faith Hill gives a music engineer the encouragement to write a note of “what’s in your heart” to his girl as he is about to send her some Teleflora flowers. He writes how he likes her rack. Oh, men, you are so stupid! A simple gag, dumb, but simple. It will be talked about for use of the word “rack.” Yes, it’s come to this, people.
Transformers– Love him, hate him, but Michael Bay makes some cool looking movie clips.
BMW– A bunch of folks from Spartanburg, South Carolina talk about how the BMW is made there. We see shots of robots making the cars (I guess these southerners fix the bots and drive the cars off the line). The point is that the cars are made and built in America. Hmm, interesting strategy, but not sure if it’s smart. I suspect true BMW people like its German heritage, not the southern stars and stripes waving sugar. If you’re going to shop patriotic, I suspect you buy from American car company cars (even if they are made from all over the world).
Motorola Xoom– This spot has a quirky kind of creep factor to it. A guy is among all sorts of people, all wearing white. He’s reading George Orwell’s “1984″ on his Motorola Xoom and has a bouquet of flowers. The Xoom device looks cool, but hardly as cool as an iPad. The guy creates a little stick drawing movie of a guy giving a girl some flowers. He then gives a girl in white his flowers and we cut to the product and frankly the spot is pretty stupid, but, well, what can you do when you have to compete with an iPad? Oh, maybe show the product do something really unique and cool…
BMW Diesel– Bowie’s song “Changes” plays as we see dirty smoke from all sorts of diesel vehicles billowing out into the air, but here comes a clean-burning BMW diesel and it’s ripping up the road and looking great. Nice, simple, clean, Bowie.
Coca-Cola– Game-like animation in which a dragon is terrorizing advancing troops as they approach a city wall. An iced dragon is wheeled into the walled community (a la Trojan Horse). The dragon breathes fire, ice melts, bottle of Coke is revealed, dragon drinks, likes, then breathes out colorful confetti. The advancing troops celebrate. All is good. Coke made the world better. What could be easier?
Thor– A commercial for a movie that only announces the fact you probably want to avoid this movie.
VW Passat– Early money has this as a pick hit. Incredibly simple idea. Kid dressed as Darth Vadar tries to work his magic on inanimate objects, to no avail. Dad drives home in Passat. Lil’ Darth goes out and tries his spell on it. The car starts and even blinks its lights! Cut to dad in kitchen doing this black magic with his remote control. Cool and charming, memorable. Spike the ball, creatives, you’re clubhouse leaders…
Snickers– How do you follow-up on the incredibly successful Betty White spot? How about Richard Lewis whining as Tony, a lumberman. Then Rosanne Barr whining and getting hit with a log. Rosanne getting crushed– trumps a Pepsi Max to the nuts. “You’re not you when you’re hungry” is a brilliant strategy. Not as good as the original Betty White, but a nice effort.
CareerBuilder.com– Our first furry primate entry. The monkeys are back! But this time it’s convoluted. The monkeys are driving and blocking a human in his car then wrecking his car on other side. Lame line about caught between bad job and not getting anyplace… sorry, no banana. More about monkeys as bad drivers than monkeys as coworkers.
Super 8– Spielberg, J.J. Abrams. You had America at Spielberg, you locked them with Abrams. Looks cool.
Chevy Cruz –Spot opens as guy kisses his date goodnight, gets in his Chevy Cruz. Asks for his Facebook news feed. The car voice tells him “Jennifer Frech– best first date ever” and AVO tells us now you can do Facebook updates in the car. The guy smiles. I don’t know if it’s the technology or the spot, but it felt kind of creepy and techno-stalky.
Captain America– Looks interesting, but I hope those weren’t the sexiest bits of this film. Needed more.
CarMax– The prize for Pythonesque humor. A guy is at CarMax and says he feels like a kid in a candy store. Cut to kid in candy store who says he feels like a geek at a science fair. Cut to… on and on getting further and further out there and more ridiculous until we end up back at CarMax. While I admire the gonzo nature of the humor, it didn’t tell me a thing I didn’t already know about CarMax. They’ve got a lot of cars, got that. You spent $3 million to state the obvious thing that people get from driving past your lots?
Toyota Tundra– A truck drives through a nasty animated world. Who cares? Give me a Silverado and let’s find out where that darn Tommy kid is now!
Nascar– Sewer lids are popping off streets like crazy. A guy runs and stands on one and is lifted into the air. Cut to fast cars going in ovals. Stupid, meet crappy production values and long distance borrowed interest. Yellow flag.
Chatter.com– A weirdly animated world where a hip guy tells us all sorts of copy points and I don’t know what any of it means. Will there be a test? Hope not.
Here’s another Chatter.com spot. This one shows how the world is made a better place somehow or other by whatever it is this service does. Really?
cars.com– “Sometimes it best to let others go first” says our friendly announcer (he is one sell guy, that guy). We see the king’s taster drop dead. A guy in a scientific experiment morphs into a mutant. A cowboy becomes a pin cushion for arrows to see if the coast is clear for his buddy. (It isn’t.) And the point of all this is– with cars.com, other people review the cars you might be interested in buying. Good point, good spot.
E-TRADE– Here’s that adorable talking baby and now he’s being measured for a suit by Enzo and he gets to do a bad stereotypical Italian accent (laughing yet?). Not a great moment in talking baby spot history and perhaps the weakest link yet in this long-running campaign. Hope I didn’t make the baby cry.
Best Buy– Ozzie and the Bieber in one turd of a spot. Star power, meet your super nova explosion. What a waste of money.
Pirates of The Caribbean on Stranger Tides– Yes, it looks like more of the same, but can we ever get enough of Depp doing Keef Richards? Not until it stops being box office gold.
Mini– The game show has the title Cram it in the Boot and is all about stuffing stuff in the back end of a Mini. Double entrendre meets benefit copy point. Oh, so naughty but so effective.
HomeAway.com– A weird man flies about and we see a test baby get its face smashed on a glass wall and it’s all about why use hotels when you can rent a home instead. I get it, but did the test baby have to get its faced mashed? Probably. It’s all I’ll remember tomorrow (but not the product’s name).
Hyundai Elantra– We’ve got the Dude’s voice with Lebowski trippy effects and he’s yakking about the Elantra not being boring and getting 40 mpg– all well and good, but are the Coen Brothers getting a taste of the vig for their work on this spot?
Groupon– Timothy Hutton’s voice talks about Tibet and its people and I want to help the cause of Tibet against evil China, but wait, we Tim and he’s enjoying some Tibetan food in Chicago at half off and I have a bad feeling and taste in my mouth about any company that exploits people to make its point.
Coca-Cola– Two guards are walking respective borders. They are cold and austere in demeanor. But, one has a Coke. The other looks on with hungry eyes that thirst for it. Behold, there is one Coke left in the cooler (let’s hope it’s not a Pepsi Max launching cooler– we could have war). The guard places the Coke on the ground so that the other guard can get it. They drink and we achieve detente through refreshment. Then, they go back to work marching. Simple, yes. Magical? Hardly. But, engaging.
Stella Artois– A man croons in a dark bar. Pretty girls cry. They drink Stellas. The man gets his Stella. Huh? For this you spent big money?
CarMax– A guy pulls into an old timey full service gas station and a small army of attendants care for his vehicle. The guy is spooked by this and runs off paranoid, and the point is that CarMax doesn’t believe customer service should be a thing of the past. I get this point better than their earlier spot, but still I wonder what CarMax customer service is…
Chrysler– A beautiful and tough tone poem to Detroit married with great cinematography makes the point that we (Detroit) know luxury and making cars and kicking ass and now look who’s driving that great looking car– Eminem, and he points a finger at us and says ‘this is what we do in the motor city’ and damn if I don’t believe him and feel much more American pride than what those Spartanburg BMWers were pushing my way. Good stuff and a good looking car. Nice.
Rango– This time, Johnnie Depp’s animated. Looks fun, I guess. Glad our kids are too old for this stuff.
Cars.com– Various vehicles discuss their reviews on cars.com. Who knew steel could be so clever. I get it, but not sure I like it.
Bud Light– Another buddy housesitting for buddy tale, this time there are lots of dogs and a cooler filled with Bud Lights! Oh, boy, where is this going to go! PAR-TAY!!! We’ve got dogs serving beers, dogs drawing taps, etc. We’ve got fun and attractive women and well, pretty much every cliched beer spot trick in the book. How I yearn for a spot from The Most Interesting Man in The World…
Hyundai– A brilliant spot. What if we settled for the first things that came along? People with penny-farthing bikes, big honking early cell phones, playing Pong, a Zeppelin in sky, etc. Well, Hyundai didn’t settle and here’s a sexy new Sonata to prove it. Fun to watch, simple point to make. A strategy that could have worked for a number of items, but Hyundai got there tonight.
Pepsi Max– Battle of sexes at dinner table as voices in heads play. Girl wonders if guy is the one and other deep emotional issues. Guy wonders if she’ll have sex. Over and over and over he wonders this. Here comes Pepsi Max and something happens I can’t recall what but the spot sucked and at least no one got a shot to the head or crotch with a can. We have that to be thankful for, I guess.
Rio –Another animated film. Looks colorful. If you have kids, you’ll be there.
Bridgestone– Simple and strong critter spot. Man driving on rainy night avoids a beaver in the road and goes across bridge. The beaver gives him a thankful wave. Six months later, same man driving on rainy night slams on brakes to avoid a tree that’s fallen in his path. We see the bridge has washed out by rising river. The beaver has cut down tree. Many gives beaver a chest salute. Never thought I’d write that sentence. Terrific spot.
GoDaddy.com– Another in the seemingly never ending sexploitive series. Go on line to learn more. Who cares?
VW Beetle– Here’s an animated jungle scene as insects of all stripes are at work and here comes a souped-up beetle running through the jungle and it matches the shape to announce that the 21st century Beetle is coming. Attention-grabbing, but pretty light on conceptual gas power.
Merecedes Benz– Janis sings “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” as Benzs across the country go to the motherland to see the four new models and welcome them to the family. Good use of Joplin, cool effects, point made. Interesting, but that’s about all.
Chevy Camaro– A spot that may be too hip for the room, but I doubt it. We hear the voiceovers of the creative team of this very spot as they concept the spot and we see their words change the visual instantly. It’s got every tired car commercial cliche but is told in a fresh, compelling and fun way, right down to the set-up of the announcer and hearing a real announcer voice. I like this cheese. Smart, different, very well done.
Verizon– Romancing an iPhone as a voiceover extols its incredible virtues and powers then asks, “What’s it matter if the network doesn’t work?” iPhone rings, the Verizon “Can you hear me now?” guy answers and says he can hear you now. Pretty damn brilliant, and especially effective to all us schmucks trying to operate an iPhone on the AT&T network.
E-TRADE– Talking baby has a cat that sneezes. Goes long way for a bad gag as baby tells cat, “I told you to get a flu shot.” May we have a muzzle for talking baby, please? I think the shark has officially been jumped.
Mars Needs Moms– Creepy animation from Disney. Looks bad. But hey, it’s also in 3-D so it can be bad in three dimensions at once!
NFL– From those wonderful folks who bring you professional football, a spot featuring anybody who’s anybody in pop culture of the past 30 years or so wearing NFL garb as they prepare to watch a game (all while the theme song of the TV show Dallas plays). A big, simple, very expensive idea that’s very well done. I imagine it took an army of attorneys to handle licensing fees on this sucker. It’s the ultimate in celebrity endorsements, brought to you by special effects and deep pockets. Great end line: Best fans ever. Proof that if you’re going to borrow interest, borrow big!
Wendy’s– Two guys eating lunch. One has a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich. His buddy asks him what the sammy tastes like. Wendy’s guy slaps him in the face. “Wow, you’ve got yourself a sandwich, sir.” Well, well, a slap in the face gag. How refreshing. Ycchhh. Kindly serve the creators a Pepsi Max to the crotch.
AT&T– Simple, good gag. Two pals on a ski lift. One asks other if he can ask out his old girlfriend. Sure, says pal, but I don’t think she’d go out with… suddenly, the guy gets three quick texts message and a video from his pal’s ex saying that she’d love to go out. The friend asks to see the video, gets phone and heaves angrily. “Sparks fly faster on AT&T network with 4G.” Nice. AT&T is doing beer gags better than beer companies do beer gags.
Oscillococcinum– If the name doesn’t get you sick, the crappy animation in this spot will.
O.K., my head is filled with goo. Rumor has it Green Bay won. Goodnight.