Welcome to the Super Bowl of the United States of America. Where “All things to all people” has now reached it’s full self-actualized potential. It’s an all-inclusive where everyone is represented and no one wins. What is supposed to be a showcase for the best in football, the best in advertising, and the best in music is now none of those things, drowning in it’s watered down, neutered existence.
I feel concussed by an over abundance of heavy handedness.
Admittedly there was a pall over the Super Bowl this year. It was a matchup about as stale as the plot of a Marvel film, one where the heroes are all boring middle aged men or too young to know they belong. It was a dull defensive battle. Nothing that happened on the field would I quantify as “Super.”
No, the super heroes, or “heroes” were showcased while the clock had stopped during the commercial breaks. Cause marketing was singing off key on sports “largest stage” and it seems companies have less to say than ever, their sell becoming a complicated misdirection play. I apologize if I get the brands wrong, but from the looks of things it’s possible they didn’t want us to remember them anyway.
Kia celebrated the Great Unknowns, inexplicably attaching their car – the “Telluride” to those of us that are not celebrities and apparently have inconsequential yet essential roles in society. Thanks, Kia. Toyota introduced us to a young lady who defied the odds and became a football player, a woman playing a game dominated by men. Brave, but is she concussed? The takeaway for me is that you can make a dumb decision to play a dumb sport and end up in a dumb commercial.
Verizon introduced us to the “first responders,” trying to jerk a few tears out of football watchers, who will already crying over the game’s lack of action. The Verizon spot was the grandest display of what those of us in advertising call the “category sell.” The commercial celebrates Verizon’s role in how people communicate with authorities and saving lives, as if no other cell phone provider on earth had the same ability.
There were some fairly half-hearted attempts at cleverness. A man choking on a cashew has a vision of his father who reveals Audi’s new electric car. That’s fine, but aren’t electric cars supposed to be shining examples of breakthrough technology? It was a nice tease, but it doesn’t give anyone a compelling reason to consider the car. I assume the car, like a Super Bowl commercial itself, is cost prohibitive.
Jason Bateman plays an elevator man in a cute(?!) spot from Hyundai. And Luke Wilson’s turn for Colgate as a close talker was refreshing only in that it was one of the few commercials that actually touted a product benefit.
Microsoft did a nice job telling the story of a handicapped boy who can play video games only because of the special controller created by Microsoft. A touching story that felt authentic, and the spot shills a product that actually makes a tangible difference in a kid’s life. It felt like Microsoft had finally made something innovative. And innovation isn't exactly Microsoft's strong suit. Remember the Zune?
And then there was the self-imposed “biggest concert of the year,” the halftime show where Maroon 5 (apparently named after the number of songs they perform that you actually know) and Travis Scott and Big Boi get put through the pop culture grinder. It was the whitest music alive colliding with hip-hop. The results were an awkward, cringe worthy forced combination – it is equality only in the sense that everyone suffers equally. All things to all people, or nothing to no one? You decide.
I’d do damn near anything to see Beyonce upstage Coldplay again.
The halftime show sentiment was echoed in a Doritos spot, where The Backstreet Boys were coupled with Chance the Rapper to little or no effect. After years of crowd-sourcing their commercials, Doritos finally saved up enough money to afford a couple of celebrities.
We were served a healthy dose of robots, talking animals, and a take on the popular and slightly creepy ASMR video from Michelob. And in what possibly was the largest crime of the night, Jeff Bridges “the Dude” orders a Stella Artois instead of a white Russian. For shame.
And could someone finally say, "Alexa, stop trying to be funny?"
As we entered the third hour of the telecast a team finally scored the first elusive touchdown, we felt, for a fleeting moment, reengaged. The timing could not have been more perfect for the Washington Post spot to air. For me it was the best spot of the night. First off, it may have been the first spot that was part of a larger campaign and the message felt grounded in something bigger. The Post’s tagline “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is one of the best and the spot did not disappoint.
It was topical, powerful, and factual. It did a phenomenal job of reminding us of the role media plays in all of our lives. It features the knowing voice of Tom Hanks, who reminds us of the risks journalists take to get the stories that keep us informed. And in a beautiful close, Hanks proclaims, “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.”
As the Patriots were securing a 6th championship in a game whose script seemed uneven at best, we get a spot with a script whose economical choice of words carry the weight of a nation. Well done.