The Super Bowl XLVII Ad Bowl

PSY "Crackin Gangnam Style" for Wonderful Pistachios.
PSY "Crackin Gangnam Style" for Wonderful Pistachios.

The Super Bowl has become almost as much about the ad game as it is about football. Unfortunately, the commercials that CBS broadcasted during Super Bowl XLVII were, by and large… disappointing.

This year, marketers and advertisers missed a crucial opportunity to demonstrate that they had at least some understanding of how contemporary buyers think, behave and, most importantly, spend their hard earned money. The so-called creative minds of big business failed to reach younger viewers, and instead displayed a sense of humor and innuendos that could have created a stir if the majority of viewers were born two or three generations earlier.

A large portion of younger viewers were left dazed and confused, ambivalent and reluctant to discuss the commercials further. Advertisers chose to go to the well too many times, falling on too familiar strategies and themes that would have appealed more to viewers when Joe Montana was quarterback for the 49ers.

Century 21 commercial centered on a mother in-law joke—ok, we get it. The commercial for Audi, set at a prom, was clearly relatable to two-thirds of the country. Do people drive Audis down South or in the Midwest? A gag based on a young man’s nervous uttering of the word “panties” was in the commercial for Mennen Speed Stick—didn’t that word stop being provocative years ago? The commercial for Pepsi Next brought to mind the 1983 movie Risky Business, yet there have been how many teen comedy films to reference over the past 30 years?

The humor in Volkswagen’s commercial depended on whether viewers find ethnic dialects funny—which can be a slippery slope for a mainstream car company. A commercial for Coca-Cola mashed up classic films like Lawrence of Arabia, The Wild Bunch, Mad Max and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And a commercial that featured a chorus of leggy dancing girls dressed as Wonderful pistachios and PSYCracking Gangnam Style” was scintillating compared to the others, but echoed standard 1950s commercials, which would be over any young person’s head, unless they happened to take an undergrad class on 1950s television.

The Super Bowl has built a reputation for premiering the year’s wittiest commercials, making it entertaining even if the game itself is a snoozer. In recent years, the game itself has become much more competitive and interesting, but the ads—which consume as much of the viewer’s attention as the actual game—have been­, how to put it, flat. Not to mention the 34-minute blackout, which, unfortunately, created even more airtime for commercials.

Having a Super Bowl commercial is a big deal, and big corporations like Samsung, Dodge and Chrysler, as well as the up-and-comers, take their brief airtime very seriously. And they better at a cost of nearly $4 million for a 30-second spot.

That’s a lot of money for very little airtime, so why not get more bang for your buck?  A company would have done more moral good, and gained more economically if they had just donated that $4 million to a charity, and played on consumers’ heartstrings.

But what about the actual commercials?

First off, the award for best commercial this Super Bowl goes to Samsung’s Galaxy. It featured a star-studded cast, including Seth RogenPaul RuddLeBron James and Bob Odenkirk, but it’s unclear whether Samsung spent wisely for that distinction.

Go Daddy’s commercial starring Bar Rafaeli aimed for sexy and smart by having the model give a long, loud and uncomfortable-to-watch kiss to a young, overweight nerdy guy, Jesse Heiman, but it seemed to fall short of its mark.

Good old Taco Bell played more on the youth side by having elderly people getting tattoos, clubbing and getting busted. It was a simple idea, but probably did more to get the coveted youth market to think of Taco Bell.

The movie trailers are different, as they depend on what Hollywood has in store for 2013.

Of course Chrysler and Ram’s softer commercial bit—a voiceover by radio commentator Paul Harvey who died back in 2009—took a different approach, using a sober, potent and patriotic mantra to the old American farmer, “So God made a farmer,” which probably scored numerous points in the Great Plains—they do love football.

The Kiss Go Daddy Ad’s “The Kiss” Super Bowl ad.

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