For the last several years, we at man with black hat have reviewed the television commercials for the Super Bowl. The game itself is the most-watched sporting event on television, and quite possibly the most-watched program of any type, making advertising space an expensive commodity. For last year's event, the average cost of a 30-second advertisement was around $4 million. The ads have become a phenomenon in their own right, apart even from the game.
The ads have also become a bellwether for trends in popular culture, and are thus not without controversy. There are so many to review, but we will take this occasion to highlight five of them.
The USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter is an annual survey taken of the commercials in a live poll. Its most popular-rated commercial this year was that of (who else?) Budweiser, who also won last year's Meter. This year's submission is about the special friendship that develops between a puppy from an adoption agency and a Clydesdale horse. Naturally it has a happy ending, for both the puppy and the horse. The ad is set to "Let Her Go" by Passenger.
That one was a tear jerker. This next one, not so much.
Coca-Cola featured young people singing "America the Beautiful" in languages in addition to English, and included what appears to be a young Arab girl wearing a hijab, or head covering. Worn as a sign of modesty among women in the Arab world, regardless of religion, more than a few wingnuts accused the company not only of being unpatriotic, but of pandering to Islamic extremism.
Actually, the Coke ad was less unpatriotic than it was absurd. A national anthem, while often officially rendered in more than one language (Canada's in English and French, Philippines' in English, Spanish, and Tagalog), that of the United States is customarily sung only in English, which makes this confusing from a marketing standpoint. Why does singing an anthem that is a sign of our unity become a means to highlight our differences? Pandering, yes, but less to good will among Americans of diverse origins, than to the appearance of political correctness.
(Personally, I really don't care; I'm a Pepsi man myself.)
As if to compensate for a supposed lack of patriotism elsewhere, this year's ad for Chrysler features folksinger-songwriter Bob Dylan extolling pride in American workmanship. A bankrupt city like Detroit obviously needs all the help it can get, but this attempt would have been dismissed a generation ago as "selling out to the man," probably even by the very guy doing the ... well, the selling out. Then again, there are the gritty scenes of old diners and blue-collar workers in dingy pool halls, contrasted with sepia-toned street scenes of luxurious black cars with gleaming chrome and ... is that Bob Dylan stepping out of one?
There were a few surprises (more pleasant than the above), such as the one for General Mills' Cheerios cereal, which just happened to show a bi-racial couple and their little girl. "Gracie" is informed that she is going to have a baby brother. In return for the news, she wants a puppy. Some talking heads expected a conservative backlash, forgetting that the hoopla over bi-racial families has essentially disappeared from American society. Even the US Census Bureau has begun to allow for multi-racial classification. Relax, everybody. The right wingers got over it, as if they ever had to.
Hmmm, a puppy. Maybe she and the Clydesdales can do some business.
Of course, the Super Bowl would not be complete without a Doritos contest, where people make up commercials and the winner gets theirs on the air. For this year's pick, Mister Smith is in for a surprise when Jimmy invites him into the time machine. It's amazing what kids can do with cardboard boxes these days.
There's more where those came from Go to the website for USA Today's Super Bowl XLVIII Ad Meter, and get more than you bargained for, courtesy of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.