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Tuesday, February 3, A.D. 2009
Super Bowl Advertisements

I hope that you enjoyed Sunday’s Super Bowl. Though not a football fan myself, it was quite a game. I am sure that my Steelers hating sister is not pleased with the result, but she must have at least enjoyed the commercials.

I actually enjoy commercials—if they are enjoyable. I realize that advertising is manipulation, but it is supposed to be. I find it slimy when (non-advertisement) cartoons sell a product, but I acknowledge my gratitude for any aesthetic or comedic pleasure received while watching commercials. For they are supervenient gifts. Besides, they allow creative people to exercise their talents. As I wrote in “Disney the Corrupter of Youth?,” one should not reduce a commercial product to its money making end.

Dr. Roy Eappen’s Tory Dr. Roy blog features some of his favorite forty-third Super Bowl ads, and I am copying his idea. However, I must first present my favorite Super Bowl ad of all time—E.D.S.‘s “Herding Cats” commercial from A.D. 2000:

For this year’s crop, YouTube has a Super Bowl channel, AdBlitz 2009, where you can watch all of the commercials online. Here are my recommended ads, with the year’s best at the end.

Budweiser more than any other company owns the Super Bowl ad legacy. The company’s annual commercials often allude to its past ads, which is brilliant marketing. Most viewers are already familiar with the previous ads, and these folks are pleased when they encounter something that they already know—for men are a lot like dogs, as Socrates long ago noted. In addition to the familiarity, nostalgia trip, and traditional annual ritual—all of which complement well Budweiser’s marketed image—these ads that span years have the further advantage of bringing the imagery and force of the previous ads to the attention of the viewers of this year’s ad for the same price of one time slot.

I do not accept Hume’s epistemology, but he is certainly correct when he notes that the mind more readily remembers things vividly when such things are strengthened and reinforced by other impressions that the mind relates to them. This explains one of the advantages of specialization. Your mind remembers things better when it always attends to them and to things that your mind relates to them. Constant employment makes sets of memories fresh. So, when we watch the following horse and Dalmatian ad, we think of the past horse and Dalmatian ads in our memory and add to them. The more related memories, the more vivacity such memories will have—and the more influence.

Besides the clever ad legacy, the horse and dog ads feature horses and dogs! Throw in some lovely countryside, ideal weather, and an honest hard-working representative of “real America” (you know, the America with Sarah Palin’s small town values), and I’m won over. This year’s horse and dog legacy ad is “Stick.” Budweiser made a few other horse and dog ads this year, but “Generations” and “Circus” are not in the same genre as the standard horse and dog legacy commercials from the last decade.

In my opinion, the funniest ad this year belongs to CareerBuilder. It is artful, irreverent, a little witty, and wonderfully foolish. The “loads of money” exception is golden. Humor is born from the unexpected.

The lowbrow part of my soul finds the GoDaddy “Enhancements” ad with Danica Patrick amusing. It is stupid and trashy, but I laugh when the slattern at the end stands up. Comedy that is moderately dumb annoys me, but I have a soft spot for the utterly ridiculous.

I also like Cheetos’ “Spoiled Girl.” Perhaps misogyny has something to do with my taste for this one (and the previous), but it is quite fun to see bimbohood simultaneously exploited and mocked.

I suppose that Super Bowl ads in general do not treat women very, um, augustly. Perhaps, this is men’s pay back for having to be ridiculed constantly for the rest of the year. For all those longsuffering husbands, I offer Bridgestone’s “Taters”:

Patriotism, beer, chauvinism, and random acts of violence against men are all Super Bowl regulars—along with trucks. I have never understood the truck fetish, and I laugh at truck ads’ embarrassing attempts at masculinization. Nonetheless, the following commercial is pretty neat because it is real. The part of the hillbilly soul that monster truck shows entice responds with a hearty “Woah!” to this:

I think that I really dislike General Electric’s “Scarecrow” ad, but it intrigues me, nonetheless. Lover of sights and sounds that I am, the imagery captures my fancy, but the ad just does not make sense. Indeed, it does violence to The Wizard of Oz. There is no meaningful connection between the referrer and the referent.

I also feel ambivalent about Frosted Flakes’ “Plant a Seed” ad. It is both a visual treat and an annoyingly schmaltzy example of charitable posing. What is up with the creepy shadow of Tony the Tiger? Does the gradual introduction of Kellogg’s cat hint of Tony’ transcendence, the immediate epiphany of which would jar the viewers? For the love of Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

For anthropological reasons, no commercial this year is more interesting than Coca-Cola’s “Avatar” ad. What does it say about our culture, and what does our culture’s interpretation of what it says say about our culture?

As you can see in the “Avatar” ad, the production value of Coke’s ads is outstanding. It’s the Super Bowl, and people deserve to be wowed. Accordingly, I do not think that there is a real contest for the best Super Bowl ad this year. Coca-Cola’s “Heist” is really, totally, amazingly cool:

Buy, buy, buy . . .

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 3, Anno Domini 2009
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