February 08, 2005

The Stupor Bowl

WE CAN'T THINK of any nice way to say this, so we'll just come out and say it: the commercials this year bit the wax tadpole. They were horrible. They were unbelievably and incredibly lame.

This is not to say all the commercials were awful. We cracked a smile at the one for the Ford Mustang (yeah!), and we liked the one where the guy at the convenience store got beaten with the baseball bat. Also, the soldier in the airport commercial was well-done and poignant.

But God! Sunday night made us miss the Internet bubble, it really did. Back then, the ad firms came up with really creative and memorable spots, like the infamous Outpost.com ad (the marching band attacked by the wolves) and the EDS "Herding Cats" ad. Even after the bubble burst, the advertisers had great fun with it (the E*TRADE chimp riding through the dot-com ghost town. We loved that). This year paled in comparison. Will ANYONE remember ANY of these ads a week from now, much less several years from now? No. Of course not. Because the ads sucked.

So the question is: who do we blame for ruining this year's Super Bowl?

Well, we suppose we can first blame Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, those wretched, imbecilic, pathetic imitation pop stars. Gawd. They just had to frickin' cause trouble, didn't they, with that stupid and tawdry stunt during last year's halftime show. That was the truly frustrating thing about that whole mess, of course. It wasn't "shocking," it was crass and foul and showed as much subtlety as throwing chum into a shark tank. So it was offensive AND dumb, and the latter aspect was the worse sin. We are glad, though, that in the fallout both of them have subsequently disappeared from the public eye. We can only hope that market forces cause their permanent proscription from the airwaves.

Yet one cannot solely lay the blame on those two. We believe that most of the liability for this year's lousy commercials can be equally divided between the Fox television network, the National Football League, and the ad agencies which created the commercials in question.

After all, as The Arizona Republic reports today, officials with the NFL were "upset" over one advertisement for "GoDaddy.com" -- whatever that is -- and complained to Fox, which then killed later airings of the ad.

This advertisement was a clever, and pretty funny, spoof on the fallout from last year's debacle. Yet NFL officials were upset about it, which to us says they're complete and utter killjoys. After all, last year's troubles were due to the half-time show, not a bunch of advertisements. Besides, there's something to be said for being able to laugh at one's misfortune.

As for Fox, we learn from the Republic the network killed several proposed ads, and the creators of other ads pulled their ads from the lineup before the game. We think this was overcautious in the extreme on everybody's part. Fortunately for the advertisers, though, people everywhere are now going to see these "banned" spots. Also, it was dumb to throw off the Miller ads -- after all, watching Miller and Anheuser-Busch go at it would have kept us glued to our seat for hours.

But despite all this, we can't let the ad agencies off the hook either, for they could have come up with spots which were a) clever, b) funny, and c) not entirely and utterly predictable. Just because the ads had to be somewhat tasteful this time around didn't mean the people behind them couldn't have come up with some decent jokes and unexpected surprises.

Now, it may come as a surprise to some that we complain the lack of swell ads "ruined" the Super Bowl, as it was a heck of a game until late in the fourth quarter. But we did not have a horse in the race -- the Patriots knocked out our beloved Steelers during the AFC Championship -- and as such, we wanted some great ads to keep things interesting. Instead, we half-watched the game and half-watched the ads and grinned once in a while and mostly just went about our daily work. Given that ratings fell year-over-year for the Really Big Game, we can only conclude that at least a few other folks out there did much the same.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 8, 2005 07:06 PM | TrackBack