Super Bowl Sunday is behind us, and with it goes an even larger scale showdown: the Super Bowl commercial-fest. Just about anyone who watches the year’s most-televised event — even those who just watch because they’ve got nothing better to do on a Sunday evening than eat wings and watch monstrous men beat the crap out of one another — is aware of the gold standard in advertising that accompanies each game.
Recent years have set the bar high, with talking babies telling us about their work-at-home careers, a macho naked black man explaining how Old Spice can get you “two tickets to that thing you love” and beefy linebacker turning into Betty White after he chomps into a Snickers.
This year was no disappointment. Doritos, Snickers, Budweiser and numerous car companies made their standard appearances as they do every year, and a number of dark horses — including Lipton Brisk and Bridgestone — came in unexpectedly to get their swing at the masses.
Here’s a countdown of my top five most memorable commercials of Super Bowl XLV. Some of the following made the list because of a clever series of events that only the most artsy (or just odd) minds could conjure. Others are mentioned because of their ability to communicate a deep, inner message that resonates with viewers in a narrow time frame. Still, others are here because of some stupid slapstick joke that everyone’s cracking up about the next morning.
My top five choices are complimented by the comments of Professor Greg Carlson, a professor of linguistics, philosophy and cognitive science here at UR (submitted via e-mail). Professor Carlson teaches a class each Spring semester on the inner workings of Super Bowl commercials. He focuses on why some commercials have greater success in making their marks than others, and just what kind of marks they are.
5) Doritos House-Sitting
A man forgets to feed a fish, water a plant and even spills the ashes of a friend’s deceased grandfather. But sprinkle some Doritos on the fish, and it comes back to life. Throw some on the plant, and it’s good as new. Toss a few pieces on the urn, and the effect is priceless:
4) Bridgestone Woodchuck Karma
A wary driver narrowly avoids a woodchuck in the middle of the road. Later on, the woodchuck returns the favor by building a dam to protect the road the man’s driving on from a flood. Naturally, the woodchuck gives the man a fist bump.
3) Volkswagon Star Wars
A little tyke dressed up as Darth Vader tries his hand at using the Force. When all else fails, he goes outside for one last try on his dad’s shiny car. The dad has the car’s lights go off several times by remote, causing the child to stumble backward in amazement.
“The Darth Vader ad had very little language, mentioning the Volkswagon emblem only a few times at the end plus the tag line announcing the arrival of the new Passat,” Carlson said. “There was very little language [in contrast to other commercials].”
2) Snickers Roseanne
Tony, the protagonist of this ad, complains about not feeling like helping cut trees, appearing to be a washed-up singer with poor vision. After one bite into a Snickers, though, he’s back to his young, bushy-faced lumberjack self. Roseanne, meanwhile, complains about a bad back. Her remedy isn’t a Snickers, however — she gets hit by a falling tree instead.
“Now my front hurts too!”
1) Chrysler Eminem
A poetic and masculine voice questions what Detroit has to offer, as an unknown driver makes his way through the city’s cold, barren streets in a Chrysler 200. Eminem steps out to answer the question.“This is the motor city. This is what we do.”
Though it attracted massive attention from his class, Professor Carlson saw an error pertaining to viewer attention with this commercial.
“This was not one of the ‘fun’ commercials,” Carlson said. “The tag line, ‘imported from Detroit,’ invites the listener to take an interesting perspective on American-made cars. Because of its complexity, it might have required a bit too much audience attention to be very effective.”
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.