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Video: Touchdowns and fumbles in Super Bowl ads


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Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM


“Bieber vs Osbourne.” Sometimes one perfect line can make a TV commercial soar. This Best Buy spot from Crispin Porter + Bogusky announces the retailer’s offer to buy back outdated high-tech devices, even as we are being entertained by the odd pairing of Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber hawking ever newer iterations of a mobile device. But what makes this spot special is Osbourne’s unforgettable reading of the line “What’s a Bieber?” Osbourne summons up all that is strange and, at times, truly scary about pop culture today.


“Silverado Tommy” Who knew truck advertising could be such fun. Usually it’s all about brawn and bravado, but this commercial tells the tale of a Chevy Silverado that seemingly spends all of its time helping a busy dad rescue his son Tommy from some difficult situations. Yes, we’re talking runaway balloons, deep water wells, a ferocious whale and to top it all off, a volcano. There’s more than a little wit in the way all of this is stitched together in a mere 30 seconds. Plus, we can easily read between the lines to figure out this Chevy truck can help its owner deal with a lot.

“Border” Two guards are keeping close watch from their respective sides of the border. One is enjoying a Coke that the other seems to covet. The fun in this spot comes from watching the carefully choreographed way the guard with the Coke finally shares one with his counterpart in the adjoining country. It isn’t a brilliant commercial, but it does a fine job of making the point that Coke’s great appeal knows no boundaries. As is almost always the case with work from Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., this commercial’s charm is in all the little details that come together to create a classic and classy commercial that never insults the intelligence.

“Logging” This time we were ready. Betty White’s brutal hit in the Snickers Super Bowl commercial last year caught us by surprise. It also shocked and repelled us. But not millions of other Super Bowl viewers who found it all hysterically funny. So Snickers is back with a variation on the same concept. What we did like about “Logging” is all of comedian Richard Lewis’ very funny whining. Roseanne Barr’s sucker punch, however, is every bit as ugly as we suspected it would be. But Barr’s simple, apt reaction, we have to admit, almost makes up for it.

“The Force” Chevy has a bumper crop of fine Super Bowl spots. And the Volkswagen work ain’t too shabby either. This commercial draws on the mystical power of “the Force,” of which much was made in the hugely popular movie “Star Wars.” A kid done up in full Darth Vader drag is trying his darndest to make magical things happen. He’s having trouble, though, until his father drives up in a Volkswagen and figures out how to make the Force manifest itself for his understandably startled child. Unlike the Chevy work, which delivers entertainment value and a sales message, this Volkswagen spot is less about selling the merits of the car and more about the cute story.


“Misunderstanding” We love how this spot uses old people in a respectful but amusing way to make its point about the great gas mileage a Chevy Cruze Eco gets. “Misunderstanding” shows you don’t have to be big or flashy to make a mark. Just tap into what’s funny about the way people really are. Great performances. Great writing. And great editing here. A great trifecta of treats.

“Wild West” This is not a great Super Bowl of Advertising for Anheuser-Busch. This Budweiser spot does a decent enough job building up suspense in a Wild West saloon. But the sing-along finale doesn’t dazzle or spark a laugh. The iconic Clydesdales aren’t shown to best effect either.

“Tibet” Because it managed to land a last-minute berth in the Super Bowl, Groupon got plenty of publicity to go with its first-ever TV advertising campaign. “Tibet” certainly doesn’t wow. But it does keep you guessing where it’s headed with all the talk about Tibet that finally segues to Timothy Hutton chowing down on Tibetan food and talking up the discount he got with his Groupon coupon. Nothing flashy. But the spot has its star power and surprising twists.

“Siege” This is Coca-Cola advertising in epic mode. There’s a place for this sort of work in a world where many people are fans of action-oriented movies and TV commercials. Certainly, the message about the virtues of Coke is as clear here as it is in “Border,” but finally, the bigness of “Siege” didn’t grip us as much as the smaller-scaled delights of “Border” did. To each his own, we suppose.

“The Best Part” This is the kind of work that wins accolades for Doritos advertising in the Super Bowl of Advertising. One guy licking the Doritos residue off another guy’s finger. Then sniffing the Doritos aroma on a pair of pants. A little kinky? You bet. But if you wanna score big in the Super Bowl of Advertising, this is, more often than not, a winning strategy.

“Torpedo Cooler” Both Doritos and Pepsi Max are running Super Bowl commercials created by layman ad creatives. We figured at least one spot in the group would feature some crotch-related humor. And sure enough, “Torpedo Cooler” does. This is dumb, humorless work, but the sight of that Pepsi Max hitting an obnoxious frat boy in the crotch is probably going to strike a lot of people as a hoot. Pity.


“Hack Job” This commercial gets the prime post-kickoff position. But if this is Bud Light’s best Super Bowl effort, it comes up lacking. Big- time. “Hack Job” tries to make us laugh by suggesting a home makeover requires nothing more than putting out a lot of Bud Light for everyone to enjoy. No humor in the visuals. Certainly none in the writing or the performances? What’s to like?

“Empower the People” Dull. Dull. Dull. Motorola has had some image problems in recent years. This spot won’t do much to help that. It’s an apparent attempt to tout the virtues of a new tablet device, but all we saw were vast seas of white-robed people hanging around, while a young man tries to connect with one of the hooded female figures. There has to be a more exciting way to communicate the pleasures of owning a Xoom tablet.

“Release the Hounds” Not all the auto advertising in the Super Bowl is superlative. This Audi commercial definitely doesn’t work. It’s about prisoners escaping from a so-called luxury prison. The commercial is lavishly produced and features a performer who, for whatever reason, resembles Steve Martin. But the big problem here is lack of clarity in the storytelling. It left us scratching our head and thinking what a waste of air time and money.

“One Epic Ride” This commercial for the Kia Optima also failed to impress, though it’s trying really hard to do just that. Plenty of big-budget special effects at work here, but so what? This is one of those instances where the flashy means finally defeats the end purpose of suggesting folks of all stripes will go to any lengths to get behind the wheel of a Kia. We didn’t buy it. But the special effects team deserves some props for all their effort.

“Pug Attack” Advertisers know they can’t go wrong putting animals in commercials. So of course this Doritos-craving pug will help the spot win over many viewers. Still we find the comic payoff here weak. But we know: Who asked us?

“Crying Jean” Another dud from the Anheuser-Busch portfolio. An emaciated Adrien Brody does not impress as a nightclub singer in this dimly lit snooze of a spot. Brody manages to ignore all the females swooning over him as he only has eyes for the Stella Artois. Nothing memorable here, especially Brody’s singing.

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