Super Bowl ads mix fun with more caution

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05038/453908.stm

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After last year’s half-time show “wardrobe malfunction” and a bevy of racy commercials — flatulent horse, crotch-biting dog and hot-to-trot monkey — this year’s Super Bowl ads were bound to be more tame, especially with several riskier spots getting pulled leading up to the big game.

But tame doesn’t necessarily mean boring, as this year’s ads proved.

Best parody of Super Bowl ad hype: I think the Fed Ex spot with the 10-point plan for making a winning Super Bowl ad was a hoot, hitting all the right notes. Celebrity? They got Burt Reynolds. Animal? They had a bear. And it danced. Then kicked Reynolds in the groin. That’s a Super Bowl ad triple threat, and an excellent parody.

Most obvious reminder of last year: A Web site called godaddy.com — still don’t know what they’re selling, father eviction services? — featured a buxom woman testifying before Congress. Best line: A congresswoman says, “May I suggest a turtleneck?”

Thank goodness for Web links: Not only do they extend the life of a spot — like the McDonald’s www.lincolnfry.com spot — they can also remind you of what the product was (turns out godaddy.com is an Internet domain name registration service). Inactionheroes.com was a great companion for the funny deodorant spot that touts the adventures of action figure Mama’s Boy, whose mother guilt tripped him, saying, “You’ll miss me when I’m dead!”

Who thought this was a good idea? Why in the world did Quizno’s reach back a few years to revive Baby Bob, the pint-sized pitch man for a failed dot-com company? Baby Bob was kind of cute until CBS made him the star of a terrible sitcom, and then he was just annoying. Worse yet, the Quizno’s spots suffered from cut-rate special effects to make Baby Bob talk.

Trading spaces: Usually Quizno’s has odd ads — remember the spot with wolves?– but this year the sandwich shop chain gave up that distinction to competitor Subway, which featured several weird spots. In one, police pull up to find a car with steamed windows. The cops suspect lovebirds, turns out to be two guys eating hot sandwiches.

Most popular locale: Cold, desolate snow-covered areas seemed to be the most popular setting for advertising products as diverse as a new Mustang convertible and a hot Subway sandwich.

You want edgy? Here’s edgy: Although theses spots had nothing to do with mortgages, Ameriquest had two “don’t judge too quickly, we don’t” spots that tonally were out of sync with the rest of the commercials last night. In one, a convenience store employee thinks he’s being robbed (he’s not) and beats the suspected burglar down. In another, a woman comes home to find her partner holding a white cat covered in something red and holding a knife. The red stuff is pasta sauce, but she obviously mistakes it for blood in this dark commercial.

Did Noah’s Ark run aground at an ad agency? Yes, Super Bowl ads featuring animals have become tradition, but we’re now seeing so many animals in ads that my allergies are acting up. That said, there were a few worth noting …

Coolest animal spot: The Bud Light bird struts down a bar to defend a woman from a sleazy guy intent on buying her a drink. “Step back,” the guy advises. “Step back?” the accented bird replies, “I step back to Hackensack right after I pluck you clean like a turkey.”

Cute, but no cockatoo: Anheuser-Busch had a sequel to its “awww, cute” spot that featured a donkey who thinks he’s a Clydesdale. This time a whole mess of computer-generated animals — including a camel, sheep, ostrich — show up wanting to join the team.

Can’t wait for this movie to ‘Begin’: By and large the movie ads during the game were unremarkable, save for the “Batman Begins” spot, which made the upcoming feature look like a summer popcorn flick we won’t be embarrassed to see (unlike, say, 1997’s “Batman & Robin”).

Funniest (and crudest) Fox promo: Fox’s announcer goes from shopper-to-shopper at a grocery store touting this week’s episode of “24,” advising a man looking at underwear to “grab an extra pair, ’cause you’re gonna need it.”

Flipping for Big Ben: The Steelers star did flips on the beach for The NFL Network in a commercial featuring football also-rans who pined for another chance, singing the song “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”

(Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or [email protected].)