Some Super Bowl ads a commercial success

By David Martindale

Express-News Staff Writer

When commercial air time costs $53,333 per second, as it did during Fox’s Super Bowl XXXIII telecast, it’s a good idea for advertisers to make every clock tick count. It would be a colossal waste of money, after all, if viewers turned sponsors’ shill time into opportunities for refrigerator runs and bathroom breaks during the 34-19 Broncos romp.

So Super Bowl ad buyers invested even more bucks – employing A-list celebrities and using feature-film-caliber special effects – in an effort to keep American easy chairs occupied while the game clock wasn’t running.

How many of those advertiser dollars made sense? After all, as fun as it might be to see ET back in action, it’s debatable whether the adorable 1980s alien enticed any viewers into buying Progressive Auto Insurance.

To quote a line from a first-quarter Anheuser-Busch spot, which revealed after all these years that the monosyllabic Budweiser frogs could say so much more, “How was that supposed to sell beer?”

So here’s a take on which commercials scored touchdowns, at least in terms of entertainment value: Louie gets fired To get the full comic impact of this series of commercials, in which the “Bud” and “Er” frogs subject Louie to a savage tongue-lashing (literally), it helped to have seen the Super Bowl XXXII spots, in which Louie ordered a “hit” on the frogs. These fellas make a great comedy team. If Louie and the frogs really are out of work, as appears to be the case, can sitcom stardom be in the offing?

Terrific toons

An understated animated gem in which such cartoon greats as Mr. Magoo, Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy demonstrate the buying power of MasterCard. The spot’s master stroke of casting: Olive Oyl, Wonderbra wearer. By comparison, the wit of the bosom-boasting Victoria’s Secret and Doritos commercials seemed a little, um, flat.

Jerry’s big adventure Jerry Seinfeld counters MasterCard by demonstrating the purchasing power of the American Express card, only his wild cross-country trek is revealed at the end as a special-effects hoax. The St. Louis Arch, for example, was only a model! With apologies to Karl Malden (of American Express Travelers Cheques fame), he didn’t leave home, period.

Are you listening, Dave?

Hiring HAL the computer from “2001: A Space Odyssey” as an Apple computer spokesman is very amusing in theory, but coming only moments after a Louie the Lizard spot doomed it to spark no more than a smile.

Violence on television.

It appears that chaos reigns behind the scenes at World Wrestling Federation headquarters – unless, of course, the mayhem we witnessed during our tour was faked. Wrestling? Fake? Nah.

Sibling rivals One Dalmatian puppy gives a litter mate a raspberry when selected as fire department mascot. The other gets the last laugh two years (or 14 dog years) later when he rates a ride-along with the Budweiser Clydesdales. So who’s top dog now?

Paper or plastic?

The commercial that probably got the biggest laugh out of the least money spent: Cash-poor slackers must decide between a six-pack of Bud or a roll of toilet paper. No wonder they asked for a receipt.

Horsing around

Who knew one of the “prizes” in those really big bags of Cracker Jacks, as demonstrated in this commercial, was a pony? All I got was a cheesy plastic whistle.

Shameless self-promotion

Out of well over two dozen commercials plugging Fox programming, the highlight was when the “King of the Hill” fellas did the “Full Monty” (everyone but Dale, that is, who cheated by wearing “prescription underpants”).