Mad Ave. Hits Ad-versity

Super commercials light on originality

Somebody got it terribly backward yesterday on the Super Bowl telecast.

Traditionally, it’s the football teams that turn conservative for the Super Bowl, afraid to make a mistake. Companies paying $2 million for 30 seconds of national commercial airtime often have shown an admirable willingness, nay, an eagerness, to put just about anything on the screen.

Then this year, while both the Giants and Ravens tried to go for the bomb on great defenses, advertisers mostly stuck with plays that have worked in the past.

Snickers had a nice little old lady drop a sofa out the window onto a car whose alarm wouldn’t shut up.

So Pepsi had Bob Dole poking fun at his Viagra ads, which deserve it, except Bob Dole poking fun at himself is well into reruns by now.

Budweiser had a bunch of white nerds with good diction ring each other on the phone in a self-referential parody of its “Whassup” ads.

Cute idea, except why would you want to rekindle the memory of an ad that was so awful the mere thought of it makes you change channels?

And no, “Whassup” does not get any better when spoken by aliens.

Bud also created a cool Barry White kind of guy who’s making his move on a lady, then turned him into Jim Carrey with a lame punch line about spraying beer in her face.

Conversely, the Levi’s ad about a blue jeans donor was a clever idea that felt rushed. With 40 seconds instead of 30, that spot could have been a contender.

Philip Morris’ good-neighbor ad, about how kids shouldn’t smoke, played like last year’s “I want to be a drone” spot with all the funny parts edited out.

Fed-up housewife turns her vacuum on her moron couch-potato husband. The ad was for Visa, in case you’re wondering.

The ad with the animated figures bouncing around to “Go Where You Wanna Go” illustrated how far onto the B-list ad agencies have gone to find pop songs to rebrand as product pitches.

Even the Pepsi machine ads, the best of which was the dispenser taking vengeance on Garry Kasparov, felt forced as if the death of all those dot-coms that advertised on Super Bowl 2000, or the fact CBS held a closeout sale for its last 2001 ad slots, had dampened spirits.

Some derivative ads survived. Having Ali Landry knocked senseless by a Dorito was brilliant, right down to the fadeout scene where Landry finally gets to speak. “Ow,” she says.

For that matter, the Dole ad is nicely done, which is more than can be said for any of the four Accenture ads. That includes the green bacteria and yes, even the sweet old lady with the birthday cake. It’s not easy to become pointless in 30 seconds, but Accenture did it. And does anyone have a clue what Accenture is or does?

Squirrely looking guy fondles a business card as a tribute to the job-seeking power of The thirty-second spot feels like 30 minutes. had the same issue with “running of the squirrels” which was agonizingly close to being a real good ad. It just needed an animal that’s slower and goofier than squirrels, who look a little too much like rats.

On more successful notes, the Schwab ad in which Sarah Ferguson tells an enraptured young girl that someday her prince will come was very nicely done, and Budweiser deserves a special citation for earnestly warning teenagers against drinking by using an act ‘N Sync that is absolutely guaranteed to draw the attention of several million teenagers to the word “Budweiser.”

But like the Giants, too many of the ad players yesterday just came up flat.