Bare-bones commercial hits Super Bowl mark

Rudy still rules.

Giuliani’s succinct message of appreciation for support shown after the Sept. 11 attacks stood head and shoulders above other Super Bowl commercials Sunday.

“Now more than ever, we are one nation,” the former New York City mayor said. “For all New Yorkers, I just want to say, ‘Thank you, America.’ ” The black-and-white ad was sponsored by, a fact we tastefully didn’t learn until the commercial ended.

What it lacked in glitz, it more than made up for in effectiveness, proving that a heartfelt, bare-bones message means more than any overproduced, red-white-and-blue, song-and-dance, feel-good, pseudo-patriotic musical number ever could.

Of course, it wasn’t hard to rise to the top this year. Fox, the network broadcasting the game, didn’t sell all its ad spots until a few days before the game; 30 seconds commanded a little less than $2 million, down from the $2.1 million CBS charged last year.

But this wasn’t a question of tight money in a bad economy. It was a question of execution. People used to say Super Bowl ads were more entertaining than the game.

Not this year, not by a long shot. Great game. Lousy commercials.

Is there some post-modern movement in comedy dictating that you should vaguely suggest humor instead of make people laugh? Only a couple that tried to be funny were.

The funniest was the Bud Light ad in which a woman tries to seduce a man. She’s upstairs, cooing that she’s wearing a teddy. Nothing. She’s put satin sheets on the bed. Nada. She has Bud Light. Boom! He’s off, sprinting up the stairs, tearing off his clothes, diving onto the bed . . . zip! He slides off the sheets out the window.

It was silly, surprising and funny. So there.

The other chuckle-worthy spot was a retirement-advisement ad from Charles Schwab, a company not noted for its hilarity. Barry Bonds takes batting practice when a mysterious voice booms, “It’s time. It’s time to walk into retirement. Why hang around just to break the all-time home run record?”

Eventually we learn that the voice is that of home run king Hank Aaron. Ha.

Other ads fell flat.

Britney Spears’ Pepsi commercial, in which she soullessly recreated several Pepsi ads through the years – teeny bopper, hippie, surfer, whatever – did nothing to make me want to drink Pepsi or buy a Britney CD, which presumably was the point.

If anything it made me want to drink corn liquor and listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd while picking roasted squirrel out of my teeth with a big splinter.

A Budweiser commercial began with Clydesdales pulling their beer wagon. Starting on a snowy farm, they eventually made it to New York, where they stood in front of the Statue of Liberty; the horses then bowed in salute. Classy tribute or callous use of tragedy to sell beer? And when did the Clydesdales become an American icon?

Subway continues to make commercials starring that Jared guy, the fat fellow who lost weight equivalent to a Volkswagen Beetle or whatever on a diet of subs. Only now they don’t even identify him. He’s just there, as if we all know him.

Maybe he hangs out with the Clydesdales.

Anti-drug ads, pointing out that buying drugs may help fund terrorism, were a buzz kill, which was the point – in other words, they were effective. But a Quizno’s sub commercial tried to make the case that maiming is always good for a laugh. It’s not.

It’s the second straight year of lackluster Super Bowl commercials. Maybe it’s a trend. Maybe companies should find a better way to spend $2 million.

Like investing in Enron.

Reach Goodykoontz at (602) 444-8974 or