Super Bowl ads: Funny, but familiar


The big game is over and it was not a super night for Oakland Raiders fans or for the commercials that aired during the Super Bowl. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the game with a fierce defense, Madison Avenue played it safe, going for laughs with sophomoric sight gags and sitcom stars of the past.

WHERE WAS THE Ol’ razzle-dazzle? The Super Bowl, with its expected audience of more than 100 million viewers in the U.S., is the hottest ticket of the year for big-name advertisers, but this year’s parade of commercials could have used more flash and sparkle.

Anyone who has watched the last few Super Bowl would recognize the dumb guy characters in the numerous Bud Light ads or the long-running Visa campaign featuring some hapless famous person trying to cash a check without ID.

In its 90-second time-traveling ad Cadillac even recycled the same Led Zeppelin song that it used last year, as if the luxury-car company wanted to make sure they got their money’s worth out of the classic rock anthem.

In fact, the high-cost of buying time in the Super Bowl – an estimated $2.1 million for a 30-second spot – kept all but the largest ad players out of the game. Combine those factors with economic worries and war fears and the result was a “Ad Bowl” with few Hail Mary passes. There were no real downers, but no over-the-top splashy production numbers, either. At that price, no one wanted to risk producing a stinker.


There were some breakthroughs.

The Osbournes may be perilously close to being over-exposed, but the 45-second Pepsi Twist commercial where addled Dad Ozzy has a bad dream was one of the few commercials to live up to the hype. In the ad, which Pepsi wisely kept bleep-free, Ozzy is struggling with a kitchen garbage bag when his teen-age children, Kelly and Jack, come in drinking the lemon-flavored Pepsi. They then turn into Donny and Marie Osmond and sing a few bars of the Osmonds theme song. At that point, Ozzy cries helplessly for his wife, Sharon, only to awake in bed with Florence Henderson, the mother from “The Brady Bunch.”

That the once fearsome Osbourne, the “Prince of Darkness,” has turned into a cuddly old coot, gamely playing along with the goody-goody former TV stars is an ingenious ironic twist.

Grizzled country legend Willie Nelson mocks his own tax troubles for tax preparers H&R Block in another of the night’s best spots. In the ad, Nelson has to make a shaving cream commercial in order to help pay for his accountant’s “little mistake” of $30 million in missed taxes. Nelson gives a quirky, humorous performance in the commercial-within-a-commercial, especially when he’s covered with shaving cream and pitifully wails, “my face is burning.”


The heat was on Anheuser-Busch, the night’s exclusive beer sponsor, to come up a knockout in its line-up of commercials for Budweiser and Bud Light.

That’s because the most talked about ad of the moment is rival Miller Light’s controversial new commercial, “Catfight”- the one with the impossibly buxom mud-fighting women.

But there were no battling bimbos in Bud Light’s roster. And Budweiser didn’t try to create a follow-up to its popular “Wazzup” catchphrase of two years ago.

Instead the brewery relied on silly sight gags, such as a guy in an upside down clown suit drinking a beer in a bar or the guy who goes into a bar wearing his long-haired dog on his head. Then there was the guy explaining to his dinner date why he needs three arms (so he never has to put down his Bud Light) or the guy who meets his girlfriend’s fat-bottomed mother for the first time, fearing that his girlfriend will have ludicrously huge hips in 20 years.

Judging from the commercials, guys who drink Bud Light are doofuses.


The Reebok commercial featuring Terry Tate, a fictional 300 lb. linebacker who brutally tackles slacker office workers, had more energy than most of the other ads and was funny in a “ooh, that’s gotta hurt,” way. The violence is cartoonish, so it’s not going to make anyone smash their co-workers to the ground. But why the linebacker would make anyone want to buy Reebok products is unclear, unless it’s to be able to run away from him faster.

Comic book fans got the payoff of seeing the gigantic green monster swinging a tank in a teaser ad for “The Hulk,” the hotly awaited summer release from Universal Pictures. The computer-generated angry giant has been carefully hidden until viewers were treated Sunday night to several glimpses of Bruce Banner’s magnificently muscular alter ego.

The Internet career sites and Hotjobs took different approaches in their commercials, but both featured blue-collar workers such as factory workers or tractor trailer drivers, not the types you’d normally expect to use the Web to find a new job. Yahoo’s Hotjobs ad featured wistful folks singing “Rainbow Connection” to themselves while they work, while showed an 18-wheeler without a driver destroying a gas station.

AT&T Wireless revived the crew from the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” to show how quickly the castaways would have been rescued if they’d only had mobile phone service.