Some Late Surprises — in Super Bowl Ads
By STUART ELLIOTT
The Ad Bowl inside Super Bowl XLIII ended with a fourth quarter with almost as many surprises as in the football game.
Through the first three quarters, the commercials appeared pretty much as they were expected based on pregame lineups compiled by reporters. But in the second commercial break of the fourth quarter, along came a spot for the Vizio brand of TV sets, which had not been on radar screens before Sunday.
Most of the changes were made by PepsiCo, which dropped a planned 15-second commercial for SoBe Lifewater and added a 60-second spot for Pepsi-Cola. The Pepsi commercial featured characters from a sketch on “Saturday Night Live” called “MacGruber,” which parodies the old ABC series “MacGyver.”
What was strange about the additional Pepsi spot was that the episode of “Saturday Night Live” broadcast by NBC on Saturday — the night before the Super Bowl — included several “MacGruber” sketches centered on MacGruber’s selling out to Pepsi-Cola so completely that he tells his friends he wants to be known as “PepSuber.”
In fact, the Pepsi commercial in the game seemed like a shorter version of that skit. It may turn out to be one of the most audacious plays in the history of product placement, branded entertainment and blurring the line between entertainment and advertising.
PepsiCo also dropped a couple of other commercials that it had indicated it was going to run in the game: one for Pepsi Max and one for Gatorade. Each of those brands was originally going to get two spots apiece; they had to settle for one apiece.
Another change that took place in the fourth quarter was a decision by General Electric to run two spots instead of one. The second spot, about wind energy, had appeared previously; the first spot, for G.E.’s SmartGrid technology, was new.
(Of course, G.E. had some extra clout to change its corporate mind since it owns NBC, the network that broadcast the game.)
For the record, here is a preliminary look at the commercial rundown: 11 spots shown nationally during the first quarter, 19 in the second quarter, 10 in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth quarter.
As usually happens, the final commercials of the game came around the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Although with a contest so close to the end, perhaps a few advertisers wished they had scheduled spots deeper into the game.
Next up for fans of Super Bowl ads are the postgame polls and surveys, which will start on Monday morning to offer assessments of the hits and flops.
It is always risky to go out on a limb on Super Bowl Sunday night and predict which spots viewers are saying they like or dislike, what they will want to watch again online or avoid at all costs. But here are some guesses.
Among the commercials that may vie for the top ranks are the Budweiser commercial celebrating love between two horses; the CareerBuilder.com spot offering sardonic advice on job-hunting; the Bud Light commercial with Conan O’Brien mocking celebrities who endorse products abroad; the Coke Zero spot that parodies the famous Mean Joe Greene commercial for Coca-Cola; the Hulu.com commercial featuring Alec Baldwin as a fiendish alien; and the Coca-Cola commercial set in a park, which depicts insects heisting a human’s Coke bottle.
Among the spots that may fall short in the postgame results are the spots for GoDaddy.com, which could prove problematic to female viewers; a spot for H&R Block that features Death, who is rarely welcome at Super Bowl parties; a commercial for Pepsi Max replete with cartoonish violence; and several of the spots for movies, which offered few reasons to buy tickets to the films being advertised.