Times may change, but Super Bowl ads don’t


By Allison Linn
Senior writer
updated 4:15 p.m. ET, Mon., Feb. 2, 2009

With the economy in the doldrums and the nation’s future uncertain, it’s nice to know that some things never change.

Among them: Super Bowl advertisers continue to rely on hot women, violent gags and sophomoric humor to sell their wares.

While this year’s batch of Super Bowl ads offered a lot of the predictable fodder, there were some bright spots. Here’s a look at Ads of the Weird’s take on the best and the worst of this year’s Super Bowl spots.

What we liked

David Abernathy starts life by congratulating the doctor on a perfect delivery, and thus begins a journey of overachievement and general excellence. And yet, even a man who can perform open heart surgery in an opera house with a ballpoint pen loses his confidence when he is faced with that scariest of prospects: the car salesman.

But alas, thanks to cars.com, he’s able to regain his sense of self-worth, and walk away with the vehicle he wants.

The commercial for cars.com was engrossing and witty enough to keep people’s attention, and also used a theme that would actually resonate with car buyers — the fact that, no matter what you’ve done in life, it is still intimidating to try to deal with a car dealer.

In Audi’s Super Bowl spot, action star Jason Statham travels through time as he tries to make a getaway, first in a 1970s-era Mercedes, next in a 1980s-era BMW and, finally, in a sleek and modern Audi.

The action-packed, entertaining ad shows a pitch-perfect attention to detail, from the washed out look of the 1970s sequence to the box-like cell phone in the 1980s bit to the star’s sigh when faced with a Lexus in the 1990s.

Perhaps most of us aren’t thinking of an Audi purchase in this economy, but we still liked the escapism.

Pepsi also chose to travel through time and space for an uplifting ad juxtaposing a previous generation with the current one, to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” (reinterpreted in part by will.i.am).

The other clever juxtapositions in the ad including a soldier’s homecoming in times gone by versus today, Jack Black versus John Belushi and even Gumby versus Shrek.

Sure, it was a bit hokey, but we still think the message — “Every generation refreshes the world” — is something people could stand to hear about now.

What we didn’t like

We’ve always thought that sending flowers was a pretty classy thing to do, so it was surprising that a flower delivery service offered the least classy commercial of the Super Bowl.

In the ad for Teleflora, a woman is chatting with her office mates when a box of flowers arrives. She opens the package happily, only to have one of the flowers start berating her.

“Oh, no, look at the mug on you, Diane, you’re a train wreck, that’s why he only sent a box of flowers. Go home to your romance novels and your fat, smelly cat,” the flower says.

And then, as if that’s not enough of a verbal lashing, “No one wants to see you naked.”

We get the implication: That a box of flowers “says” something cheaper than a vase delivered by Teleflora. But instead of coming off as the more upscale alternative, Teleflora came off sounding petty and mean. Really, really mean.

A man takes a bite of Doritos, a woman’s dress comes off. He takes another bite, cash comes flying out of an ATM machine. A third bite, and a police officer is turned into a monkey. Then he runs out of these magical Doritos and gets hit by a bus.

Far from offering us anything original, this ad struck us as essentially being the greatest hits of lame advertising gags: you’ve got your accidentally naked woman, your promise of unearned riches, your snubbing of authority and, finally, your violent act played for humor.

Pepsi Max
After striking the right tone with an original ad for its overall brand, Pepsi reverted to the land of the stereotypes for an ad promoting its new Pepsi Max.

The ad shows men in a series of violent accidents, including a golf club to the head, a bowling ball dropped on the head and that old favorite, getting hit on the head while sticking one’s head out of a limousine.

After every encounter, the man bravely tells his pals, “I’m good.”

A voice then intones, “Men can take anything, except the taste of diet cola. Until now. Pepsi Max, the first diet cola for men.”

The random acts of violence thing is not only unoriginal, it’s also never really that funny. On a broader level, the ad also begs the question of why the company created Pepsi Max in the first place.

The commercial basically implies that drinking any other diet soda isn’t manly, which seems like kind of a risky move if you want men to keep buying any of your other many diet products. And how exactly is Pepsi Max going to be a more manly diet soda anyway? Is it made with testosterone or something?