Super Bowl XLVI Ad Preview

With a little over a week to go before the Super Bowl, advertisers are busy ramping up the expectations for what promises to be a slew of violence and/or misogyny-themed (Go-Daddy!, anyone?) commercials. Of course, there are always exceptions. A few of the early sneak-peaks have got me intrigued. Yep, I’m a sucker for this stuff. Why might that be?

I’m now the target demographic.

I’m a thirty-something male. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. So, naturally, I must be nostalgic for all things ’80s and ’90s, right? Madonna is the half-time show performer. (Disclosure: Borderline is one of the best songs ever, but she’ll instead be singing Holiday) Ferris Bueller promises to return, selling, well, Hondas. And Star Wars will be represented too, sort of. What more could a guy ask for?!? How about those flying cars they were promising us back in the ’80s. Hondas are great and all, but c’mon!

First up: Save Ferris

Please. Save Ferris. He should have taken Sloane and driven off into the sunset. What’s that? He did? Oh, and they had a few dozen kids? And now he’s driving a Honda. Wait – I drive a Honda! I’m just as cool as Ferris! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

What if I’m anti-Ferris? I don’t want to drive a Honda. Maybe I went backpacking in Europe in the ’90s and learned about sweet, reliable German cars. OOOoooooohhhh! Cute Doggies!!! AND STAR WARS!!!!!

The dogs are barking the song from Star Wars (Nerds: Yes, I know it’s the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back) that featured prominently in last year’s excellent and enjoyable Gen-X targeted ad. But now, it’s being rendered by a menagerie of ill-mannered barking dogs, and mini-Darth is nowhere to be seen. VW has produced some exceptional ads over the years, so I’ll reserve judgment on this one. However, this ad is evidently just a teaser for the actual Super Bowl ad, so the eventual ad could stink. We shall see. But if you’re impressed by auto-tuned dogs merely barking… you should see this (it’s not an ad):

Whew, that was fun.

And now a quick look back at my favorite Super Bowl Ad of all time.

Executed with a deep commitment to the bit, “Cat Herders” will always remind me that genuinely creative and smart people are still out there trying to sell me something. The ad is a big metaphor for the many elements that go into providing the services rendered by EDS, and to the dedication that their people have to “managing the complexities of the digital economy.” Little details stand out: camaraderie between herdsmen, an allergic sneeze, the use of a pet-hair roller and a ball of yarn being re-wound. It’s flawless, and never fails to lift my spirits when I see another terrible Go-Daddy! ad.

Now, let the Super Bowl Ads begin!

Mute, Every Time

Confession: I rarely watch commercials. Like many semi-technically adept TV viewers, I’ve got a DVR, and prefer to watch a select few shows on my own schedule. This enables me to fast-forward through the ads plugging up 1/3 of the run time so that I can spend less time watching TV and more time playing Penny Can!

But sometimes I’m curious. I’ll play the commercials. I’ll wonder what clever idea some young ad executive has come up with to lull the drooling masses into giddy submission. And I’ll be subjected to this.

This pig got his start in a prior campaign, in which he was named Maxwell.

Ha ha, did you see? How clever! The pig did go “weee, wee, weee” all the way home. Hence, GEICO can really save you… blah blah blah.

But Maxwell is now destined to become another tired retread GEICO character competing with the caveman and the gecko for most annoying GEICO spokes-creature. Here, he’s on a zip line, for no good reason. He defies physics, passing a guy on a parallel zip line while accelerating and decelerating at will. He’s still carrying the pinwheels from the first ad (although they are now blue instead of green – Maxwell is a big pinwheel collector). Apparently pinwheels are the most fun thing anyone at GEICO can come up with to distract everyone from the annoyance of the pig continuing to go “weee, wee, weee” all the way everywhere. GEICO’s ad team doesn’t even know what to do with him, so they use him to promote their new GEICO mobile app.

Maxwell’s insistence on “weee”-ing everywhere actually undercuts the argument made in the initial ad. Clearly, he’s not on his way home, but rather enjoying some solo recreational time. If his “weee”-ing in the initial ad was actually a quotation taken out of context, GEICO may indeed NOT really save you… blah blah blah. But I suppose no mention was made in the nursery rhyme of the little piggy’s verbosity during times not homeward-bound, so it’s impossible to determine if GEICO can really save you…

Clearly, the boss’s mom really liked Maxwell, and word came down from on high that he better make another appearance. Get a hobby, boss’s mom!

South of the Border

Massachusetts has become the whipping-boy for many 2012 Republican Primary conversations not initiated by Mitt Romney. Many of the candidate ads feature references to former Governor Romney’s weak conservative credentials, Newt Gingrich even bestowing him with the monicker of  “Massachusetts Moderate.” Whether that charge is true or false (or even possible), the unfortunate reality is that Massachusetts is just south of the New Hampshire border. With the nations-first primary scheduled for tomorrow, ads are playing wall to wall… in Massachusetts. Much of New Hampshire lies within the Massachusetts (Boston) TV market, so we Mass-holes are subjected to all of the fun and excitement of a contested primary, without – you know – actually getting to vote in one.

Iowa missing-person Jon Huntsman has been hitting the airways hard – and his PAC or Super PAC or PAC MAN or someone not under his immediate direction but nonetheless hoping to promote his candidacy has dropped this crap-bomb on us.

If you mute the ad, it might be for a snazzy new Chevy Volt or Dodge (oops, RAM) Truck. Certainly something American made – or at least marketed as such. A cast of grizzled people whose eyes insist they care list off their needs. Old dude needs Metamucil, or to pick up his ex-astronaut buddies in time for the Moose Lodge meeting. Vaguely Hispanic but trustworthily-greying guy needs to get to his audition for Rob Schneider’s new CBS show, “¡Rob!” (Working title, “¡Fitting in all our required minority programming in just one half hour per week, and without Tyler Perry!”). Middle aged white lady has clearly been to the eyebrow threader recently, so it’s not clear where she is in such a hurry to go… so perhaps she’s pitching the environmental angle on the Volt.

Quick, it’s a list of superlatives coming at you too impossibly fast to read, slicing in with confidence across the screen. A list of Motor Trend and Car & Driver awards, no doubt. Surely the class-leading EPA-estimated 35mpg pickup will arrive skidding across the screen next. What? Wait, who is that guy? He looks mildly surprised to be having his picture taken – casual, almost, in his blue blazer – as though he is always wearing it – maybe a bit young for his years – and clearly hard at work.

Wait. Why then, is this ad set in an underground parking structure? Oh, I know – the Volt will slalom through the many, many, many columns running to infinity along the sides. No? C’mon!

OK, un-mute.

Ah, it’s a political ad. Blah blah, Obama sucks, doom, gloom, be afraid, government sucks too (even though the head of it has “failed” to have somehow fixed every problem). Health Care reform: “toss it,” insists the apparently cranky woman (eyebrow threading hurts!). Aaaaand, without a wink of awareness of the idiocy of the statement, the astronaut (having heard, him, however, I now gather that he is instead a small engine repairman, or a voice-over actor) claims, “the world is literally collapsing.”

Psssst. Old dude. Come out from under the parking deck. The world is not literally collapsing. Plenty of infrastructure is, however, literally collapsing, making your extended sojourn underneath thousands of pounds of concrete a dubious decision. Infrastructure collapse prevention was part of a jobs bill that Obama “failed” to pass last year, remember? Apparently not. Do you remember what you had for breakfast? Sir?

Oh good, Old dude is back to close out the spot, inquiring longingly, “Why haven’t we heard of this guy?”

Buddy, you’ve been lost in a parking deck for years. Or, there is some big conspiracy keeping Jon Huntsman down. Yeah, that’s got to be it.