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Monday, February 5, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

For some pseudo-intellectual “analysis” of last night’s Super Bowl ads, hop over to the NYT: Super Bowl Ads of Cartoonish Violence, Perhaps Reflecting Toll of War.

The basic hypothesis of the piece:

No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year’s commercials.

First off, if the point of comparison is one ad from two years ago it would seem that perhaps the notion is strained to begin with.

Second, the notion that “ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of” this year’s ads is based on that fact that there was some slapstick violence in some of the commercials (because Goodness knows that never happens in American commercials):

More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous.

The horror! For example:

For instance, in a commercial for Bud Light beer, sold by Anheuser-Busch, one man beat the other at a game of rock, paper, scissors by throwing a rock at his opponent’s head.

Well, that seals it: many people pronounce “Iraq” as “I-rock” so obviously the commercial last night was a manifestation of the war.

And the parade of insanity continued:

In another Bud Light spot, face-slapping replaced fist-bumping as the cool way for people to show affection for one another. In a FedEx commercial, set on the moon, an astronaut was wiped out by a meteor. In a spot for Snickers candy, sold by Mars, two co-workers sought to prove their masculinity by tearing off patches of chest hair.

There was also a bank robbery (E*Trade Financial), fierce battles among office workers trapped in a jungle (CareerBuilder), menacing hitchhikers (Bud Light again) and a clash between a monster and a superhero reminiscent of a horror movie (Garmin).

They seemed like, well, typical goofy commercials–at least to me. However, I am apparently out of touch, as the piece’s author goes on:

It was as if Madison Avenue were channeling Doc in “West Side Story,” the gentle owner of the candy store in the neighborhood that the two street gangs, the Jets and Sharks, fight over. “Why do you kids live like there’s a war on?” Doc asks plaintively. (Well, Doc, this time, there is.)

During other wars, Madison Avenue has appealed to a yearning for peace. That was expressed in several Super Bowl spots evocative of “Hilltop,” the classic Coca-Cola commercial from 1971, when the Vietnam War divided a world that needed to be taught to sing in perfect harmony.

I must admit: the West Side Story ref doesn’t do it for me, and only seems to be inserted here as a means of getting the word “war” into the piece. And the ref to the 1971 Coca-Cola commercial is just Viet Nam era peace-movement nostalgia.

Of course, the author rightly notes:

To be sure, sometimes “a rock” is just “a rock,” and someone who has watched the Super Bowl XIX years in a row only for the commercials may be inferring things that Madison Avenue never meant to imply.

Gee, ya think?

For me, my favorite was the Letterman-Oprah bit and the Robert Goulet Emerald Nuts piece.

Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: US Politics, Sports | |

9 Comments

  1. Yeah, I liked the Robert Goulet one, too.

    Comment by Jan — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  2. Robert Goulet was awesome!

    Also, so was the NFL commercial that featured disappointed fans, and had Bret Favre at the end. “It’s hard to say goodbye.” (Cut to Favre.) “For some, its even harder.” That and the axe murderer complaining to the driver that picked him up that that other guy with a bud light has a chainsaw were among my favorites.

    Not the best year. I’m probably going to just stop caring about Super Bowl commercials soon.

    Comment by B. Minich — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 9:08 am

  3. Insanity At The NYT

    More than lilely he sensed the war in the violence of the game, too.

    What would have been best was for this effeminate man, who’s put off by any sense of violence, to have watched the TLC channel instead.

    Trackback by Sensible Mom — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  4. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a commercial is just supposed to help sell a product.

    Comment by Steven Plunk — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  5. So commericals about peace show the effects of the war, and commericals about violence show the effects of the war . . . . Um, what are we allowed to talk about?

    Comment by Steven L. — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  6. Super Bowl 2007 Ads Worst Ever

    Sacha Zimmerman has a pretty fair rundown of the ads from last night’s Super Bowl, which have already been mercilessly savaged by the critics. My favorite of his summaries:
    After head injuries and then a commercial that ends with sex in the che…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  7. […] UPDATE: Steven Taylor and Dan Drezner offer their takes on the ads, with differing views on the political implications. […]

    Pingback by Super Bowl 2007 Ads Worst Ever » OTB Sports — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  8. I did NOT SEE ANY COMMREICAL that was any where worthwhile. As far as I could see they all wasted millions on STUPID ads.

    Comment by TomW — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

  9. Was the NYT piece an editorial? A report-i-torial? An edit-a-reportial? Is there any real journalism anymore?

    Most of the commercials were subpar, with a few gems.

    I missed the Careerbuilder chimps myself.

    Comment by Rusty — Monday, February 5, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

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