Super Bowl Ads Fail To Impress: Denny’s, Dove Among Winners

This article was originally written for The Hartford Informer on February 11, 2010.
It may have been the most watched Super Bowl ever—even beating the famous M.A.S.H. numbers to become the most watched TV show ever. Unfortunately the advertisements were less than spectacular.
For those who don’t watch the Super Bowl for the football, the tradition is to watch it for the commercials. It’s an ironic twist on the status quo. This year however, the football took precedent. The story of the New Orleans Saints was compelling, and the ads were not so.
The usual cornerstone of funny, Bud Light, put on a disappointing show. While a good idea, Bud Light’s “Light House” failed to get to the laugh out loud funny. The same was true for “Voicebox” in which all the characters had their voice auto-tuned. When it comes to the Super Bowl, I want to be rolling on the floor, not lightly chuckling.
Coke, whose major competitor Pepsi submitted no Super Bowl commercials, also failed to bring the class ad it has usually been associated with. While the Simpsons ad, “Hard Times” was relevant (given “The Simpsons” 20th anniversary) it wasn’t satisfying. Coke’s second effort of the night, “Sleepwalker,”fell way short of expectations.
Expectations it seemed were unmet by almost every brand. E*Trade, whose talking babies had really shined during last year’s Super Bowl, were unimaginative. Not to mention the fact that they changed the baby and stepped up the production values. Part of the charm in last year’s commercials was their jumpy nature.
Doritos took a different tack this year for their commercials. Instead of hiring giant ad firms like the other commercials did, Doritos looked to their fans to create and choose their ads. What resulted was a mixed bag. Viewers have raved about the “House Rules” ad (featuring the child defending his mom and his Doritos). Personally I liked “Snack Attack Samurai” (which featured a ninja dressed in chips). “Underdog,” with the shock collar, meets the same conclusion, but Doritos falls short on “Casket’”in which a man presumed dead, falls out of his casket covered in Doritos.
If one theme seemed to shine through this year it was the story. While I feel like in years past Super Bowls have gone with the slapstick-punchline, this year missed the slapstick comedy all together. This is not to say it’s a bad thing. told the story of a man who knows everything but can’t pick a car in “Timothy Richman.” Unilever’s Dove told the entire life of a man from conception in song and ended up selling us a men’s soap in “Men + Care.” Finally, in perhaps the most talked about commercial of the night, and Google’s debut into Super Bowl Advertising, the ad “Search On” told the life story of a random guy.
Blame it on the recession and companies being a little more conservative both in their advertisements and their spending on the advertisements. Either way the ads this year left a mediocre taste in my mouth.
Given that, my top five favorite ads from this Super Bowl were, in no particular order, “Casual Friday,” Dove “Men + Care,” Audi “Green Car,” Denny’s “Birthday Chicken,” and Mars’ Snickers “You’re not you when your hungry.”

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