As published in AdForum.com
Few things unite us anymore in these United States. So any reason for conviviality in this conflicted time is cause for celebration. The Super Bowl still draws us together like no national holiday except Thanksgiving.
Did I say holiday? Well, Super Bowl Sunday is our unofficial national holiday. And unlike Washington’s Birthday or others we regard mostly as a day off from work, the Super Bowl means something. It excites a genuine passion. Viewership may be declining but the bars are full, parties are crowded, social media is tweeting and spots are going for $5.3 million a throw.
I wish I could say this year’s commercials were up to the occasion. They were once. People didn’t glaze over or go back to the food trough at the breaks the way they do now. But I think we’re all pretty SFX-saturated and up to here with live actors in fast-cutting cartoon situations. How many years can advertisers keep pushing these techniques at us?
There seems to be less slapstick in this year’s spots, which is encouraging. Nothing is more discouraging than violence to get a laugh. But there’s also a general fatigue in the freshness department. In past years you occasionally saw something you could honestly say you’d never seen before. That’s become a diminishing pleasure.
Shall I weary you with my picks for the worst? What’s the point? They’re impervious to criticism. Besides, these artifacts aren’t meant to last, even though their shelf life has been extended online.
Well, let me at least point out the nadir of the evening’s fare.
That would be Devour. A shit show if ever there was one. Devour makes delicious frozen food you can microwave, and the best they can give us is a deadpan spoof on food porn? A guy has a frozen food fetish the way some men have an addiction to pornography, as related by his despairing wife?
The issue is how something so unappetizing ever got approved (and so beautifully produced). It isn’t funny but creepy, and feels like the first idea of a creative team under pressure to be edgy for the Super Bowl. But you’re usually better off tossing those first ideas to get to something more challenging.
Feel free to disagree.
On the flip side, I really liked the beautiful animation of the Coke spot, the wish fulfillment idea of Mercedes’ vehicle voice assistant spot, the smart surprise of Expensify, the simplicity and sharp timing of Bubly, the compelling testimonial of Microsoft’s XBox adaptive controller, and the Washington Post’s important message about journalism. In fact, at the party I was at I saw people’s faces change when the logo came up with the tagline, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It hit home.
The best Super Bowl spot I saw, and the only one I’d really want to see again, didn’t actually run on the Super Bowl. It ran before the game and online, but I’m including it here because it’s such incredibly moving and positive video it should run everywhere, every day of the year.
It’s called “More Than Just Words” and it was made by Jeep and performed by OneRepublic. If ever there was an anthem to be played on our unofficial national holiday, this is it.