The Best of the Super Bowl Ads

If you came here for an outraged rant on the most offensive, the most sexist, the most ridiculous, the most appalling of the Super Bowl ads, you came to the wrong place.

Feb 4, 2013 at 9:30am | Leave a comment

I've always been simultaneously thrilled, fascinated and mesmerized by advertising. I think this is the consequence of growing up without a television, thus making any emanations from the little box in the corner of living room at friends' houses utterly fascinating. In high school, when other people could talk over the ads and didn't even seem to notice them, I would stare fixedly at the television, and honestly, I sometimes found the ads better than the show.

My strange love of ads comes into full flower with the Super Bowl, which everyone knows is the event of the year in the US, advertising-wise. Piggybacking onto a major sporting event, advertisers pay goggling sums of money for a spot in the ad lineup, and they pull out all the stops in their ad development.

The Monday morning after the Super Bowl always features a slew of dissections of Super Bowl ads, and I bet you're already imagining exactly what I'm going to write about here today. However, I have an unpleasant (or pleasant?) surprise for you: if you came here for an outraged rant on the most offensive, the most sexist, the most ridiculous, the most appalling of the Super Bowl ads, you came to the wrong place.

Because every now and then, I just like to laugh, and media criticism includes embracing the great things, not just talking about the horrid ones.

Enough with the nattering. Let's talk ads!

Cars.com: "Wolf"

So here we have a couple buying a car in what appears to be a smooth and enjoyable transaction. They and the salesperson laugh about how Cars.com made everything easy as pie, but the couple looks unnerved by how well everything went. The salesperson asks if they missed the "drama" and they nod, slowly. He pulls a wolf cub out of a desk drawer and hands it to the woman, and then points at the cub's mother, who growls protectively. The woman slowly sets the cub down. End scene.

I laughed. More than that, I enjoyed the sly Puppy Bowl reference.

I did not, however, visit Cars.com.

Toyota Rav4: "Wish Granted"

A family parks their Rav4 and tumbles out, and lo, a genie appears! Dressed all in purple and holding a tiny dog, she promises to grant all their wishes, which get more and more absurd over the course of the advertisement. The part of this ad that made me grin? When the daughter wished she was a princess, she appeared in the field of battle on a horse, wearing armor.

I like the way you think, Toyota.

Oreo: "Whisper Fight"

Two gentlemen sit across from each other at a table in a hushed library. They start arguing, in whispers, about whether the cookie or the cream, excuse me, creme, is the best part in an Oreo. The fight escalates, spreading into a full-scale brawl across the library with patrons throwing things everywhere, toppling bookshelves, and, of course, whispering all the while. Firefighters rush in, whispering "fire" while turning on their hoses, and the librarian calls the cops, who drive through the wall and jump out of their car, pulling out a megaphone and whispering "you guys need to stop fighting."

Uhm, okay, this may be my favorite Super Bowl ad, because, one, library, two, library jokes, three, food fight.

Also, everyone knows the cookie is the best part.

And I'd note that Oreo was on it during the technical difficulties. 

Best Buy: "Asking Amy"

Amy Poehler badgers a poor defenseless Best Buy employee with an endless series of questions, dragging him through the store to look at everything from washing machines to smartphones. Best line: "Will this one [gesturing at an e-reader] read "Fifty Shades of Grey" to me in a very sexy voice?" "No." "Will you?"

Well played, Best Buy.

Doritos: "Goat 4 Sale"

A man strolling down the street with a bag of Doritos sees an injured man in a lawn chair with a sign next to him reading "goat for sale." Said goat is head-deep in a bag of Doritos. Our stroller takes the goat home, and we're treated to a series of touching scenes of the two eating Doritos together.

Eventually, however, the goat's Dorito habit spirals wildly out of control and the man holes up in his bedroom with the remaining bags and his own "goat for sale" sign, readying himself for a siege. The last shot shows us the goat stepping into the bedroom with a threatening expression, and then kicking the door shut.

So, I love this ad because it's funny. I also love that it's a masterpiece of storytelling. In less than a minute, you get this whole narrative, and it really illustrates the power of the visual medium and a creative ad development team.

Not enough to make me buy Doritos, but still.

Calvin Klein: "Concept"

Last but not least, this particular commercial appeared quite exciting to rather a lot of people, judging from the activity on my Twitter feed. It's basically 30 seconds of a very fit young gentleman in an extremely tight pair of underpants. Buzzfeed has more photos of him, if you're into that kind of thing.

I know I missed your favorite Super Bowl ad in this roundup, so which was it?