Derek Johnson Muses

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Super Bowl Recap: Welcome to the Corporate Bowl

Last night, I anticipated that first great commercial leading into the break. Usually, whichever company has the resolve to put their commercial first usually pulls out all the stops and goes with something really funny. Instead, there was a warehouse that looked like Lucas Oil Stadium and an assembly line, which showed a Bud Light Platinum bottle being put together. No joke, no punch line; at least Budweiser spent all that money to introduce a new product.

While last night probably won’t stop advertisers from spending millions on Super Bowl ads, this was the first Super Bowl where the ads were not must-see TV. Usually, Super Bowl ads are mini-plays and parodies in and of themselves, which take up a life of their own. This year, there seemed to be a lot of ads taking a more serious tone, and even the ads I would have be funny (or at least mockable five years ago), like the Elton John as a medieval king, were instead just a waste of time. Disclaimer: I didn’t even know Elton John was that king until he started trending. Either I’m that oblivious, or the year was as bad for ads as I’m writing. I would attribute this serious-ad trend to last year’s Chrysler-Imported from Detroit campaign, which was a great, inspiring ad and has a place in the Super Bowl, but a handful of serious ads late in the game is enough. I want my funny. Companies aren’t spending as much on the Super Bowl as they used: in the third quarter, there were even some local ads.

To the other trends: someone needs to tell and whichever designer was using David Beckham to model briefs, you can’t just be shocking, your ads have to actual humor and punch. Go to Hollywood and get some unemployed screenwriters to punch them up: guys don’t just run out to buy underwear just because an overseas-celebrity wears them, a fact people realized pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the Beckham ad generated the biggest social media response of any ad, meaning some advertiser will be copying it next year. And on that tired-of-gross-out-commercials note, Doritos needs to punch up their ads too, something they should have learned from their tired, dog-runs-into-the-glass-door ad last year. (Seriously, everyone and their grandmother has seen that ad fifty times. Stop insulting dog eyesight.)

Contributing to the lack of waves was an absence of movie trailers. Other than Battleship, The Avengers, and G.I. Joe 2:Retaliation, few of the summer blockbusters bought ad time. No The Dark Knight Rises, no The Amazing Spiderman, no Men in Black III. Dark Shadows or The Bourne Legacy didn’t use the game to announce their coming, and the first quarter’s most significant movie, The Hunger Games, passed as well. For my part, this was the most significant disappointment of the ad experience. Every year, the Super Bowl acted as a platform for great movies (it significantly helped the first Matrix), and not having a slew of great trailers is a let down. The Dark Knight Rises couldn’t have saved some of their football scenes for the Super Bowl? And George Lucas just looks greedy using a montage of Star Wars-original trilogy footage to sell The Phantom Menace in 3-D.

But now to the good: the three most outstanding ads, in my mind, were the Budweiser end-of-prohibition, the Ferris Bueller-update for Acura (which should have aired in the first quarter), and of course, Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler ad. Behind them, I would put the Coke polar bears (not great ads, but good nonetheless), the Bud Light-dog commercial, and the, monkeys-in-suits crowd (and Tony Kornheiser) pleaser, and although to be fair, the monkeys-in-suits shtick would have seemed tired in a year were all the ads were as bad as they were. The biggest winner in the ads-bonanza is Clint Eastwood-he still retains a lot of his Dirty Harry-ism toughness, and is the kind of guy young people wish was their grandfather.

Most surprising trender of the night: GI Jane. I say it in my right twitter column late in the second quarter and thought “What?” Turned out, everyone had noted the irony that Demi Moore had played the titular character in GI Jane fifteen years ago, and now her ex-husband was starring in a G.I. Joe film. Apparently Ridley Scott, doing Black Hawk Down hasn’t made people forget about that film.

A note on the halftime show: As I said before, I had very low expectations for Madonna when I heard she’d be the Super Bowl half-time act, and LMFAO popping in the middle of her act just made her seem all the lamer. When the Roman army came out with her, that was all the confirmation I needed. A quick check today shows reaction is mixed, and I even did turn the sound back on when she started singing Like a Prayer. At least Madonna knows to cover it up, and she didn’t get the gig because her songs where the intro for half of NBC’s highest-rated shows, Ala The Who two years ago for CBS

While everyone noted the irony of NBC using Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory to set up the first half highlights right before the second half began, this is as audiences are going to get in the post-Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime-wardrobe malfunction: an over-the-hiller who won’t embarrass the shield. But now that the Super Bowl halftime show is as embarrassing as the Pro Bowl, let’s either cancel the thing, or have a family-friendly act do the show, Ala Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, or whoever wins American Idol next year. Perhaps NBC should have had Katherine McPhee perform part of Smash.


In the midst of the Decline and Fall of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and Ad Blitz, there was actually a game. Like a lot of recent Super Bowls there wasn’t really a pop to the game. Although the final score was close, the game was a bit boring and went the way most people thought it would: Giants winning, although not blowing out the Patriots. Of the two teams, Patriots played more to their potential, several times stopping the Giants from inside their own territory and holding them to either field goals or punting. If the Giants had lost, they would have looked at what they’d left on the field and had a longer off-season than the Patriots were having now. Credit Tom Coughlin for keeping his team up after leading most of the half and then going in at a halftime down giving up a late touchdown, and again, on the first drive of the second half.

But the most obvious difference in this game were the receivers: when the game was on the line, Brady’s receivers put the ball on the ground (the two drops that ended the drive with about four minutes to go, plus the drops on the final series) and Manning’s receivers stepped up, especially given that the Patriots were able to take away Victor Cruz for most of the night. And Brady’s best receiver, Rob Gronkowski was able to do little because of his bad ankle. If Gronkowski was fully healthy, he could have made it to the deflected ball in the end zone on the last play of the game.

This shows us what the NFL is about now: teams with quarterbacks, and how much help those quarterbacks have. Perhaps the cerebral game is what makes for the boring ads: star-studded 49er and Cowboy teams aren’t making the Super Bowl, but it’s the teams with elite quarterbacks who get easy roads to the Super Bowl (the Saints Colts, Steelers, and Patriots the last three years), and the teams with enough parts who get hot at the right time (the Packers and Giants the last two years). Yes, the games are at least close, and there was some nice back and forth last night, but there wasn’t this feeling like anything could happen. It was as if the looser was going to be the team who made the last little mistake, which almost ended up being a back-up running back who didn’t fall down at the one yard-line. A Super Bowl with so much end of game clock management just feels weird.


"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

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