February 2, 2001

Sunday's True Competition

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It’s ironic that the Superbowl has become not only the world championship of football world — because no one else in the world cares about football except for us — but the world championship of commercials.

While the game is easy to judge (the Giants won, the Ravens lost, right?), the commercials have intangible qualities that appeal to some and turn off others. The bottom line is that the big winners in terms of commercials are the big spenders. Do you remember Budweiser, Pepsi and Monster.Com? Of course, because you saw their names the most.

But we are not advertising executives, we are arts and entertainment people.

Hence, which commercials were the most artistic and entertaining? Obviously, that question is subjective. In the spirit of the superbowl, though, instead of making you read a long critique of the commercials, I’ll quantify them.

Winners and Losers. Simple.

First, the Winners:

EDS — Only buying one commercial is risky business. Granted, all I garnered from the commercial was that EDS is some sort of business consultants. But I’m sure if I owned a business I’d know them better, and based on this ad I’d probably call them. The commercial depicts the running of the bulls, only instead of bulls, the men are running from squirrels. We are told at the end that you should be more scared of the small competitor than the large one. One commercial bought, product remembered. That’s quality.

Money Shot: “As long as I have legs, I will run with the squirrels,” one villager tells us.

Monster.Com — The reason clever Superbowl commercials are so in demand is that time is money, so if you can be memorable in a short amount of time, you maximize your money. Monster bought a good amount of ads but it’s safe to say they used their time better than most. Their commercials were tasteful (somewhat), funny, and made a good point about their product: a good job makes you happy, and Monster can get you a good job.

Money Shot: Man sniffing a business card. What a joker.

E-Trade — Humor wins me over everytime, and my choice for the funniest commercial moment (although not the most memorable), is the chimpanzee surveying the death of the dotcoms. This commercial had humor and style as the little chimp pulled his horse towards the horizon. E-Trade also won points for the man feeding pigeons in the convertible.

Money Shot: Security guard doing kung-fu a la The Matrix.

Snickers — Those guys won my heart with their ad of people crushing talking dolls.

Money Shot: One guy asks for a doll that says, “Whassssuppp,” then crushes it.

And the Losers:

Subway — Who Cares about Jared anymore?

Cingular Cellular — This is complicated because their commercials had a little humor and a little bit of social consciousness with the disabled painter. I remember Cingular, which I guess is the goal, but their commercials were ultimately cryptic.

Budweiser — “But I liked the Bud ads,” you protest. I did too, but the fact is, Bud is not your normal advertiser. They have a long history to live up to, and their tired “Whassupp” just didn’t cut it this year. They do get redemption points for the new “How are you doing” yuppie ad. But with cute Joe Camelesque aliens and N’Sync appearing in a later commercial, we have to wonder what audience Bud is really targeting.

Pepsi — Another perennial superpower. Their commericals were hit or miss at best. Bob Dole was hysterical, Gary Kasparov was annoying. The problem is, no matter how good a Pepsi commercial is, it always ends with that ridiculous “Joy of Pepsi” song which brings up images of that terrible little girl. I shudder.

There were others that were funny, even more that tried to be. But, like the tackle that no one remembers, who cares if they weren’t the best or the worst?

Now that commercials have been elevated to something of an art form, a bit of humor and emotion have infiltrated a game that lacks both for most of us.

Archived article by Jason Weinstein