The Good, Bad and Really Bad Ads from Super Bowl XLIV

2010: The year big brands phoned in their Super Bowl ads. It might explain why most men were pantsless.

Let's start with this year's random, unexpected trends, like women being tackled. Betty White was knocked through the mud in a funny ad for Snickers, which emphasized that "you're not you when you're hungry."

Tim Tebow took his mother Pam down in an ad for Focus on the Family. This ad never outright mentioned its pro-life message; instead, it directed viewers to Focus on the Family's Web site to watch the Tebow's full story. It's tough convincing eyeballs to transition from the TV to the computer. GoDaddy offers scantily clad women and faces an uphill battle.

What happened to men's pants this year? Everyone was pantless. A user-generated ad for took casual Fridays to a bra and underwear level. This ad was swiftly followed by a Docker's ad where pantless men walked proudly through a field.

I thought the pantless hump was finished until I saw an ad for Coca-Cola with a man sleepwalking in the jungle to his refrigerator of Coke. At least this guy was pantless and asleep.

There were a few decent Super Bowl ads. Here are the highlights. Google. Proof positive that simplicity works. A sweet love story is told through Google's search function. The ad begins with queries for a study abroad program in Paris. Local cafes are researched, words are translated from French to English, advice for long-distance relationships is found, a career change takes place, as does a wedding and crib assembly.

CBS gave viewers 15 seconds of comedic bliss. The ad was a take on a 2007 Super Bowl ad where Letterman and Oprah buried the hatchet. This year's Super Bowl viewing party had an additional guest: Jay Leno. "This is the worst Super Bowl party ever," quips Letterman to Oprah. "Well, he's just saying that because I'm here," responds Leno, a man in need of image repair. This was a good first step for him.

TruTv packaged Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu into a groundhog named Punxsutawney Polamalu who saw his shadow, thereby offering football fans six additional weeks of football.

Hyundai aged Brett Favre 10 years, had him still playing football, and still indecisive on retirement plans, in an effort to promote Hyundai Sonata's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. Score!

Who wasn't rooting for's fiddle-playing beaver to break out of his rut and find a new job? I know I was.

Why did so many ads portray men, the majority of their Super Bowl Sunday audience, as weak, spineless and almost pathetic?

The two worst offenders were Dodge Charger and Flo TV. Dodge Charger has a running narrator detailing the sacrifices a man makes on a daily basis, which allows him to drive the car of his choice: a Charger. He will listen to your opinion of his friends, be civil to your mother, put the seat down and carry your lip balm, among other duties.

Then there's Flo TV. Boasting a name on par with the iPad, the company follows Jim Nantz as he trails a couple shopping at the mall. According to Nantz, our character had his spine removed by his girlfriend, rendering him incapable of watching football, but capable of smelling candles.

Bud Light, Coca-Cola, Doritos and Bridgestone, I expected so much more out of you.

The only Bud Light ad I really enjoyed was the "Lost" parody, where those stranded chose between leaving the island and drinking the Bud Light from the beverage cart.

I love "The Simpsons," but this Coca-Cola ad didn't do it for me. I was expecting ads on par with "Heist" and "It's Mine." Even Coke's most recent, non-Super Bowl spot, "Finals," fared better with me.

The novelty of user-created Doritos ads has run its course. It's time to move on.

Bridgestone, what happened? Richard Simmons and Mrs. Potato Head were great Super Bowl ad characters. This year we got a riff on "The Hangover," with a whale instead of a tiger and no Bradley Cooper.

Megan Fox in a bathtub for Motorola did nothing but give me traumatic flashbacks to the season finale of "Dexter." Just the sight of a bathtub brings me back to the finale.

What were your favorite and least favorite ads?

13 comments about "The Good, Bad and Really Bad Ads from Super Bowl XLIV".
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  1. Nan Bauer from Enlighten, February 8, 2010 at 3:08 p.m.

    Totally with you on the Dodge ad; posted about it here: In agreement with much, though the fiddling beaver....argh. I feel dirty just typing that....

  2. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., February 8, 2010 at 3:15 p.m.

    While some people watched the Super Bowl, I was giving a blow-by-blow review of all spots. Agree, disagree, but here's a 30-year ad war vet's take on them,

  3. Randall Bongarten from Bonten Media Group, February 8, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

    I thought the ad was terrific. Very engaging, and you remember whose ad it is, and why you should go to the website.

  4. Andy Mckechnie from Razorfish Health, February 8, 2010 at 4:01 p.m.

    Perhaps "Dexter" was a recurring theme during this year's SB ads...aside from Megan Fox in a tub, the Dodge "running narrator" was none other than Michael C. Hall himself!

  5. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, February 8, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.

    "[a]lmost pathetic" was generous, Amy. Ironic that CBS would permit so many commercials depicting how men hate women, and then not allow an ad for a gay dating site.

    Also interesting to me was how all the spots that most resonated with me were the ones that came as a total surprise: Google, CBS's The Late Show, and even that Motorola spot with Megan Fox, which probably would have been a big nothing if it'd been teased or previewed.

    Bigger dud than any of the spots, though, was The Who. How sad and embarrassing for them, as CBS CSI synergy gone horribly astray.


  6. Aaron B. from, February 8, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.

    The Google ad was a nice surprise.

    I was hoping that the Focus on the Family ad would be more serious, given it's serious and contentious subject matter... but it came off as utterly cheesy.

    Jim Nance's ad made me laugh, but only because it's the latest in a series of football related ads where he uses the same, direct, smug, back-talking... which is a great contrast to his on-air personality.

    I don't think Old Spice had an ad this year; if they did, there certainly would have been more pantless men.

  7. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, February 8, 2010 at 5:13 p.m.

    ChaCha, the service that allows users to go online, call or text questions on mobile phones and receive free answers within minutes, says that a poll of its users, primarily teens and young adults, who asked questions during the Super Bowl last night showed that their favorite commercials were for Doritos. The ones they disliked most were for Go Daddy and the one most talked about, as measured by text traffic, was Denny's, mostly asking where was the nearest location of the restaurant to collect their free meal on Tuesday.

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 8, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.

    George, how sad and pathetic. Those teens have no right getting a free meal if their parents can afford to buy them one. Those seats should be taken by the homeless and un/under employed who deserve a break. But then again, those who can't afford even a cheap meal at a restaurant are not Denny's customers.

  9. Carolyn Moots from SIMRY, LLC, February 8, 2010 at 7:01 p.m.

    I agree with Sarah about the "underwear" theme. It was funny at first - but pretty gross. I am wondering if the so-called "theme" was intentional (surely not) or coincidental - I hope. The last few years, marketers have finally "caught on" that Attention-Grabbers and then relation to product works better than screaming/yelling (take note automotive). But, as with everything, now it takes more to SHOCK us - lewder, crazier, louder, etc. Looked apparent in most ads. Also, thought football and SuperBowl has an extremely broad "demographic" - it was, for years, male-dominated. The Who are an older ROCK band that fit lots of fans who have no clue who Beyonce/JayZ, etc. are. Perhaps a good Mix - years ago with Britney, Aerosmith, etc. might have worked. They are old - but they ARE iconic to many. Just wait - someday kids will laugh at your admiration of Blackeyed Peas too.

  10. Carolyn Moots from SIMRY, LLC, February 8, 2010 at 7:02 p.m.

    And SOMEbody SHOULD have grabbed "Pants on the Ground" and done a campaign around that. Again, Pantless - but relevant.

  11. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, February 8, 2010 at 7:20 p.m.

    For me the "Focus on the Family" ad drifted by almost unnoticed because I was still chuckling over the Snickers/Betty White ad which aired shortly before. I did wonder who the woman was in the unflatteringly harsh light but it wasn't until Tim Tebow appeared in the closing seconds that I realized I had missed it.

  12. Robert Sawyer, February 8, 2010 at 10:53 p.m.

    Pretty much on target.
    Google, real advertising. (Although I wish people remembered that if there's not someone working creating content, say in magazines book publishing, there's nothing at the end of the search.)

    In general, it seemed that few of the agencies worked very hard, and few clients asked for very much. I doubt we'll see the dial move on any of the brands. For example, I'd be ashamed to wear dockers and, considering the reality of the economy, I think the and stuff was nothing but snake oil.

    As for the displays of misogyny, which many commented on, I ask, why are we surprised? The so-called men in most of these ads are little more than grown up boys—and probably bear an uncanny resemblance to the teams that conceived them.

    My guess why, is that so many men in advertising are uncertain of what constitutes manhood other than marriage and fathering. (I doubt many young men writing/art directing ads today are former marines, firemen, cops, ship engineers, factory workers, or farmers)

    They have been reduced to defining their own masculinity by the act of consuming products that signify "masculine" i.e. beer, jeans, sports or sporting facial hair. What's more, they resent the cubicles to which they've been consigned. Consequently, they're bored and angry and women are the last acceptable targets of their displaced aggression.

  13. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, February 9, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.

    This topic could have been more fun if some men didn't feel the need to support the feminist comments about so-called "misogyny". I am seeing far too many male "marketing executives" show, in this forum, that they have no clue about how the male market thinks.

    Don't think too much guys. American men are *still* not politically correct in their viewpoints and you will never succeed in getting them there. Never. If you want to sell to the non-PC males, don't let them see that you are PC. It turns them off. Remington understood this when they did their Pick Up Artist campaign. Men are a huge market.

    Military guys not supporting racy ads? Hello? Does that possibly come from the type of Christian male who, under the Bush Neoconservatives, wanted an alliance with feminists and adopted their frame of mind about women being "victims"?

    Now I haven't looked at the GoDaddy ads because they are probably not suitable for work, and I wouldn't say that sex sells in advertising Internet services anymore...but it isn't "misogyny" to try to make an ad sexy enough to stop Super Bowl watchers from going to the bathroom + making people look dumb or wimpy in ads is universal slapstick procedure - the entire men's rights movement is up in arms about husbands often being portrayed as dummies with the woman the real head of the household whom the kids respect. The above author even complains about men being portrayed as wimps, such as the henpecked husband, etc.

    I would agree that misandry is far more prevalent than misogyny in US culture. I am glad the author of the above article complained about the portrayal of men as wimps.

    But even ad about a henpecked husband would be OK if it is humorous...if it is obvious that no self-respecting man would ever behave that way (although a significant minority of American men might behave that way).

    Recently, Hollywood has been making entire movies making men look wimpy, misguided or evil. Look at "500 Days of Summer" which portrays a wimp doing everything wrong as a sappy romantic, when a real man would have made it "5 Days of Summer + 5 Days of Her Best Friend". Look at "Up in the Air" which makes the bizarre claim that George Clooney has lost the game of life because he isn't married and he supposedly isn't going to ever do better than a cheating married woman his own age. Clooney? And Avatar makes Marines look evil and stupid.

    But who's complaining? This is the "professional content" that we supposedly cannot do without.

    With the funny Super Bowl ads, I am still wondering how they made it look like Betty White was playing football with the guys and getting tackled (she was representing a young man who needed a sugar fix to get his strength back). In any event, that made her look tough and she obviously enjoyed filming the commercial. If the NOW makes a statement about that portraying "violence against women", expect fewer donations to them from the women who laughed along with Betty and everyone else at the originality of that spot.

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