Legendary comedian W.C. Fields used to say, "Anyone who hates children and animals can't be all bad." He said this long before the Super Bowl became a destination for commercials that, much to Fields' chagrin, include kids and animals as two of the top five selling points for many big game spots.
The others: Sex (of which Fields said, "Some things are better than sex and some are worse, but there's nothing exactly like it"), celebrities (again, deferring to Mr. Fields: “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull") and humor (no particular quote, he was just very funny).
Last year, during Super Bowl XLV, among the best-received TV commercials were Volkswagen's "The Force" (a kid dressed as Darth Vader finds his power in his Dad's Passat), Doritos’ "Pug Attack" (a small dog gets revenge on his owner's teasing boyfriend), Bud Light's "Dog Sitter" (a guy finds his friend's dogs can make a party rock) and Bridgestone's "Beaver" (which saves the life of a man who previously saved his).
Ads seen during that game with sexy intentions included Skechers (Kim Kardashian) and GoDaddy.com (Danica Patrick, Jillian Michaels).
And celeb-driven commercials included Richard Lewis, Roseanne Barr, Sean Combs, Justin Bieber, Ozzie Osbourne, Timothy Hutton, Joan Rivers, Faith Hill and Adrian Brody.
"Animals are big, whether it’s a dog, a Clydesdale or some other animal. We’ve got that," said Leonard Armato, president of Skechers Fitness Group, which this year is buying time in its third consecutive Super Bowl. "Celebrities are big, so [companies like to] put a celebrity in there. We’ve got that. Humor is big. We’ve got that. And sex is big. But we don’t have that this year."
The ads that will run Feb. 5 during Super Bowl XLVI on NBC might drive Fields to drink, which for him would actually be a good thing ("I drink, therefore I am").
"In Marketing 101, they say that sex and babies are very appealing in ads. But we are a very conservative American brand so we are not following that rule," said Bev Thorne, CMO for Century 21."There are some very compelling and intriguing items and characters who will appear in our ad. But it is still our agents who will be front and center."
Any last words of wisdom from W.C. FIelds for companies that spent $3.5 million for a 30-second spot? “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.”