The Ultimate Super Bowl Commercial

On Thursday, I picked up the phone and it was Al Jazeera, seeking my commentary on the Super Bowl ads.

“Gotta put you on hold,” I said. “I’ve got E! on the other line asking me about the Egyptian constitution.”

Okay -- that’s not what I said, although I would have if I'd thought of it. What I said was simply: “No thanks. I just don't talk about the Super Bowl anymore.” Because I did it for 25 years. Because I answered the same obtuse questions for 25 years. Because before broadband streaming when the p.r. calculus was different, extracting the ads from brands in advance was like trying to obtain the D-Day plans -- a gruesome process rewarded in most years by 30-some extravagant and terrible commercials.

It left scars. Plus, the wake-up call for Good Morning America is 5 a.m. Life is too short.

But wait a second… Al Jazeera? It was an Egon Spengler moment, the crossing of cultural streams. Total protonic reversal. Dogs and cats living together. Total chaos. Here was the only news channel that actually reports news sucked already into the vortex of The Greatest Non-Story Ever Told. What did it mean? Would I regretsending regrets?




Turned out the Super Bowl advertisers gave us two Bob Dylan songs, two Greek yogurts, one felatus interruptus and about $10 million worth of some guy named Ian Rappaport. (Ian, you may now return to selling Long Island billboard space in obscurity. In a year or so, when Gwen Dean realizes online puppet-sales on her GoDaddy Web site weren’t worth quitting her job over, maybe you can take her out for a limo ride and a Bud Light.)

The ads were slightly more entertaining than usual, and approximately as off-message as usual. Note to Audi: don’t use grotesque Dober-huahuas or anything else to advertise against compromise. Your brand is about compromise. You also have to feel for both Maserati, which spent $1000 Sunday for every car it sold in the U.S. last year, and Kia. Kia is trying to sell you a $65,000 luxury car that looks like a Maserati Ghibli -- when you can spend the same $65,000 and get the Ghibli. And Maserati is selling a $65,000 car that looks just like a Kia. Good luck to both of you.

In short: a typical Super Bowl, with $200 million-plus ad dollars mainly squandered. The blowout on the field and the screwed-up Fox audio didn’t help, but -- with the possible exception of GoDaddy’s amazing on-air job resignation -- nothing much distinguished itself anyway.

And as I watched this all unfold, the protonic reversal hit me. There’s no need to go through this anymore. All we need is one composite Super Bowl spot containing all the elements seen on Sunday’s game and about the past 30 years’ worth. I call it “Heroes.”

SOUNDTRACK: Aaron Neville singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

VOICEOVER:  “When you are a heroic hero defending our freedom, you never know what awaits your next footstep.”

ACTION:  An American soldier is on patrol, somewhere dusty, in slow motion. He enters a cave, weapon in hand, and finds streaks of dusty light illuminating his path. He turns to his left, squinting against the darkness until two figures come into focus. It is Dennis Rodman playing gin rummy with a chimpanzee.

CHIMP: “Eee eeee eeee.”

RODMAN: “Peace, baby.”

SFX: Record scratch. CUT TO:

ACTION: At a resort pool, two knuckleheads leer over their sunglasses as a bikini-clad babe emerges from the water in super-slow motion, her wet suit clinging to her every contour.

VOICEOVER: “Some guys have all the breaks.”

ACTION: One of the knuckleheads removes his shades and is revealed to be NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who strides confidently in the babe’s directions. She smiles and offers bedroom eyes, but glides right past him to share a chaise with the chimpanzee, who is wearing Eli’s sunglasses.

ELI MANNING: “Hey, I say something self-deprecating here!”


VOICEOVER: In a world when not everything goes right, hope is just a jump away. Meet the Para-para Team.

ACTION: Two wheelchair-bound men and a woman tumble out of a plane, open their chutes and perform astonishing aerobatics till they land at a rustic barn. Wheeling inside they find a grizzled rancher, welling up with tears because his Clydesdale is struggling to deliver a foal in super-slow motion.

RANCHER: Can you help?

ACTION: The Team all shut their eyelids and nod. CUT TO: foal standing up on shaky legs and shaking off horse amniotic fluid in ultra slow-motion. The Team does wheelies. The rancher pulls out a wireless remote key and starts the ignition of a heavy-duty truck.

RANCHER: I expect you folks won’t be parachuting back up to go home.  CUT TO: New truck. DISSOLVE:

ACTION: The soldier from the first scene sits thoughtfully on a military plane in his dress uniform.

VOICEOVER: It’s been a hard and heroic tour, but Staff Sergeant Mickey Smith is finally coming home.

ACTION: The plane’s door is open. Smith is on the rollup stairs. He sees his family across the field and rushes down the steps. His 5-year-old son breaks away from his Mom and runs across the tarmac. The soldier drops his duffel and reaches down. The little boy stops, looks poignantly back at Mom and kicks Dad in the balls. CUT TO:

Chimpanzee, next out of the plane in a sailor’s suit, eating, driving or using the advertised brand.

MUSIC TRACK: “…..The truuuuuth goes mar-chinnnng onnnnnnnnnn.”

10 comments about "The Ultimate Super Bowl Commercial".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, February 3, 2014 at 10:12 a.m.

    This is what happens when the medium becomes the entire message.

  2. Rick Roth from Roth Partners LLC, February 3, 2014 at 11:16 a.m.

    You missed your calling and judging from yesterday, it ain't too late.

  3. Michael Porte from The Field (social), WheresSpot, February 3, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.

    Miss your great criticisms on the ad business! Glad to have seen this one!

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 3, 2014 at 11:46 a.m.

    Wow ! You found a distinction between the car commercials to know which car belonged to which spot. And Sarah, your real spots just lost traction and those real animals are going to lose support - your spot was not funny and very disturbing to the point I couldn't watch it. We may all want to buy cars of companies that don't devalue their image.

  5. Michael E. Keenan from Keenan & Company, February 3, 2014 at 1:23 p.m.

    Right-on as usual Mr. G. Though thought the whole Fox pre-game, maniacal, ear-busting enthusiasm blow-out deserved comment. New recoed for brain-numbing senseless blather.

  6. Chuck Lantz from, network, February 3, 2014 at 6:55 p.m.

    The constant and un-subtle hints from the Fox commentators on SB Sunday about how the "new, improved" Fox Sports is going to eat ESPN's lunch only helped prove what a pipe-dream that is. Until Fox Sports learns what ESPN has known for years; ... that goofy is good and silly is bad, ... they will remain a distant second. Sorta like the Broncos.

  7. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, February 4, 2014 at 8:22 a.m.

    you are on a roll....two great columns in two weeks......

  8. Daniel Ambrose from, corp., February 4, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

    Laughed out loud when I got to Rodman our cultural symbol for doing what every it takes to get attention.

  9. Tim Gravenstreter from Countywide Guides & Maps, February 7, 2014 at 1:18 p.m.

    I take issue with your comments (in 2/7/14 USA Today) on Coke's SB ad.
    I am not a bigot or xenophobe. I took offense to the ad because anyone here (legally or not) that is attempting to "blend in" to American society would likely only ever have heard "America the Beautiful" sung in English. It would take effort to learn it in a native language, showing no interest in "blending in".

  10. Rich Badami from Badami Consulting, February 11, 2014 at 11:43 a.m.

    Wonderful. So, what's your take on Intuit's ad? I got a laugh from the claim that they were first to put a small business on the Super Bowl. In 1998, in Ad Age, you called the Mail Boxes Etc. See Your Small Business on the Super Bowl Search "The best idea on the Super Bowl." It's still a great strategy, but Intuit claiming it at their own is a slap to MBE's innovation.

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