Commercials Of Super Bowl Past: Oh, The Sadness Of It All

Another Super Bowl Sunday is just days away and, as always, the TV Blog hopes to be uplifted, or at least entertained, by the commercials on this most joyous of national holidays.

And yet, a survey of past post-Super Bowl columns --11 since 2015 (some years there were two) -- reveals that the theme that has recurred the most over the years was not joy, but sadness.

Two have stuck with me. One was the 2021 Jeep spot in which Bruce Springsteen (above photo, top left) drove miserably through America’s heartland in a spanking new Jeep complaining about America.

“Hey, Buzzkill Bruce, Turn That Frown Upside Down” was the headline on that one. 

Another one that took the sad approach was a 2019 Kia Telluride spot in which a small boy (above photo, bottom right) waxed monotonously about his Georgia hometown, which in his telling sounded like the worst place on earth.



But there was good news: Kia, he reported, opened a Telluride plant in the area that should have turned this boy’s frown upside down too. 

But he never seemed to brighten up at all, despite the Kia plant’s promise of prosperity.

The Telluride spot and the Springsteen Jeep spot were based on some sort of impression the makers of these commercials must have about America’s great middle. 

Maybe they should get out there once in a while. I am sure they will find many Midwest residents who are not miserable and hopeless. Those people buy cars too.

“Memo To Sponsors: Please Can The Sad Super Bowl Spots,” said the TV Blog’s headline that day.

While car marketers were associating their brands with abject misery, others were producing spots based on human behaviors that were violent and bodily functions that were cringeworthy.

One of the latter was the 2016 Doritos spot in which a child not yet born apparently had such a craving for Doritos that he or she did not want to wait to come out and be born the usual way.

Instead, the about-to-be-born baby shot out of its mother’s womb like a cannon. Since I averted my gaze at this point, I have no idea if the baby got the Doritos it craved or not.

A violent act perpetrated by a man on a woman was the storyline of a screwy 2019 Cure Auto Insurance spot that was supposed to be comedic.

This was the one in which a woman had a screw embedded in her forehead (above photo, top right) that enraged a man sitting across from her. So he reached up crudely and yanked it out, simulating a cruel act of violence.

That was a great example of the way some Super Bowl ads, produced and aired at astronomical costs, sometimes make little sense.

Another one of these was last year’s Serena Williams spot for Rémy Martin (pictured above). In the spot, “she made some sort of a speech that, to my ears, had nothing to do with any of the Rémy spirits brands,” I wrote last year.

Postscript on that: She later turned up in another spot for another alcohol brand, Michelob beer. “Rémy and a chaser, Serena?” I wrote last year. Clever, right?

Last year’s TV Blog, however, dealt more with the nature of the Super Bowl telecast itself than the commercials, likely because when the Eagles are playing, it is understandably difficult for untold millions, including me, to concentrate on anything else. 

A year earlier, the 2022 post-Super Bowl TV Blog noted something unusual. It was a Super Bowl without any sad commercials.

“It was refreshing to see so many spots this year that were upbeat, with none of the gloom-and-doom of some Super Bowl commercials in previous years,” said the TV Blog that year.

Last year’s blog on the heart-breaking loss of the Eagles to the Chiefs did not mention any spots that were particularly sad either, possibly because Bruce Springsteen was unavailable.

This phenomenon has me wondering if the TV Blog’s annual carping about the infinite sadness of Super Bowl spots has helped to turn the tide. The TV Blog gets action? I like to think so.

2 comments about "Commercials Of Super Bowl Past: Oh, The Sadness Of It All".
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  1. John Antil from University of Delaware, February 7, 2024 at 11:45 a.m.

    No doubt there are some that are negative but in general even those turn-around or at least try to be put a humorous twist into them But by far the most important theme for these ads is humor....humor is King in the Super Bowl and this has been true for many years. You are taking a risk when you move away from humor and this year there will be some/many given the political environment and the apparent need to be political and include social commentary....these are a big mistake also and should be avoided when you are paying 6 million for just 30 secons and then lets add few more million for production and social media presence.....maybe even buying likes for your social media micro site.

  2. Ben B from Retired, February 7, 2024 at 8:52 p.m.

    I liked that Doritos spot in 2016 was very funny I like the funny spot ads during the Super Bowl I like the uplifing spots as well and serious, sad can be hit or miss truth be told. The ads is there Super Bowl as well. You an Eagles fan Adam, my Lions were close to getting to the Super Bowl for 1ST time ever but lost in the NFC Championship Game to the 49ERS. I'm rooting for the Chiefs.

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