It is not often you see talking squirrels, The Rock, an Oreo cookie melee, a guy duct-taped to the ceiling and a supermodel kiss a nerd all within two hours of television.
But, hey, it’s the Super Bowl, and when it comes to the commercials, pretty much anything goes.
It went well in some cases, not-so-well in others on Sunday. As always, the Super Bowl was a showcase for some of the best ads of the year… as well as some duds.
The night’s most controversial ad, no doubt, was Volkswagen’s “Get Happy,” in which a mindlessly optimistic white guy with a thick Jamaican accent shows his uptight coworkers that all they have to do is take a ride in his VW Bug and they, too, can be mindlessly optimistic and speak with a Jamaican accent. The racist vein running through this thing is undeniable, but it’s likely to get people talking.
Far more successful on the auto side of things was Toyota’s Rav4 ad, which had Kaley Cuoco (“The Big Bang Theory”) magically appearing as a genie to grant a family’s wishes. Soon enough, the family is in a medieval war, flying through space and dodging witches. And let’s not forget the talking squirrels. The effects are great, but it’s Cuoco’s timing that sells it.
Obviously special effects were everywhere — this is the modern world — but nowhere were they more effective than in Blackberry’s spiffy second half ad, which had a guy walking down the street creating all sorts of magic courtesy of his phone.
The most touching ad by far was the young Clydesdale Budweiser bit, a nicely framed and executed reunion story. It’s still hard to figure out what horses have to do with beer, but this is the sort of ad that just makes you like a company, and that’s the point.
One of the most elaborate ads was “Soul,” with Willem Dafoe as Satan, trying to get a guy to sign over his soul for a Mercedes. It also featured Usher and Kate Upton and was set to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” That’s going all out.
Celebrities were featured in a number of ads, most successfully with Amy Poehler peppering a patient Best Buy salesman with silly questions. Also cute was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson having to shirk his heroic duties and ignore myriad crises — from a cat in a tree to an alien invasion — so he could get milk for three kids in a Got Milk ad. Tracy Morgan was also funny preaching change you can believe in for Mio Fit, but less successful — or at least a whole lot less appetizing — was Danica Patrick inducing a supermodel and a nerdy fat kid to slow kiss for a Go Daddy ad. You could just about hear people across the country spitting out chips and dip.
And that Gangnam style Pistachios ad — not exactly cutting edge.
Speaking of snacks, Doritos made out pretty well with its ads, one featuring a terrifying, Dorito-mad goat, and the other a Dad willing to play princess with his daughter for a shot at some chips. There was also a lot of refreshment-inspired madness, with a quiet library breaking into chaos over whether the cookie or cream tastes best in an Oreo, and parents coming home to find their son hosting a crazed party — this is where the guy duct-taped to the ceiling comes in — but it’s OK because Pepsi Next has “real cola” taste.
Chief among the duds has to be Anheuser Busch’s beautiful people ads for its new Budweiser Black Crown. We’re supposed to drink this stuff because a bunch of seemingly obnoxious pretentious-looking people at some unlikely party say it’s cool? Doubtful. And what about that wordless Calvin Klein ad that was just some ripped guy posing in his underwear. If we all wear Calvin Klein underwear will we all be ripped? Even more doubtful.
On a local note, Detroit mayoral candidate Lisa Howze had a campaign ad after half-time. Apparently the race is on.
Among the movie ads: “Fast & Furious 6” looked dumb as stone (he did not just say “You’ve taken it to a whole new level”); “Oz, the Great and Powerful” (shot in Michigan) looked pretty twinkly; and “Star Trek: Into Darkness” looked most awesome because it probably is.
A number of ads were successfully efficient if less than mind-blowing. Taco Bell’s “Viva Young” had retirees escaping from a nursing home and partying hard; “Prom” had a guy going stag to the big dance and finding sudden power when his dad gives him the keys to his Audi; and the M&M ad where the candy doesn’t want his head eaten, well, he has a point.
By the way, Sunday’s ads featured a goat, squirrels, horses, a shark, a cheetah and a wolf puppy. Whatever happened to monkeys?
See also: 10 Super Bowl ads that sold me