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Super Bowl Follies: Ads Good and Bad

Expensive spots and hijinks mark 38th broadcasting bonanza By Charlie White
Super Bowl XXXVIII was another blizzard of big budget broadcasting bluster, and with advertisements going for $2.3 million a pop, there had to be at least some good ones. Indeed there were, along with some stinkers, too. What can we learn from this annual art show for commercials? New artistic and creative ground is broken each year at the Super Bowl, so lets take a look at the best and worst of the lot. Along the way, Ill briefly mention what you didnt see, too. And of course, I couldnt resist commenting on the XXXVIII frames of video that amount to what I think is a tempest in a teapot.

Of course, the parade of animals that has become an annual ritual for Super Bowl advertising continued unabated, but it seems like the creators of spots featuring chimps, bears, donkeys, alien life forms and especially dogs need to keep one major fact in mind: People arent necessarily going to like or remember a spot just because theres an animal in it. I think the key to entertaining people is in the content: Is it funny? What are the animals saying or doing? If theres nothing truly clever going on, who cares if theres an animal on-screen? Frankly, Im getting tired of our societys animal worship in general, and in particular in advertising. In fact, this year, there wasnt one animal-related spot that I found worthy of mentioning here.

One other general comment before I get into the specific ads that were noteworthy: I was surprised that even though CBS went to great pains to produce the broadcast in glorious high definition television, there were very few spots that were aired in HD. It seems to me that if a companys already paying $2.3 million just to air a spot, why not spend the extra few bucks to go ahead with an HD production master delivered to the network? What the heck is going on here? Somebody fill me in because I dont get it.

By the way, to view the following spots in your desired format, browse to http://www.ifilm.com/?sctn=collections&pg=superbowl2004.

Funniest: Budweiser Wrong Lipstick
Although I was mildly amused by most of Budweisers spots in this years Super Bowl, I thought ?Wrong Lipstick was masterfully edited, and also the funniest spot. From the smooth, under-the-jet intro shot to the tag shot reprise of that hapless lizard blown off his rocky perch (was that the Budweiser Iguana?) by the speeding Corvette, the editing was tight and perfectly timed. Watch the quick 10-shot sequence that transports our would-be hero through the desert to LA in a snappy group of perfectly selected and executed shots. Try counting cuts to help yourself feel their rhythm. Now thats the right way to edit.

Most confusing: Levitra
How embarrassing for former football star and Super Bowl coach Mike Ditka, to be hawking boner pills in front of all these people. And the style of the spot got on my nerves, too, as well as its confusing message. I mean, what exactly are they talking about, ?The Levitra Challenge, and what does that have to do with a comparison between football and baseball? Is there going to be some kind of erection tournament here between baseball and football players, or what? The chromakey of Ditka with the logo supered over it looked pretty cheesy, in my opinion. On the plus side, I liked the way the editing and music highlighted the contrasts between the exciting sport of football and the more, uh, laid-back style of baseball, but what the heck is the point here? I guess I should shut up and ask my doctor.

Best atmosphere: AOL9.0: Car
What a funny bunch of guys AOL rounded up for this spot, the Teutul family from the "American Chopper" series on the Discovery Channel! Adding to the overall effect is the way the video looks exactly like it was shot by someones personal camcorder. The best edit in the entire :30 was the point where the car, supercharged by the nonsensical ?AOL Top-Speed Technology strapped onto its engine, disappears into a absolutely real-looking poof. The shaky camera work and borderline video quality sells the effect so well that its remarkable. The atmosphere created by the combination of well-cast talent, imitation-amateur camerawork and faultless effects, makes this a winning spot, before you even get to the hilarious ending where our time-traveling driver returns, decked out like Leonardo da Vinci, and his startled colleagues ask, ?Where did you go? ?The Renaissance, he answers, matter-of-factly.

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Related Keywords:Charlie White, Super Bowl, ad industry, big budget, digital video editing, artistic, creative, surprises, editorial


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