HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Super Buildup, But Unfulfilled Expectations
Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jan 2003
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Company
Author: Stuart Elliott


The Advertising Bowl inside this year's Super Bowl was perhaps the most 
cinematic ever. So why then did the evening seem more like "Plan 9 From 
Outer Space" than "Citizen Kane"?

One reason may be that Madison Avenue, despite plentiful salutes to 
familiar films and the liberal use of Hollywood-caliber special effects, 
seemed to fall short compared with memorable pitches from past Super 
Sundays. As entertaining and effective as some of the spots were - FedEx, 
Budweiser and Pepsi Twist, for example - it is unlikely any of them will 
ever be deemed worthy of enshrinement in a Super Bowl Ad Hall of Fame, 
where the Budweiser lizards and frogs and Nike's "Air Jordan-Hare Jordan" 
spots reside.

Even the upbeat commercials from the Pepsi-Cola Company division of PepsiCo 
seemed less effervescent than their energetic predecessors like the Britney 
Spears nostalgia-fest of 2002 or the disco-dancing bears of 1997.

The pregame hoopla for both the football and the ad match-ups - raised this 
year to record levels of intrusiveness - may have contributed to Super Bowl 
XXXVII's near-record viewership, as 138 million people watched all or part 
of Sunday's game. But the hyperbole ahead of the commercials generated 
expectations that were almost impossible to meet.

Another reason ad watchers felt unsatisfied was the absence of many 
commercials already being praised or attacked as if they were Super Bowl 
spots. They include the Nike soccer game streaker; the mud-wrestling women 
for the Miller Lite beer brand sold by SABMiller; and the salutes to 
football, friends and twins for the Coors Light beer brand sold by the 
Adolph Coors Company.

The repetitiveness of many of the ads did not help matters, either. Three 
spots, for Cadillac, Pepsi Twist and Subway restaurants, were centered on 
dreams. Two commercials, for Cadillac and the White House Office of 
National Drug Control Policy, were set on subway trains. Another two, for 
AT&T Wireless and FedEx, were about people stranded on desert islands. And 
four ads, in the Farrelly brothers genre, celebrated the insertion of 
objects into - and their expulsion from - the body. Bud Light beer had the 
dubious distinction of two such spots, while Dodge Ram trucks, sold by 
DaimlerChrysler, and the ESPN cable network, owned by the Walt Disney 
Company, had one each.

Added to that echo effect was the inevitable surfeit of commercials 
featuring animals. There were eight this time, for products as disparate as 
Levi Strauss & Company's Type 1 jeans, Sierra Mist soft drinks from PepsiCo 
and Trident gum from Pfizer.

What follows is an assessment of some of the best and worst of the 55 
national spots, for which advertisers paid ABC, part of Disney, an 
estimated average of $2.1 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time.

ANHEUSER-BUSCH The biggest advertiser in the game as usual was 
Anheuser-Busch, with a record 11 spots, which varied wildly in quality, 
also as usual.

The best of the batch by far was the first spot, in which a zebra, 
refereeing a football game between the Budweiser Clydesdales, turns to 
instant replay to resolve a disputed call. The effectiveness of the spot 
was amplified immeasurably by the coincidental occurrence of two such 
moments (with a human referee, that is) during the actual game. This spot 
finished first in several surveys released yesterday, among them the USA 
Today Ad Meter and a poll by the One Club for Art and Copy. Agency: Hill, 
Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

A spot in the "True" series for Budweiser, depicting how men pretend to 
listen to the women in their lives, stood out for its low-key, 
observational humor. Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, part of the 
Omnicom Group.

The worst commercials were for the Bud Light brand, which has seemingly 
adopted a philosophy that boorish vulgarity is the route to popularity with 
male beer drinkers ages 21 to 27. The most tasteless of the lot was a spot 
with a parade clown trying to drink a beer and eat a hot dog upside down. 
Agency: Downtown Partners DDB, part of the DDB Worldwide unit of Omnicom.

H&R BLOCK A commercial using a celebrity endorser to spoof celebrity 
endorsers seldom succeeds, but H&R Block achieved that rare feat with a 
spot featuring Willie Nelson. The commercial, in which the bearded singer 
plays a reluctant pitchman for a make-believe shaving cream named Smoothie, 
worked whether or not viewers recalled his real-life tax troubles. Agency: 
Campbell Mithun, part of Interpublic.

CADILLAC A 90-second commercial for the Cadillac division of the General 
Motors Corporation cleverly used the device of a dreamy subway ride, 
depicted with the visual lushness of "Far From Heaven," to link the brand's 
classic models of the 1950's with the Escalades and CTS's of today. Agency: 
D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, part of the Publicis Groupe.

DAIMLERCHRYSLER A commercial for the Chrysler Crossfire, featuring the 
singer Celine Dion, sped by too quickly to make much of an impression. What 
was the theme, "My car will go on"? Also, the artful black-and-white film 
appeared as out of place in the brassy Super Sunday environment as "The 
Magnificent Ambersons" would at an Ashton Kutcher film festival. Agencies: 
The Arnell Group and the BBDO Detroit unit of BBDO Worldwide, divisions of 

There was also a terrible spot for Dodge Ram trucks, which showed a driver 
racing to find help for a choking passenger. When the truck comes to a 
sudden stop, the passenger spits out a piece of beef jerky onto the 
windshield. Imagine the effect that had on millions of viewers snacking at 
Super Bowl parties. Agency: BBDO Detroit.

FEDEX This commercial celebrated the dedication of FedEx employees with a 
dead-on parody of the 2000 film "Cast Away," showing a worker rescued from 
a desert island delivering a package that would have changed his life had 
he bothered to open it. The jest was made more delectable by memories of 
the prominent role FedEx played in the movie. The only quibble was that the 
spot ought to have run I or II Super Bowls ago. This spot ranked No. 1 in 
the Adbowl poll by McKee Wallwork Henderson Advertising. Agency: the BBDO 
New York unit of BBDO Worldwide.

HOTJOBS Employees stuck in dreary, dead-end jobs sweetly sing "The Rainbow 
Connection" from "The Muppet Movie" in a juxtaposition likely to send many 
dissatisfied workers to the HotJobs Web site operated by Yahoo. The spot 
could have worked better if the final scene, showing a happy worker who had 
presumably found her job there, had lasted a moment longer to underline the 
point. Agency: Brand Architecture International, part of the TBWA Worldwide 
division of Omnicom.

MONSTER A runaway truck, wreaking havoc as it careers out of control, is 
offered as a metaphor for the Monster job-search Web site operated by TMP 
Worldwide. Just as a truck needs a driver, the spot seeks to demonstrate, a 
driver needs a truck. But the images of destruction, delivered in the style 
of cartoons or video games, were troubling, particularly to anyone who 
recalled the recent deaths of four students from Yale University in an 
accident involving an out-of-control truck. Agency: Arnold Worldwide, part 
of the Arnold Worldwide Partners division of Havas.

PEPSICO The Ozzy Osbourne dream sequence for Pepsi Twist, in which his 
children turn into the wholesome duo of Donny and Marie Osmond, was 
hilarious. The surprise ending, showing Sharon Osbourne replaced by 
Florence Henderson of "The Brady Bunch," smartly reinforced the brand name, 
even though it was borrowed from the finale of another sitcom, "Newhart." 
The spot finished first in a poll of subscribers to America Online, part of 
AOL Time Warner.

Spots with wacky animals for Pepsi's new Sierra Mist soda were 
appropriately madcap, but a like-son-like-father tale for Diet Pepsi fell 
flat. Agency: BBDO New York.

REEBOK A 60-second commercial for Reebok International introduced a 
character named Terry Tate, a football fanatic who serves as the "office 
linebacker," enforcing discipline, for the vengeful managers of a 
fictitious corporation. Because a little bit of Terry's comically violent 
shtick goes a long way, this is one commercial that would seemingly have 
benefited from less exposure. It was, however, the most-watched spot in 
households with TiVo personal video recorders, according to a survey 
released by TiVo Inc. Agency: Arnell.

TRIDENT At last, an explanation for that riddle of the ages: Why do only 
four out of five dentists surveyed recommend Trident gum for their patients 
who chew gum? The fifth, bitten by a squirrel when it is his turn to vote, 
screams "No!" Fifteen seconds of fun. Agency: J. Walter Thompson, part of 
the WPP Group.

VISA The basketball player Yao Ming scores his third big endorsement with a 
rollicking spot for the Visa Check Card from Visa USA that makes light of 
cross-cultural miscommunication. Like Pepsi Twist, there is a surprise 
ending here, too, as Yogi Berra offers his two cents' worth of obfuscation. 
Agency: BBDO New York.

WHITE HOUSE OFFICE One commercial, set on a subway, borrows liberally from 
the films "Ghost" and "Sixth Sense" to assert that anyone who buys drugs 
can fuel the terror wreaked worldwide by drug dealers. If that is not clear 
enough, the theme pounds in the message: "Drug money supports terrible 
things." As does antidrug money, apparently. Agency: Ogilvy & Mather 
Worldwide, part of WPP.

In a second spot, co-sponsored with the Partnership for a Drug-Free 
America, a teenage girl's pregnancy is attributed to her smoking marijuana. 
Don't hold your breath waiting for the Super Bowl ad that blames beer 
binges for such pregnancies. Agency: McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising, 
part of Interpublic.
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