Bruce Springsteen surprised me in his first-ever commercial (for Jeep) by talking up how important “the middle” is. To do so, he highlighted a church in Kansas — because it’s in the center of the nation — claiming “it’s open 24 hours to everyone.” As Nell Scovell pointed out on Twitter, I doubt the church is visited very often by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists. I’d also bet that because of where it’s located, most of the people who stop by aren’t wearing face masks, nor are they social distancing in a place so small. The Jeep/Springsteen commercial ended with the line, “To The ReUnited States of America.” Nope, not even close. And don’t even get me going on a lifelong New Jerseyan pandering to the red states by wearing a cowboy hat. I’m a Springsteen fan, but this was a big whiff.
I don’t know what happened to Mike Myers’ face other than age, but he can no longer pull off playing a young guy with a cable access show (is that even a thing anymore?). His reprise of “Wayne’s World” for an Uber Eats commercial (with Dana Carvey and Cardi B) was even more humorless than his movie, “The Love Guru.” Moreover, it’s been 3+ decades since he played Wayne Campbell for the first time on “SNL,” meaning an entire generation had no idea what the hell was going on. Just as people of Myers’ age couldn’t relate to the halftime show by The Weeknd.
Other former “SNL” stars whose Super Bowl commercials didn’t work for me last night: Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, and Tracy Morgan. The spots they appeared in were about as appealing as the never-funny skits that air in the last 15 minutes of the show.
Speaking of Uber Eats, its attempt to honor local restaurants by getting us to order food from them more often would have a lot more empathetic relatability if the company didn’t take 30% of the cost of the meal as its delivery fee. Those high commissions are contributing to a lot of neighborhood eateries struggling financially — they can’t afford not to offer their food for delivery, but they also can’t afford the outrageous cost of doing so. Meanwhile, Uber Eats and DoorDash are doing just fine, as the fact that they can each afford a Super Bowl commercial that costs $5.6 million for thirty seconds proves.
By the way, DoorDash, although I enjoyed seeing Daveed Diggs singing “In The Neighborhood” with Big Bird, your promise to give a buck to Sesame Street Workshop for each delivery doesn’t make me want to use you, either. Call me a cynic, but I know you’re going to play it up as heroic while you write off those charitable contributions to reduce your corporate taxes.
Memo to Toni Petersson, CEO of Oatly: when you asked your staff and friends if they thought it was a good idea for you to star in the company’s commercial while singing a silly song you wrote, they only said yes because they’re either related to or employed by you. Next time, ask some strangers for their honest answers and save yourself a repeat embarrassment (and a waste of millions of company dollars!).
So, which of the Super Bowl LV commercials did I like? In other words, which companies’ ad agencies deserve credit, not blame?
There were two clever spots for Bud Light — one bringing back stars from previous ad campaigns, and another for Bud Light Lemonade Seltzer that pelted people with lemons as a metaphor for how terrible 2020 was. There was also the inspirational Toyota spot about thirteen-time Paralympics swimming champion Jessica Long.
Among the other first-time Super Bowl advertisers, I thought Vroom got its simple message (how to avoid car dealerships by ordering the vehicle you want online and having it delivered to your home) across very well. Fiverr made me smile with a parody involving Four Seasons Total Landscaping, the venue where Rudy Giuliani had one of his ludicrous press conferences. It was made even better by having the woman who’s president of the landscaping company appear throughout. And the jobs site Indeed, a Super Bowl rookie, pulled a few heartstrings, too. It’s hard to go wrong when you show parents hugging small children in feetie pajamas.
Am I the only one who sees the guy in the garage in the TurboTax commercial and thinks it’s Christopher Guest doing his “Waiting For Guffman” character, Corky St. Clair, complete with straight bangs and a weird beard?
As for the rest of the commercials that ran during the Super Bowl, they were about as memorable as the game itself. In other words, a huge yawn.
One last point. The biggest missed opportunity was the lack of a spot addressing the racial disparity in coronavirus vaccine distribution and acceptance. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said 35% of Black Americans said they don’t plan to get the vaccine, citing fears about safety and distrust of government. What if CBS and the NFL had devoted some of their own promotional time to a message aimed at changing those opinions and combating widespread misinformation? What if they had insisted that the actors in all the ads had to wear masks and keep six feet apart?
The league should have asked some of its best-known players to help get the word out (I’d have preferred that to the Vince Lombardi hologram and deep fake!). The network should have used a few of the too many minutes it spent hyping its Paramount+ streaming service that no one cares about. Or committed a couple of its promos for the new Queen Latifah version of “The Equalizer” to having her looking straight into the camera and explaining why it’s important that everyone gets vaccinated. Maybe with a connection to Black History Month?
The Super Bowl may be just a game, and debating which were the best and worst ads is fun, but this continuing public health crisis remains a matter of life and death.