What makes for a great Super Bowl commercial? Simple: A lineup of degraded human clones marching in lockstep! Actually, in the 17 years since the Macintosh ad broke, we've all been hoping for that level of show stopper.
This year, new work from the director of that commercial, Ridley Scott, did appear on the Super Bowl—a promo for his new movie, Hannibal, the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Let's hope it wasn't followed by a message from Pepcid.
And there's the rub. Everything changes within the context of the game. "1984'' was a cinematic tour de force, a neatly made and hugely moving startler, but its legendary status was supported by the fact it ran during one of the most boring games in Super Bowl history and a slow-to-crippled news week.
Today, the revolutionary concept it was touting—a computer frees us from slavery—is no longer worthy of worship. Frankly, not much is.
That's one reason advertisers are now bypassing the great sagas and production values of Madonna's wedding and opting for the more immediate gut-bustin' pleasures of stupid-pet-and-human tricks. A visual joke breaks through to a crowd drunk on guacamole.
Maybe the Budweiser lizards made the idea high concept. But so popular are the performing critters, that last year's E*Trade dancing monkey—and he was hilarious—was named by CBS producers and USA Today as one of the 10 greatest Super Bowl commercials of all time. That's a heavy honor for a chimp in a T-shirt. The French, no doubt, will honor him next.
Monkey II was not available in its entirety at press time. I did see the spot that is its rival. EDS exploited a herding cats theme last year; this round, EDS offers a spot equally funny: the running of the squirrels in Pamplona. I hate squirrels, and it was brilliant.
And speaking of species who multiply, rabbits appear in spots for Accenture and Visa. The Visa spot opens on a child and her dad in a pet store about to buy a bunny. Unfortunately, this same setup was used by Discover—and having a violenthyena on your hands is much funnier.
The dad pays by check for the hare, and the kindly man behind the desk asks for more and more ID. By the time the transaction is complete, there are bunnies everywhere—with a Visa card, there's no problem. The funniest part of the spot is the unexpected music that plays as soon as the wait starts, "Love Is in the Air.'' Otherwise, it's the oldest dirty joke in the book.
But on the day when crunching is the national pastime (both on the field and off), it was fitting that Snickers released its new spot, an alarming scenario, for its new product, Snickers Cruncher.
In a shocking and funny opener, we see a car parked on a city street at night. It is bleating away, with the psychosis-inducing wail of a non-stop car alarm. Suddenly, a couch falls right on it. It's a large couch, and as it decimates the car's hood, we get a shot of the old lady who dropped it cleaning her hands.
Given the great spots of Snickers' past, I figured once the couch hobbled the car, we'd get the "Not going anywhere for a while?'' line. Instead, we hear the announcer saying, "Need to crunch something? Grab a Snickers Cruncher.'' The kicker is great, too.
Lest we think that anyone can get away with such satisfying couch vigilantism (unnecessary roughness/sofa), the couch shifts from the car it destroyed to the vehicle behind it, setting off its alarm. An unexpected ending to a delightful ad—and it brings new meaning to "groundbreaking.'' Visa
Chief Creative Officer
Assoc. Dir., TV Prod.
Davis McNally/Omaha Pictures
Chief Creative Officer
Phil Morrison/Epoch Films