Ads on Super Bowl XXXVII Back to Basics

SAN FRANCISCO This was the year that Super Bowl would get “back to normal” and in many ways it did. Cute critters, a staple of Super Bowl advertising, did their stupid pet tricks for Sierra Mist (a monkey builds a seesaw to cool off in a neighboring polar bear pond), Trident (a squirrel takes a bite out of “the 5th dentist”) and Bud Light (a dog acts as wig).

The heavy-handed patriotism of last year was largely absent, unless you count Levi’s surreal teen trip to the days of America’s buffalo stampedes or MasterCard’s dull revival of dead presidents. This year, many Super Bowl advertisers went back to basics: the fun of the game, of beer and of celebrity endorsers.

One of the most entertaining celebrity performances came from a Pepsi Twist spot out of BBDO, New York, that paired The Osbournes with The Osmonds and Ozzy with Florence Henderson. What could be funnier than seeing Donny and Marie Osmond sing “A little bit of country” to the former Black Sabbath front man who used to bite the heads off bats in his younger days. Now shaky and disoriented-looking, Ozzy is seen fussing with the garbage, when his teenage kids interrupt. First, they unzip their Pepsi cans to show him Pepsi Twist, and then they unzip themselves and unleash the Osmonds’ toothsome smiles and song. Screaming for his wife Sharon, Ozzy wakes up to find himself in bed–with Florence Hendersen. It’s too bizarre a match not to be memorable.

Other celebrity-driven efforts included Michael Jordan playing younger versions of himself for Gatorade and unfortunately paired with Jackie Chan for Hanes and Willie Nelson poking fun at his past tax problems for H&R Block.

Anheuser-Busch, the game’s largest advertiser, skipped the sentimentality of last year and stuck to comedy in virtually all of its five and a half minutes of ad time. The best of the lot featured the Clydesdales, the worst, sexual stereotypes. In a spot for Budweiser from Hill Holliday Cosmopulos, Boston, the Clydesdales, seen last year bowing before the New York City skyline, lightened up with a football game. The spot showed the horses waiting for a zebra referee to review instant replay. In one of several Bud Light spots, a man wearing a costume of a clown walking on his hands is oblivious to the stares around him as he tries to order a drink at a bar. In another, a friend warns a man that his fianc