Stanley Kubrick used to watch commercials. He was obsessed with the way they could tell a story in less than a minute. Today, he’d probably be even more shocked that we are unwilling to sit around for even that long. Commercials have gotten shorter and there are endless ways to skip them altogether.
Still, the Superbowl brings us all back in time to a point where commercials could not be overlooked. Of course, with that number of eyes on the screen, companies go out of their way to make sure that their commercials are the most memorable things imaginable. Indeed, the Superbowl has become the de facto largest film festival in America, where audiences are taking bite sized pieces of cinema. Besides, does anyone actually care which team wins? I’ve already forgotten who’s playing.
Since everyone else watched and is currently fighting off indigestion and hangovers, I might as well join in and pick the commercials I feel work the best. I won’t buy the products, but I can identify which micro film accomplished their goal.
Additionally, this is a nice exercise to distract myself from the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was probably the most consistently great actor working these days, and for him to be gone is a loss for everyone. I will be doing some tribute in the next few days.
So, counting down from the game, here are my picks of the best from this mad short film festival.
Doritos Time Machine
The commercial is really a rather simple joke, but it’s also quite funny. And it was one of the few that even attempted to tell any sort of coherent story. That’s the ultimate goal of these commercials. Well, that and to sell beer. Still, quite honestly, this is one of the few I’ll still think about so I had to include it in amongst the best.
TurboTax Superbowl Prom
Frankly this is how I feel at every Superbowl. And it reflects that commercials have become more sophisticated. There have always been commercials with commentary on football, but Turbo Tax embraced that fact. And it managed to be almost poignant – why DO so many people watch it when most of the time it turns out to be such a boring event?
Radioshack 80s Commercial
This was one of the more talked about commercials from last night. Again, there was a level of sophistication that I wouldn’t expect from such large brands. It takes a level of courage to admit that your store is an old hat. I think Dave Barry had it right – if a product is willing to use advertising space to make fun of itself, that must mean they are confident in their product. Maybe I should shop at Radioshack.
John Turturro GoDaddy Commercial
GoDaddy’s usual method of salesmanship was female anatomy. This time they went with The Jesus. And they managed to convey a story about why their product is important and what it can give us. It gave this woman a chance to follow her dream. They still had to pay millions for people to see it, but frankly, I prefer approaches like this to, say, Bob Dylan trying to sell me a car. Who would be stupid enough to try that?
T-Mobile Tim Tebow
I don’t really follow football, so I don’t know enough about Tim Tebow and his lack of a contract. Still, whatever the controversy behind it, that came across very well. Maybe that’s why I liked the commercial so much. It could have become a terrible in joke but it wasn’t. I also didn’t expect Tebow to be such a comedian.
M & Ms With Boris the Blade
Yea, that’s Boris the Blade (Rade Serbedzija) threatening to eat an M&M. What I like about this one is the fact that it is so stylish. It could pass as an outtake from Eastern Promises. This is the sort of over-indulgence I expect from the Superbowl, like the famous 1984 commercial. That seems to be rare, and when companies try it, it doesn’t work. That Audi commercial with Lawrence Fishburne is a great example. Here, it was successful.
Axe Peace Make Love Not War
This was a rather surprising commercial. I could not guess their end game. Still, it was probably the best message of the commercials. I think we all sometimes forget that everyone is only human, and Axe accepted our flaws and demonstrated the best things about us. Not bad for a product that exists to make people smell better.
Budweiser Best Buds
If you don’t like this, you have no soul. You might want to check on that.
Finally, everyone seems to be talking about the Coke commercial with “America the Beautiful” being sung in different languages. I thought it was effective, but the ad itself didn’t stand out for me. Still, I am surprised at the response it received. I thought the message was a positive one, that demonstrated how an American company has become the most recognizable global brand in history. Ultimately, it’s stuff like drinking Coke that brings the world together. Simple, yet effective. So why did people get angry? I simply don’t understand it at all, and I don’t feel like trying. Life is too short to let those who are offended by a Coke commercial to bring us down.