For a lot of Americans, the Super Bowl is the one time of year we actually want to pay attention to commercials. Some years, it feels like the game gets in the way of the real entertainment. But the 2011 game was a tight contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the Pack pulling out a 31-25 nail-biter.
The best spot, far and away, was “Volkswagen: The Force,” featuring the kid dressed as Darth Vader. Coming in second for me was, “Pepsi Max: Love Hurts,” featuring the woman torturing her husband and, ultimately, knocking out another woman by braining her with a can of Pepsi Max. The “NFL Best Fans Ever” spot worked, even if it was a bit heavy on characters younger viewers might never have even heard of. “Doritos: House Sitting” was funny, and the trailers for Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor looked quite good (Thor vs. the Destroyer? I’m there!). “Coke: Border” was nice, if simplistic.
The absolute worst commercial, hands-down, was “Doritos: The Best Part,” featuring that guy licking cheese powder off another guy’s fingers and…I’m not making this up…pants. I didn’t even understand what “Chevy Cruze: Misunderstanding” was going for, other than making fun of old people. “Kia: One Epic Ride” suffered from an excess of ambition that muddled the message. The “Groupon” spots with Timothy Hutton and Elizabeth Hurley left me wondering what the hell Groupon.com is, because they made absolutely no sense unless you already knew what Groupon is/does. The Hutton spot came across as exploiting Tibet for a laugh and making a joke out of deforestation. In a similar vein, “Chatter.com: Still Doing Impossible Things” (apparently explaining what Chatter.com is, is impossible). I did not realize that the “Best Buy: Ozzie vs. Bieber” spot was an ad for Best Buy…making it a complete failure.
THE MERELY STUPID
“HomeAway: Smush” was completely muddled; “Pepsi Max: Torpedo Cooler” resorted to the ol’ “When in doubt, hit a guy in the crotch for a laugh” shtick; “GoDaddy.com: Joan Rivers” and “GoDaddy.com: Models” still tell us nothing about GoDadddy.com, even after all these years; both Hyundai Elantra ads were overly complicated attempts to send a simple message. The “E*Trade: Kitty” spot probably had animal-lovers wringing their hands over what was irritating that CGI cat rather than paying attention to what the CGI baby was babbling about.
Overall, I rate this year’s crop of commercials as better than last year’s, with only the kid Darth Vader becoming a classic.