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Opinion :: Creativity vs. controversy: The best, worst & mediocre Super Bowl commercials
· 4:41pm February 3rd, 2014
There is nothing more American than ... a good, old-fashioned social media melee over Super Bowl commercials.
The game was forgettable (although not to Seattle or its fans), but the commercials still have millions of people talking – and typing.
No, there was no “Thank God for a Farmer,” tribute which Dodge shared with us, using Paul Harvey’s legendary voice and words last year. And no, there were no athletes tossing their game-worn jerseys to young adoring fans.
There were, however, many commercials that left me shaking my head, pondering the future (and yes, the present) of the advertising industry.
Most of the most popular commercials were those without words: The Budweiser tribute to a returning soldier (Lt. Chuck Nadd of Florida, who became a special guest at the Super Bowl), as well as the now-traditional Clydesdale commercials showing the love the horses have for others – this year, a dog.
My favorite – also without words – was the one early on that showed the Peanuts characters gathered around Schroeder and his piano at Metlife Stadium, playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
I had several “least favorites,” including the one that encouraged us to follow our dreams, but – while stuntmen aided by special effects experts demonstrated physically implausible accomplishments – told us in the disclaimer: DO NOT ATTEMPT. I wonder which advertising genius came up with the idea of telling people to not attempt to follow our dreams.
The poetic nonsense of Bob Dylan inspired his fans and inspired me to make fun of him. “Nothing is more American than America,” said Dylan.
Oh really? You mean I don’t have to go to Ethiopia to find out what "American" means?
Dylan’s commercial, for an American car company also said, “Let Germany brew your beer.” Again, seriously? With all of the millions that U.S breweries spend on Super Bowl commercials, a U.S. manufacturer that is vigorously competing with car makers from other countries encourages the purchase of foreign beverages?
But it doesn’t have to make sense; it’s Dylan.
Then there was the Turbo Tax commercial that basically said: The Super Bowl is a waste of time; why don’t ya go do your taxes now instead.
I thought that the commercial making fun of how Radio Shack was stuck in the 1980s was by a competitor until the last few seconds, when Radio Shack tried to tell us that it has “finally” made it to the modern era.
Then I saw: The ad for a web site designer telling us how pointless most of the stuff we see on web sites is; at least two Tim Tebow ads telling us how much we can do if we (like him) do not have a contract. Then one company ran an ad for a luxury car that is not yet available, while the ad for the Maserati Ghibli declared “now we strike.”
That is quite appropriate, since “ghibli” means “hot wind.”
And most of what we saw in between the games was more hot-windish than Seahawk Richard Sherman’s post-game interview a few weeks ago.
“You say it best when you say nothing at all,” wrote Paul Overstreet, and the best ads were those that didn’t bother using words to sell us on a product or service.
But now, for the moment you have all been waiting for…
There is nothing more American than ... a good, old-fashioned social media melee over a soft drink commercial.
The same company whose commercial told us 43 years ago that it would like “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" caused a chorus that was anything but harmonic with its 2014 version.
I thought the Coke commercial in seven (or eight or nine, depending on which linguist is counting) languages was cute and sweet; I thought it captured the fact that America is an ethnically diverse place.
Not everyone agreed.
I spent some time finding out about the languages in the commercial. They include, according to those who have listened and translated: English, Spanish, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Arabaic, Senegalese French, Hindi and/or Mandorin.
To the people who have questioned whether this ad represents American language and ethnicities, I have just two observations. First, many of those languages were spoken long before English arrived. Keres Pueblo is a Native American language spoken by Pueblo Indians in Arizona and New Mexico.
The singer of the Tagalog part was Leilani, a Filipino-American singer. I have a granddaughter who coincidentally has Leilani for her middle name; and she’s as American as can be.
To me, this commercial had nothing to do with our official language and everything to do with the fact that America (and including the products it offers to other nations)is impacting the world in many essential and essentially good ways.
And for those of us in all-white, all English-speaking Vinton, we need to be aware that this incredible ethnic diversity is closer than we think: There are at least 80 languages spoken by residents of the school district in our very own state capital, Des Moines.
The unseen ad controversy
This year, the debate over Super Bowl ads began several days before the Super Bowl, when the NFL decided that it would not run an ad for a gun manufacturer called Daniel Defense. That banned ad did not show any guns, just a young man who implied that he had been a soldier, and says that now protecting his family is his top priority, and nobody has the right to tell him how to do that. The ad ends by showing the logo of Daniel Defense, which includes a computer-generated drawing of what seems to be an AR-15 logo.
I disagree with the decision to not run the ad, but even the strongest gun-rights advocate knows your first choice in home defense would be a handgun – but the main products on the Daniel Defense web site are AR-15 and similar weapons. And, the company web site’s main claim is that it provides high quality weapons to the military and police.
Yet, if you watched the Super Bowl commercials, you watched many promotions for TV shows and movies which feature excessive gun violence, including “24.” And yes, it does seem quite hypocritical to show gun violence in that manner, and yet ban a commercial offering protection to those who want to simply live a peaceful, law-abiding life.
Back to the wordless beginning
But that’s enough of that, too. Let’s go back to the start of the football game, when Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest gathered around to listen to Schroeder play “The Star Spangled Banner.” Remember, it’s our national anthem – the song we sing to remind us that although we are different in many ways, we are all part of the same wonderful country.
Enough, already, about the Super Bowl and its over-priced commercials. Football season is over.
The first Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin working on the 2014 season this week. Americans of every state and nationality now have much more important things to debate.
A hot glue gun and a memory
Why I use 'I' when I think 'I' helps you know I understand you