Super Bowl’s TV ads are, er, a real smash

Giant carrier pigeons terrorize a towering skyscraper. Justin Timberlake is thrown onto the street and dragged into traffic. One beer drinker torches a romantic dinner with his flame-throwing breather and another gets sucked into a jet engine.

What did the creators of this year’s Super Bowl commercials know about the fate that awaited the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl?

Mayhem and destruction were overriding themes in the commercial barrage that was interrupted by long stretches of the Patriots spinning their wheels during the New York Giants’ 17-14 upset victory, tripping up New England’s quest for a 19-0 season at the final leg. Perfection is never the goal of these ads. Far from it. Shock value remains a popular objective, but try as these ads did, nothing plugging liquid refreshment, cars, tires or websites approached the edge-of-the-seat surprise that accompanied Eli Manning’s late touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.

And nothing scripted by the people at did more for the concept of career building than the Giants’ Manning.

Consider precisely what Manning accomplished with his 19-for-34, 255-yard, two-touchdown passing performance in Glendale, Ariz. He not only kept pace with the tough act carved out last year by one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks (his older brother Peyton, who defeated the Chicago Bears in 2007), but also upstaged another (Tom Brady, who had been 3-0 in Super Bowls) on the same field.


Eli was like the Clydesdale in the Budweiser commercial. One year, he’s cut from the squad. The next, he makes the grade, thanks to perseverance, faith and some unusual coaching.

(One difference between the personal-trainer Dalmatian in the commercial and Giants Coach Tom Coughlin: The Dalmatian never changed its spots. Today, however, Coughlin’s upgraded resume includes the line: Yes, he can win the big ones after all.)

It was this kind of Super Bowl: The Miami Heat (9-36) had a much better day than the Patriots. Two of the telecast’s better commercials featured members of the less-than-lukewarm Heat. Shaquille O’Neal as a late-charging, physics-defying winning jockey was the thrust of a Glaceau Vitaminwater spot. In another ad, for T-Mobile, viewers suffered along with Dwyane Wade as he was pestered by never-ending phone calls from Charles Barkley.

In the end, however, no commercial was more effective in making its point than the halftime performance of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Did you know Tom and the boys will be touring North America this summer? You do now. Petty and his band put together a solid four-song set during their 12 minutes onstage. It was good to hear “American Girl” again. It might have been better to hear it at a Super Bowl staged a little closer to, say, 1980, but with the NFL, hip is something that is protected by special padding during games.

A look at some of the commercials that hit their mark and others that misfired:


Got the job done

SoBe Life Water: Naomi Campbell and lines of computer-graphic lizards dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Did you know that this month marks the 25th anniversary of the release of “Thriller?” You do now.

Diet Pepsi Max: Ad for a soft drink that supposedly adds life without the calories revives people nodding off as they wait, presumably, for the Patriots to score. In the process, also revives DVD rentals for “A Night at the Roxbury.”

Glaceau Vitaminwater: Lots of ads this year for energy drinks. This one stars O’Neal in a new career: race-winning jockey. Something to look into, now that he no longer makes All-Star teams.

T-Mobile: Wade learns the hard way that he needs to be more discerning about his Fave 5 list.

Budweiser: Slump-ridden Clydesdale rallies with the aid of a watchful Dalmatian and the “Rocky” theme. Next year’s follow-up chronicles the unfortunate performance-enhancing substance scandal.



Pepsi Stuff: Over-hyped production in which misfortune befalls Timberlake, leaving viewers mostly confused. Brady can relate. This was the non-commercial about the Danica Patrick commercial Fox declined to air for reasons of “good taste.” The idea apparently was to entice viewers to jump to the GoDaddy website to inspect the controversial clip. Unless viewers were instead overcome by shrugs and a pressing need for another beer.

ETrade: Talking baby at the PC gets two ads. In the first, the infant spits up on the keyboard. In the other, the kid uses his “extra coin” to rent a party clown, then complains, rather ironically, about the “creepiness” factor. A woman follows the timeless advice, “Follow your heart.” But after it pops out of her chest?

Gatorade G2: Somehow, a dog slobbering in its water dish and licking the floor is supposed to convince viewers that G2 is the new drink for them. Then again, the Patriots could have used the extra energy.