Super Bowl: The ads designed for TV junkies
Year in, year out, the Super Bowl draws a huge audience -- bigger than anything else on TV these days. And it’s a safe bet that many of those Super Bowl viewers are not the types caught up on the latest “House of Cards” season or seeking out “Borgen” on whatever service it’s available in now.
Which is to say, not all Super Bowl viewers are TV junkies. This is true even of the people who claim to watch the big game just for the ads. But the Super Bowl ad must relate to the widest swath of people possible, which is why you so often get ads employing love of animals, bizarre new characters or arty references to one of the most important works of literature of the 20th century (that’s Ridley Scott’s “1984" Apple ad).
But occasionally, the TV junkies will get something to crow about. An ad that speaks just to them. Or at least, it speaks more to them than the person still in tears about the one with the guy and his Clydesdale.
So rather than take another look at the “Mean” Joe Greene ad or Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” car ad, here are the top five ads from this century that mean a little something extra to fans of the tube.
2001: Danny DeVito’s puppet goes on strike
Back in the early part of the century, Lipton’s Brisk iced tea used computer-animated versions of celebrities to sell the drink. This ad, which aired during Super Bowl XXXV, starts with the puppet DeVito chasing after a cab. DeVito, of course, made his name as the grouchy cab dispatcher Louie DePalma in the 1978 sitcom “Taxi.” The spot also features a pre-slimmed down Al Roker and a pre-scandal Pat O’Brien.
Watch it here.
2004: Homer Simpson shills for MasterCard
The animated cast of “The Simpsons” has never shied away from selling anything. They’ve done ads for Butterfinger, Coke and Church’s Chicken. But it wasn’t until 2004 that Matt Groening’s yellow creations made it to the big time as Super Bowl ad pitch-characters. Using the then common MasterCard format of pricing several things before reaching the inevitable “priceless” feeling that MasterCard couldn’t cover, Homer Simpson went about his day. The “Simpson"-ion twist here is that Homer actually hears the narrator.
Watch it here.
2009: Miller High Life’s Blipvert
Blipverts are super-short ads, lasting just a second or so. Miller High Life’s Blipvert during Super Bowl XLIII wasn’t the first, but it was the first time when the strategy was deployed during the Super Bowl, where ad prices topped $4.5 million for a 30-second spot this year. The idea of blipverts were first introduced in the 1987 TV series “Max Headroom,” where the super-short, high intensity spots were investigated for causing people to explode. (The ‘80s were a weird time.)
Watch it here. Don’t blink.
2010: Jay and Dave’s Oprah summit
The Jay Leno/David Letterman drama over who would host “The Tonight Show” happened way back in 1992, but some bitter feelings die hard. Or do they? Viewers really needed to understand a lot of behind-the-scenes show business drama to make sense of this short clip that aired during Super Bowl XLIV on CBS to promote Letterman’s “Late Show.” There was Letterman sulking on one end of the couch, Leno on the other and who was in the middle? Oprah Winfrey, of course. The most powerful woman in TV, playing mother to two sulky man-boys. The two sniped about each other for years on their respective late night shows, but with Leno off “Tonight” and Letterman stepping down in May, is it possible they’ll have a more substantial reunion? Paging Miss Winfrey.
Watch it here.
2010: ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ sells cars
The Super Bowl draws viewers of all ages, so it makes sense that advertisers wouldn’t want to mine old sitcom stars or late-night hosts for their ads. But mixing trippy kids’ show characters with car sales (a very grown-up purchase) is unusual. While sports fans may be scratching their heads at red cyclops Muno and the rest trying their best to get you to buy a Kia, kids and parents alike were both nodding their heads in approval.
Watch it here.
Follow me on Twitter: @patrickkevinday
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