Usually the commercials are the best thing about the Super Bowl, but in Super Bowl XLII, when the underdog Giants beat the Patriots with a white knuckles 83-yard touchdown drive with less than two minutes left, the commercials were thrust into the background.
Many sports analysts and fans are saying that it was the most exciting Super Bowl game ever, in spite of the relatively low 17 - 14 score. And some advertising critics are calling it one of the worst Super Bowls ever for commercials, but I wouldn't go that far.
Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield's review of the commercials is highly critical and downright depressing. He accuses advertisers of homophobia, scaring children, insincerity, and worse, pandering to "young males' masturbatory fantasies." This is the same Bob Garfield who conducted an unprofessional ambush interview last March with Bill Gates and who has a website and blog titled ComcastMustDie.com detailing how he hates his cable provider, Comcast, because it didn't give him the service he thinks he deserves as a lofty media star (columnist for Ad Age and co-host of "On The Media," one of my favorite programs on WNYC and the best media criticism program on radio or television, in spite of Garfield's snide approach). Garfield has become too full of himself, too serious, and a pontificator -- bloviator is next if he doesn't lighten up.
The New York Times's Stuart Elliott has a much more enlightening and less angry review. I recommend it.
I was offended by only two commercials by the same advertiser, SalesGenie.com. The company wasted money on silly, poorly produced commercials for a product that no one could figure out what it did. I liked several commercials: Budweiser's Clydesdale and Dalmatian spot, Fed Ex's giant carrier pigeon spot, and Bud Light's cheese-run spot. USA Today's AdMeter rated the Budweiser Clydesdale spot and the Fed Ex spot as the two most popular -- both ads were one-minute long, something unusual for television commercials these days. In fact, there seemed more 60-second spots this year than ever: Ad Meter #7 Coca-Cola, #8 Max Diet Pepsi, #13 Vitamin Water, #18 the NFL's uplifting Chester Pitts spot, and #21 Pepsi's Justin Timberlake spot.
By my count, there were about 55 commercials in the pre-game show and game, not including local breaks. Tied for the number-one category were non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks, vitamin water, Gatorade) and movies, closely followed by autos and beer -- clearly the Super Bowl is a mucho macho advertising delivery vehicle, which is, essentially, what it and all commercial television is, except this year there was a great football game between the commercials.
Perhaps the networks and advertisers will take a lesson away from Super Bowl XLII and consider putting more compelling content between commercials and running longer commercials that tell us a story, entertain us, and inoculate us with warm feelings about their brand. Let's hope.