Ad Industry Fouls Again

The Super Bowl commercials are known for being clever and innovative, but this year's crop appeals to our basest instincts.

The universally tepid response to yesterday’s lineup of Super Bowl ads indicates that we’ve come to expect a certain degree of innovation from advertisers who drop millions to purchase game-time spots (remember  “1984” Apple ad directed by Ridley Scott ?).

But in light of the economic downturn and increasing financial woes, advertisers chose to play it safe this year, foregoing any auteur-driven cultural watersheds for crotch humor and talking babies. Although always absurd, the price of Super Bowl spots is particularly outrageous this year ($3 million for 30 seconds) and advertisers clearly didn’t want to take any chances. So they appealed to our base nature (guy taking a snow globe to the groin, giant fake breasts) and our sentimentality (horsey love story, dog adoptions).

Pepsi even tried to rewrite history by casting what was in fact Richard Nixon's preferred drink as the nectar that unified the counter-culture (with an assist from Bob Dylan who now joins Dennis Hopper in the ranks of anti-establishment icons cum celebrity establishment endorsers). I was curious to see how this gluttonous capitalist ritual would be handled at a time when capitalism is teetering on the brink. After yesterday, I have my answer. Advertisers chose to speak to us like we’re idiots and hoped that we would be so distracted by that poor guy’s crotch, that we’d sit back, crack a Pepsi and keep on buying this shit.