Playing it safe: Super Bowl commercials lose creative touch

There was no Giant surprise.

Every year, I look forward to the Super Bowl not only for the inevitable excitement that is to come from the game, but also the manic hysteria of the commercials.

This year, like many years before, was off. The game was pretty boring until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. In what was probably the toughest game for an Eagles fan to watch, the New York Giants upset the undefeated New England Patriots, 17-14. In the end, I’d rather see the Giants win than the Pats complete a perfect season.

Though the game got off to a slow start – a start that seemed to last for 55 minutes of game time – I expected the commercials to boost my energy. Instead, I yawned throughout.

It seems that ever since Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction of 2003 during the Superbowl XXXVIII Halftime Show, companies all around are too scared to put something risqué on television. And for that, we suffer.

Advertisers face a double-edged sword. While they want to make the commercials funny to live up to the tradition of Super Bowls past, they also want to get their name remembered. Sadly, both objectives have failed.

I don’t learn from my mistakes. Before sitting down to enjoy every Super Bowl game, I still believe that I will get some hearty laughs from the commercials. Needless to say, I’m disappointed in myself every year.

There were a few bright spots throughout the commercial breaks, but not enough to make it seem like paying $3 million for a 30-second spot is worth it.

In fact, I’d feel privileged if I lived in Arkansas or Oklahoma. Thanks to a satellite failure, thousands of fans were left stranded Sunday afternoon without any Fox programming – Super Bowl and all.

Onto the commercials. The ones I got mild entertainment out of were from the Coca Cola Company. How often does that happen? I’m a Pepsi person, myself.

First was the battle between Family Guy’s Stewie and canine hero Underdog. The two, both floats in a New York City parade, were chasing after a Coke float – no, not a delicious ice-cream-and-soda combination, but a helium-inflated piece of rubber.

After seconds of bouncing off buildings and scaring children everywhere, the Coke bottle gets away and finally lands in the hands of Charlie Brown, who was hiding behind a skyscraper.

Good ol’ Chuck. It’s about time the kid catches a break.

Next was the political tag team of former Sen. Bill Frist and democratic pundit James Carville. The two began fighting on a talk show and took it outside – to get a Coke. Then the two are seen in a date-like scenario, taking a bus tour of Washington, D.C. while enjoying the happy sensation given only by the sugary sweet concoction of Coke.

Who knew all it takes to be BFFs is a bottle of Coke? Maybe Barack and Hillary should grab a six-pack.

Animals were also a favorite this year. First, a poor, helpless squirrel attempting to capture an acorn was screaming at the top of his lungs, accompanied by his other forest friends, as a car approached ever so quickly. But thanks to the anti-lock brakes of said car, the squirrel – and his acorn – was safe. Cuteness always prevails.

On that note, when you can’t remember the company that puts out the commercial, said commercial is typically not effective.

The second heart-warming animal tale is that of a young horse overlooked to run in a race. But with the help of a trusty Dalmatian, the Clydesdale goes through a strenuous training process, all while the undying theme to Rocky plays in the background.

Alas, the horse is chosen one year later, as the commercial closes with the dog and the horse pounding it out. Even Mr. Balboa could shed a tear over this.

One final touching moment of Superbowl XLII commercials was an ad for American Idol. Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted to belt out “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” in front of thousands of screaming fans. If Simon Cowell had a flag, I think he’d throw it.

While I don’t enjoy babies throwing up – and thank you for that, – I did enjoy a Pepsi commercial featuring Justin Timberlake getting a mailbox post slammed between his legs a few times. He had it coming.

Though I’ve rattled off a lackluster list of memorable commercials (for good or for bad), the point is advertisers have lost their creative touch. The days where we had three innocent frogs sitting on lily pads in a pond, each croaking three words – “Bud,” “Weis,” “Errr” – are long gone.

Now we’re left with bad commercials that don’t meet our expectations and make us feel worse for wasting our time and hopes.

But in the end, it really doesn’t matter. We’ll forget them by next year, anyway.

Chris Stover can be reached at

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