The Super Bowl is nearly upon us, and NBC is probably pretty excited about it—seeing as how it’s the one DVR-proof broadcast keeping the network afloat the other 364 days of the year. And if you’re as big of a sports nut as I am, well, then, you aren’t a sports nut at all, and will instead look to the expensive ads—NBC is charging $3.5 million per 30 seconds this year—for amusement as you pound high-alcohol-content Canadian beers smuggled over the border after a recent road trip. But that’s a story for another time. Every year, we’re primed for how these new commercials will be so darn clever and hilarious and outrageous, and every year, by and large, they suck.
The big hit from last year was the Volkswagen ad with the little kid in the Darth Vader costume, a wildly overrated spot that traded shamelessly on Star Wars nostalgia. “OMG! Tiny Darth Vader! That’s amazing! Where do we throw our money?! How many Passats would you like us to buy?!” That commercial was not that funny. At most, it elicited a “heh,” as in, “Heh, tiny Darth Vader.” But you wouldn’t know it in the days that followed its debut, when the kid in the ad was suddenly doing the morning show circuit as if he were some breakout media sensation. He was in a mask for the whole commercial! Who cares what he looks like and what his career aspirations are and how the runaway success of the VW ad has changed his life? Are we really that bereft of things to focus on and care about? Get lives, people! (And by people I mean morning show bookers.)
Anyway, the whole rigmarole is about to start again, and already we’ve been seeing previews of some of the mediocrity to come. Here’s one that’s been bouncing around online today. It’s a Honda CR-V ad that that stars Matthew Broderick paying homage to his iconic role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off—for my money, one of the best comedy films of all time. Watch it, then let’s talk.
From what I’ve seen on my Facebook wall today, people seem to like this ad and think it’s a good thing. The general thought-process seems to be, “Hey! I remember and love that movie! That’s so funny, because he’s older now but he’s doing similar things to all the very memorable and brilliant scenes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! This is really cool and I’m going to post this to my Facebook wall and be nostalgic for that awesome movie.” Except this ad is not a good thing, it’s a terrible thing. It’s artless and shameless and not remotely funny and doesn’t even parody the movie correctly. “Oh, he sang ‘Twist and Shout’ in a Chicago parade in one of the most joyous and spontaneous musical sequences in modern cinematic history? Let’s put him in a Chinese New Year’s parade! It’s similar yet different! And let’s put him in a natural history museum because that contains the word ‘museum,’ echoing another classic scene in the film. And let’s make his dad his agent now, because Matthew Broderick is a working actor and this is all about his life, and he really gives a crap about whether or not his agent sees him driving in a Honda on the streets of LA. This is working out awesomely!” No, it isn’t. It sucks. I hate it. I’d rather watch Kia gerbils or whatever those dancing rodents are.
Okay, moving on! Here’s this year's Audi spot. Last year they had this overproduced and overcomplicated commercial about a prison for old rich people that flew over everyone’s heads. It was a serious misfire, and you can tell so much time and work went into it that the only response is just, "Why, Audi? Why? You make beautiful cars. Don’t overthink this. Just show us your beautiful car on a beautiful stretch of landscape and get out." That’s what an Audi buyer is looking for. Not rich men in monocles and handcuffs. So this year, what does the carmaker come up with? It’s hip. This shiz is hipple to the sizzle. Are you ready? Vampires. Yes, visionary automotive corporation Audi has hitched its V-12 wagon to the next big pop culture trend.
“Audi: The headlights so bright, they will kill vampires!” Could you imagine the Sterling Cooper creative team pitching this to Don Draper back in the day? He would have taken that mocked-up poster board and cracked it over Sal’s head. Then he’d have launched into a moving speech about how “we aren’t selling $60,000 sports cars to 13-year-old girls! We’re recapturing a lost moment. The exhilaration of the first time your father let go of the bike. The first time you undressed a beautiful woman, or held your newly born child...” to which Sal would just nod as if he completely understood, then scamper out of the room with the easel under his arm.
The point is, these Super Bowl ad people need to TRY HARDER. They are phoning it in. Honda’s Ferris Bueller commercial is the very essence of phoning it in. And that Audi vampire party ad doesn't even qualify as phoning it in; it’s like three levels lazier than that. Way to take a cool car brand and instantly render it utterly uncool, Audi. Though it could still be worse, I guess. You could be a Fiat, and those vampires could be J-Los.
... What do you think of the two ads embedded above?
... Do you remember any of last year's ads? Which ones were your favorites?
... What do you think makes a good Super Bowl ad?
... Volkswagen Is Doing the Star Wars Thing for the Super Bowl Again (VIDEO)