The commercials of Super Bowl XL


Feb. 8, 2006, midnight | By Ethan Kuhnhenn | 15 years, 9 months ago

The good, the bad and the ugly


In an era where families watch "the big game" for the "big commercials," where corporations are willing to throw down as much as $2.5 million for ad space, and where a 30-second timeslot can make or break an upstart company, one can no longer mosey over to the bathroom during a commercial break. Super Bowl ads have become an entity, and watching them is almost as important as watching the game itself. In case you were one of those people who missed the commercials because you were too busy calculating Ben Roethlisberger's passer rating, or changing the mood music to forty-year-old Rolling Stones albums, here's a recap of Super Bowl XL's good, bad and just plain ugly.

The Good

Market researchers, consumer analysts, media moguls and advertising executives will spend millions of dollars and countless hours trying to determine how to produce a commercial that will be recognizable and appealing to the millions of Americans watching the Super Bowl. Don't they get it? Creating the most memorable super bowl commercials is as easy as following this simple formula: animals acting like humans + sight gags and/or celebrities embarrassing themselves=instant success. Once again, this formula proved to be insuperable in Super Bowl XL.

And the winner is….

Careerbuilder.com (first commercial)

Careerbuilder.com's first commercial, which was the second commercial to air during the second quarter of the Super Bowl, barely edges out traditional hilarity heavyweight Budweiser as this year's funniest commercial. Careerbuilder's skit, which depicted raucous monkeys celebrating after a year of record profits, brought little new to the figurative commercial table (who hasn't seen a monkey smoking a cigar while burning a Benjamin?), but had an imaginative punch line and a cast of monkeys who really knew how to party. Careerbuilder.com also followed up their first commercial with a second, more mundane commercial with the same cast of monkeys later on in the third quarter. Dressing up animals and using them to draw out human characteristics isn't a revolutionary new concept. Budweiser employs an arsenal of animals in their commercials, from lizards to donkeys to, this year, streaking sheep.

Other notables:

Godaddy.com once again returned to push the envelope, but in her second appearance at the Super Bowl, the Godaddy girl just didn't seem as shocking.

The Budweiser Quintet: Budweiser aired an amazing five commercials during this year's Super Bowl, the best of which was arguably the one featuring the streaking sheep. Once again, the marketers at Budweiser expanded on their legendary "stallion football" premise, which aired as a commercial over a decade ago.

The Bad

When a commercial flops during the Super Bowl, it flops big time. Not only has the corporation who produced the commercial wasted up to $2.5 million, but it has also lost 130 million-plus potential customers in Super Bowl viewers.

This year's flop was….

FedEx Cavemen

The FedEx Corporation is the world's number one express transportation company, but with a disappointing "caveman" commercial that only seemed to rip off the much funnier Geico commercials, they proved that they aren't number one in marketing. The 45-second commercial takes us to a prehistoric scene where a caveman is attempting to ship an unidentifiable object via Pterodactyl. A T-Rex devours the Pterodactyl in mid-flight and the caveman, after returning to his boss with the bad news, is promptly fired. "You should have used FedEx," the boss caveman says. "But FedEx hasn't been invented yet!" says caveman one, to which the boss caveman replies "Not my fault." Besides making no sense, the commercial's portrayal of cavemen as sarcastic wiseguys only appears to rip-off the earlier Geico ad-campaigns. Fortunately, FedEx has the resources to rebound back from this not-so-memorable display of advertising ineptitude. If there's ever a "Castaway II," FedEx, which was guilty of blatant product-placement in the original film, is only a phone call away.

Other Notables:

Pepsi Commercials: Last year's P Diddy-sponsored Pepsi commercial was at least original and slightly humorous. You can pack a commercial full of celebrities and play as much annoying background music (brown and bubbly?) as you want, but the bottom line is that a Pepsi can with human characteristics is nowhere near as funny as a monkey with human characteristics.

The Ugly

Like clockwork, come Super Bowl time, celebrities line-up to be publicly embarrassed on commercials. Last year it was Burt Reynolds being kicked in the groin by a bear, and this year it's….

A dead heat between Brook Burke and Fabio

Which is more embarrassing: wearing a giant skirt that looks like a Burger King bun while gracefully floating onto a human meat patty, or ruining your heartthrob status by being artificially aged 50 years? "I looked like T-Rex," explained the Italian hair-god Fabio after he was subjected to 5 1/2 hours of make-up for his Nationwide Insurance commercial. Brook Burke, more accustomed to poolside photo-shoots, must have been equally surprised with her role as the lead "Whopperette" in the lavishly staged Burger King commercial. In the Nationwide commercial, Fabio delivers one of his best performances, as himself and then as himself aged 50 years. Burke is also willing to poke a little fun, and is all smiles as she elegantly glides on top of a human burger.




Ethan Kuhnhenn. Ethan Kuhnhenn is a junior in the Communication Arts program and is entering his first year as a SCO staff member. When he's not fishing in his new bass boat, you can probably find him at Taco Bell chilling with his best friend, the cheesy … More »

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