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Bowl-ing for dollars

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Wow, $2 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. This year’s cash-draining Super Bowl ads alternated between inscrutable (and often interchangeable) dot-com spots and jaw-dropping (but still inscrutable) efforts like Nuveen Investments’ ”Christopher Reeve walks” commercial. Still, there were enough 30-second highlights to keep us from (gasp) actually surfing during the breaks. Let’s ad up the winners and losers.

1. BEST OF BREED In a zoo-like competition complete with dialoguing dolphins (Discovery Cove) and a teary-eyed turtle (Pets.com), EDS.com’s subtle depiction of ranchers herding 10,000 cats across a prairie takes a potential one-note joke and infuses it with witty detail, including a cowpoke ridding his gear of excess kitty fur with a lint roller. Truly, the paws that refreshes.

2. MOST ”WHERE’S THE BEEF” POTENTIAL Budweiser’s catchphrase-coining ”Wazzzzzzzup?” guys run the risk of wearing thin fast, but on a night in which several spots aspired to lofty heights and failed (e.g. Monster.com’s ”The Road Not Taken” tripe), the simple ”Watching the game, having a Bud” tag line was a reminder that this is football, not film school.

3. WORST RETRO-ROCK REVIVAL The good news for members of Queen: Two of your songs were adapted for royalty-reaping ads! The bad news: They’re both lame! Mountain Dew’s take on ”Bohemian Rhapsody,” sung by a quartet of — surprise! — extreme dudes, feels about as hip as Crystal Pepsi. Agillion’s off-key interpretation of ”We Are the Champions,” meanwhile, was the smuggest sell since Smith Barney’s John Houseman era.

4. WORST RETRO-ROCK REVIVAL, PART 2 Just when we had gotten over Caveman, Ringo Starr lets us down again as a Wall Street-obsessed drummer in this unfunny commercial for Charles Schwab.

5. THE ”GIRL POWER, INTERRUPTED” AWARD Oxygen’s clever ”I am Woman” ad — which closed with the memorable image of a baby girl’s clenched fist — was unfortunately followed by an OurBeginning.com spot that depicts a hair-pulling horde of brides-to-be cat-fighting over invitations.

6. BEST USE OF A CHIMP DANCING ON A GARBAGE CAN TO ”LA CUCARACHA’‘ E*Trade, which ended its commercial by noting ”Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks.” Au contraire. The low-tech spot proved, yet again, that when in doubt, show us the monkey.

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