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Out of Bounds: Where have the super commercials gone?

by Derek Clarkston, Sports editor

The Super Bowl was played a month ago, but a part of the game still lives on whenever a TV set is turned on. No, it’s not the replays of Janet Jackson, or of the Carolina Panthers storming back to take the lead over the New England Patriots in the final minutes of the game, and it’s definitely not the image of Adam Vinatieri kicking the game-winning field goal for the Patriots. It’s those infamous Super Bowl commercials that are supposed to leave everybody talking.

Many people tune into the big game, not to watch it, but to watch the commercials instead. They don’t wait for commercials to head for the bathroom, they run their errands during the game so they make it back in time before the commercials start. For them it is the Super Bowl of advertising. The commercials are supposed to leave us wanting more, leave us with that sound bite that we can’t get out of our head, and leave us with something to talk about the next morning and the day after, and so on.

This year’s commercials left no catchy phrases. It was a quiet Monday morning at the water cooler. Viewers, who tuned in for the ads, wondered “where was the beef?”

In USA Today’s annual Super Bowl commercial ad meter list, Anheuser-Busch claimed six of the top 10 spots including the top spot which showed dogs fetching Bud Lights. Anheuser-Busch seems to have found a winning formula for diverting the viewers attention from the game, but even though they managed to snag the top spot away from the Pepsi commercial, in which bears discover an empty Pepsi cooler in a cabin, advertisers seem to keep lowering their standards every year as the commercial’s price tags keep rising.

Do the companies that invested a Super Bowl record $2.3 million for 30seconds of national exposure (approximately 90 million people) get what they paid for? Probably, but that doesn’t mean the commercials were ones to remember.

If we look at past Super Bowl commercials that have left an imprint in the world of advertising, we can see that this year’s commercials lacked that lasting image that viewers look for.

The Super Bowl commercial craze started in 1979 with a spot from Coca-Cola that featured Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mean Joe Greene being offered a Coke by a young boy. Coke has since dropped out of Super Bowl commercials as have Nike and McDonald’s.

While the L.A. Raiders were on their way to capturing the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple was unveiling the first Macintosh computer to the world in a 60-second spot. That commercial shocked the world and showed why “1984 wouldn’t be like 1984.”

Anheuser-Busch began it’s dominance on game-day when it introduced Spuds MacKenzie during the 1987 game. In 1989, the “Bud Bowl” began, which featured Budweiser bottles taking on Bud Light bottles during intervals of the Super Bowl. And in 1995 Anheuser-Busch hit a home run with three loveable frogs that had (and still have) the entire nation chanting “Bud.” “Wiessssss.” “Errrrr.”

Before McDonald’s closed its doors on the Super Bowl, it aired the most memorable spot in 1993 when NBA legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird battled it out for a Big Mac in a game of Horse.

E*Trade figured out what Super Bowl advertising was all about during its 30-second spot in 2000 that featured two old men sitting in a garage clapping, off-beat, to La Cucaracha while a monkey wearing an E*Trade shirt danced on a garbage can. At the end, the monkey says “We just wasted $2 million. What are you doing with your money?”

Some of the commercials during this year’s Super Bowl might not have wasted $2 million, but they all wasted a chance to imbed their product on the nation’s consciousness by starting a new catch-phrase.



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