The days of Super Bowl ads littered with celebrities may be numbered. Celebs of various sorts showed up in 18 ads this year, but not one cracked the top five in USA TODAY's Ad Meter, an exclusive real-time consumer rating of the ads.
Shut out of even the top 10: Pepsi's pep high-priced Justin Timberlake, Carmen Electra for Ice Breakers, Shaquille O'Neal for Vitaminwater and Richard Simmons and Alice Cooper for Bridgestone. In the game's celeb heyday of the 1980s, Michael Jackson could make a Pepsi ad an event, and Michael Jordan took ads into rare air. On the latest Super Sunday, some celeb ads even crashed.
How celebrity ads ranked in the 2008 Ad Meter:
No. 7: Charlie Brown, Coca-Cola
The top-rated celebrity in the game was a balloon: cartoon character and a perennial loser Charlie Brown. In this ad for Coke ko, a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon of the Peanuts character beats balloons of Underdog and Family Guy's baby Stewie to grab a giant floating Coke bottle. Charlie helped Coke trump Pepsi for top soft-drink in Ad Meter.
No. 10: Naomi Campbell, SoBe Life Water
Supermodel Campbell, dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller, was upstaged by gyrating lizards. The lizards also made some viewers think the ad was for Geico, which has a gecko mascot. "Geico has the lizard market cornered," says USA TODAY reader Michelle Couwenhoven. "SoBe not so much."
No. 13: Shaq, Glacéau Vitaminwater
Shaquille O'Neal looks huge. The horse looks tiny. But that one-trick pony of a sight gag didn't gallop Glacéau Vitaminwater — now a Coca-Cola brand — into Ad Meter's top 10.
Give Shaq some credit, though: No stunt doubles were used in the making of this ad, even though just about everyone involved (including maybe the horse) wanted to hire one.
"I'm an all-purpose man," O'Neal told USA TODAY. "I'm pretty good at riding the horse, being from Texas and all."
No. 16: Cooper/Simmons: Bridgestone
Let's see. Besides a raccoon or possum, what creatures might appear in the road in a night driver's headlights? A deer, of course — and rocker Alice Cooper, above, and exercise guru Richard Simmons. Ironically, Bridgestone scored far better — No. 3 — with an ad starring just forest critters screaming than it did with putting these celebs in the woods.
No. 21: Justin Timberlake, Pepsi
This Pepsi ad was proof that Big Stars can't always guarantee Big Ads. In the spot, Timberlake is inexplicably yanked into a series of hazards by a young woman sucking her Pepsi through a straw. One laugh: Timberlake gets caught on mailbox post, and his crotch gets crunched not once, but three painful times. Cosmic punishment, perhaps, for his hand in Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction."
No. 23: Adriana Lima, Victoria's Secret
It sounds like a recipe for love: sultry supermodel Adriana Lima in lingerie with Brenda Lee's I'm in the Mood for Love playing in the background. But it was a so-so turn-on for Ad Meter panelists. The ad was shot in one take, and Limas told USA TODAY her instruction was to "think about your boyfriend watching the Super Bowl and you are trying to get his attention."
Lima tried her darnedest, but it was an unusually exciting game.
No. 28: Barkley/Wade, T-Mobile