Super Bowl ads notebook: How do this year's ads rate?

Here we go again! Yet another year of playing armchair quarterback when it comes to evaluating the Big Game's ads. Given the sour economic situation, I wonder if ad critics are going to be tougher than ever in judging the commercials. I'm sure the marketing chiefs that gave the go-ahead to spend $3 million for each 30-seconds of air time are going to be under more pressure than ever to show a return on investment. During the game, I'll post my own comments — as well as the feedback and questions of those who write in. Click here to send your question or comment.

NBC taps its stars for self-promotion

David Schwab, managing director of First Call — the celebrity consulting arm of marketing firm Octagon — was kind enough to detail many of the NBC show promos that ran during the Super Bowl. What he says on his blog: "To help celebrate NBC's first airing of the Super Bowl in more than a decade, the network reached out to a handful of their stars to film pieces that aired before and during the Game.

Some of the stars included late-night comics Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey and former Saturday Night Live star Will Ferrell. A few athletes also made an appearance on behalf of the network, such as Jerry Rice and John Elway for Heroes, and Jerome Bettis for Chuck ( Bettis is actually starring in tonight's episode). Channeling his 30 Rock Emmy Award-winning character, Alec Baldwin starred in a spot for NBC-owned online TV/film destination, Hulu.com."

Reader comment from Robert:

"Well I didn't see all the commercials as I was making dinner for the family. The worst ones I saw were for CareerBuilder … it reminded me of the Dippity Do styling gel commercials back in the 1960. Irritating BAD!"

Too much 'physical' humor?

It seems that much of the "physical" humor — which is very apparent in this year's ads — is offending some folks. I've been getting some comments such as the ads have "too much meaningless violence." Says another commenter: "I just have a real problem with violence being used to sell products & services…. We have enough hate and division in this country and do not need ads promoting more of the same."

Among the rough-and-tumble ad executions: a skier hits a tree, a guy gets hit buy a bus and another guy falls off the roof. (And I thought I had it rough blogging from my cubicle in a freezing-cold office…)

Reader Comment from Denise:

Doritos was AWFUL, go daddy.com hideous.The Bud Clydesdale best of the bunch.

3-D ads: Where do you get those kooky glasses?

Reader comment: The 3D thing is the worst Super Bowl experience since the clothing malfunction. We checked throughout Reno, and got the same word anywhere: "We weren't sent enough, they all went the first day".

So I guess only the marketing people who over-hyped this will be able to rant and rave about the "cool experience"

General Electric

What do you think "smart grid technology" is? Can you say that phrase ten times fast after you've spend the last three quarters drinking beer?

Coke Zero

Wonder what Mean Joe Greene and the kid from the original Coke jersey ad are up to now?

My colleague Charisse got the scoop: Mean Joe is a talent scout for the Steelers and the "kid" — Tommy Okon — co-owns a company that creates countertops, conference tables and other products out of stone.

CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com

With unemployment rates so high, do you think it's odd that CareerBuilder focused on folks who are unhappy in their job — rather than those looking for a job?

Do you think viewers will get the ads for CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com mixed up?

View and rate the ads

You can watch the Super Bowl ads that have been broadcast so far and vote on how much you liked or disliked each one here: admeter.usatoday.com. Some time after the game, you will be able to see the results of the Ad Meter focus panel ratings and their second-by-second reactions to each ad.

Denny's

Hey, was that Martin Scorsese doing a cameo? Or maybe it's just an out of work Soprano's actor.

Reader comment from Kay Paggi: I liked the crunch Doritos, where he got everything he wanted. I got a belly laugh there.

I also like the Pet, adoption one. I thought an ostrich named Bruno was hilarious. Seems like a lot of them have been inane, more than usual.

H&R Block

Contrary to the rumors, Abe Vigoda is not six feet under. (He was wrongly declared dead in 1982.)

But the Barney Miller TV show star is alive and kicking— and plays the Grim Reaper in this ad.

Pedigree

Here's a website that Pedigree set up as an extension of this campaign: BisonDung.net. Doesn't exactly make me want to buy dog food… or adopt a pooch.

But I do think the "behind-the-scenes" Super Bowl ad videos posted on Pedigree.com are clever. Pedigree is one of several advertisers using its high-priced ad time to promote good causes.

By the way, did you notice that all the oddball pets have "dog"-type names — like Rusty and Bruno?

P.S.: I was going to get a platypus as a pet, but this ad has convinced me to adopt a pooch instead.

Teleflora

I thought it was the thought that counted when it came to gifts.

By the way, for anyone interested in sending me Valentine's Day flowers, I'll take 'em in a vase, box — or even crumpled up in an A&P plastic shopping bag…..

Pepsi Max

Humm… what exactly is the difference between a diet cola for men and a diet cola for women?

Anyone out there want to let me know what ingredients you'd put in a diet cola made especially for men?

Cars.com

So, do you know anyone named David Abernathy?

Reader question: Movies advertising on SB? Is this new?

A: Actually, movie ads are common during the Super Bowl. This year, we're slated to see at least ten ads for upcoming flicks.

But there is one movie ad during this year's game that is breaking new ground: DreamWorks Animation is running a 3-D ad for its 3-D movie Monsters vs. Aliens.

I hope you have some 3-D glasses handy! They were distributed at more than 25,000 grocery, drug and mass retail stores.

GoDaddy.com

Ugh, GoDaddy.com doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

Once again the Web-domain registrar focuses on sex appeal to market itself using frat boy humor.

What's your take on the racy ads?

Does using sex to sell always work? Do they make you want to go to GoDaddy.com's website?

Are they funny or just tasteless?

Bud Light Conan ad

Here's yet another reason to like Conan O'Brien: He didn't get paid for this Bud Light ad.

Instead, Anheuser-Busch made a donation to The Fresh Air Fund on his behalf.

The Fresh Air Fund is a not-for-profit agency that provides free summer vacations to New York City kids from low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Anheuser Busch vs. PepsiCo

Anheuser-Busch has been the king of Super Bowl advertising for the last few years — buying up more ad time than any other Big Game marketer.

But this year, Pepsico beat 'em out — snatching up extra commercial time last week. Final score: A-B with 4.5 minutes of commercial time for its brews and Pepsi with 5.5 minutes for its drinks and chips.

Going 3-D

I'm really looking forward to those 3D ads….

Pepsi and DreamWorks Animation will air back-to-back 3-D ads for SoBe Lifewater and DreamWorks' upcoming 3-D movie, Monsters vs. Aliens.

PepsiCo has distributed more than 130 million pairs of those goofy 3-D glasses via more than 25,000 grocery, drug and mass retail stores.

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