With a flat-lining economy and a consumer-base of increasingly unemployed Americans, is it any wonder that Superbowl ad space was at an all-time high this year? As if to prove that the US can still spend obscene amounts on inane jingles and bizarre attention-grabbers, NBC sold 30 second spots for 3 million dollars apiece (100 grand a tick!). Although everyone hoped the underdog Cardinals would somehow overthrow the cocky Steelers, there was no comeuppance for the common man on Super Bowl Sunday.
After the third Toyota Tundra ad, I started to notice a distinct lack of Ford F-150s in my Super Bowl commercial spread. Normally Ford and GM are out in force with their mud-splattering, brody-spinning, slow-Bob-Seger-singin’ tributes to the American man. While it’s comforting to know that the tax dollars we all just donated to the ailing Auto industry weren’t squander on ads, it felt like a family member was missing from the holiday dinner table! As if old gas-guzzling Uncle Ford couldn’t come down this year because he’d gotten laid off. To make matters worse, the car ad that carried the most weight was the Hyundai Assurance spot where they promise to take back the car if you lose your job!
Hyundai’s marketing vultures weren’t the only ones trying to sell the bad economy. There were competing ads from big job sites Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, which mercifully took more of a ‘your job sucks’ tone than a ‘we know you got canned’ tone. But the topper was an all-star-super-team-up between Ed McMahon and MC Hammer (how could this not have happened before?) for the totally shady-lookin’ but supposedly legit operation Cash4Gold.com. Apparently you can toss your wedding ring or fillings into a Netflix-style pouch and send them off to the Hammer so he and McMahon can melt those suckers down and send you enough scratch to buy a ticket to see Will Ferrell in ‘Land of the Lost.’
The landscape looked especially bleak for movies. Pixar spent half their ad ($1.5 million) reminiscing about their former successes to try and bolster the uninspired-looking ‘Up.’ The announcement of the Transformers and Da Vinci Code sequels were so lackluster that I thought both they were announcing that the originals had finally come to DVD. The one ray of hope, although I should know better, came in the form of the live-action ‘G.I. Joe’ movie. Though the only recognizable characters were Snake-eyes and Dennis Quaid, the preview evoked cheers from our Super Bowl crew, who were maybe just welcoming the image of some elite American badasses banded together for the altruistic purpose of fighting pure evil.
The standout commercial of the night that seemed to make the most profound comment about the state of the economy was, of course, for beer. Miller High Life decided to mock the competition by running an ad that was only one second long. And although the commercial consisted only of a lone beer man shouting ‘High Life’ at the camera, it somehow stole the show by contrast. Ever classy, the champagne of beers took the trophy by keeping it on the cheap.
As the evening dwindled, the promised underdog victory somehow slipped away from the Cardinals. As the big franchise Steelers took their smug victory lap, the cheap beer headache started to kick in, and I wonder if anybody else went to bed feeling like I did; that somehow the bill of good being sold on the TV that night was a long way off from the American Dream.