Things You Should Include in a Super Bowl Ad To Make It Not Terrible

Super Bowl 47 is behind us, Ray Lewis will take the field nevermore, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (briefly) awed, wings were consumed and the field of multimillion-dollar commercials sported a whole lot of mediocre offerings. At their best, the ads will be memes maybe through the rest of the week, at their worst; they were sexist or overly pandering. Taco Bell went with the cliché old-people-gone-wild approach. Dodge will probably get a lot of people talking about the “God Made A Farmer” spot, which, though beautifully done, making a very important point and featuring the beautiful, clear ringing voice of Paul Harvey, felt cheap and pandering at the end when it became about the truck. Also, it’s been done, and not as a car commercial.

And then there was the usual glut of gross, objectifying ads, which it’s sad that I even have to say “usual glut of gross, objectifying ads” in 2013 or at all, including Audi calling assaulting a woman “brave,” Axe Body Spray continuing to corner the douche market and GoDaddy surprising no one. Why do you actively want to pay lots of money to continue to be the absolute worst in front of millions of people, GoDaddy? Why?  It is 2013, there have been 47 Super Bowls, ads objectifying women and excusing sexual assault are a part of our collective largest cultural event and an expectation, and advertisers should know better than that. We can do better.

That said, not every Super Bowl commercial was completely terrible. Here are some things people put in their commercials that made them entertaining or effective without being sexist or cheapening an important point. See you next year.

I. Staged fights in unlikely places.

Not much to say about this one other than the Oreo library brawl commercial was the first ad of the whole night that I didn’t flat-out hate. There’s still a place for slapstick, and it’s a pretty typical device for Super Bowl spots, but it worked here.

II. Stars from recently departed or on-their-way-out NBC comedies.

Nothing like watching the soul-crushing circle-jerk of CBS touting their “most watched” status during the breaks thanks to awful, unfunny sitcoms like Two-and-a-Half Men and 2 Broke Girls to make you want to watch the programming of pretty much any other network.  Appropriately enough, two of the funniest ads of the night came from stars from NBC’s Thursday night lineup, the first in which National Treasure Amy Poehler made jokes about the word “dongle” for Best Buy and Twitter went crazy because Amy Poehler.

And then, for Americans still mourning the loss of 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan essentially reprised Tracy Jordan / played himself in a brief tribute to American ingenuity for Mio Fit sports drinks. “We didn’t like the shape of our chickens so we made them into nuggets!”

III. Baby pandas in spacesuits. 

This Kia Sorrento commercial that responded to “where do babies come from?” was a bit bizarre, but it did have smiling baby pandas in spacesuits, which is certainly an upgrade from those weird E-Trade talking baby commercials that dominated the space for a while. We’re moving up, people.

IV. “Landslide.”

The Budweiser Clydesdales have become as synonymous with the Super Bowl as the Lombardi trophy and Buffalo wings, so expectations (at least among people who pay attention to advertising things) are pretty high. Like many hyperemotional Super Bowl ads, this one was cheesy and using our emotions to sell us stuff, but it included two of the most wonderful and effective tug-at-the-heartstrings devices: interspecies friendships and “Landslide.” Mostly “Landslide.” For real, you could set one of those terrible Axe body spray commercials to “Landslide” and it would seem like there was actually a soul present in it.

V. Leon Sandcastle.

A lot of the ads about football during a football game were hokey or overdone, but Deion Sanders’ goofy “Leon Sandcastle” spot, wherein the NFL Network lampooned the hype machine it creates, was fun.

VI. Willem Dafoe as Satan.

Like most car commercials throughout the evening, the “Soul” spot for Mercedes-Benz was kind of dumb, but “Sympathy for the Devil” and a smirking Dafoe redeemed it. Someone needs to make a movie wherein Willem Dafoe plays the Devil. He’s already played Jesus. It only makes sense.

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