The lead-up to the Super Bowl normally brims with discussion of the ads teased in advance online. This year, that conversation got drowned out by a string of insane political events. The only spots that broke through the Trumpiandin in the days before the game were those that tackled immigration as a theme: one from Budweiser, another from a building supply company called 84 Lumber. After kickoff, the ads hardly fared better. Many spots played it safe, with wan jokes that felt even lamer than usual. Several were pointedly diverse, or about diversity, but even these sentiments—though preferable to the in-your-face machismo that occasionally surfaces in Super Bowl ads—felt inadequate to the current political moment.
Google introduces Google Home, its new Amazon Echo rival, employing scenes of loving interracial and bilingual families. It’s amazing how an ad that would have seemed apolitical just a couple of years ago can suddenly feel like a fierce statement. Google’s Russian refugee co-founder, Sergey Brin, no doubt found it easy to sign off on the ad’s inclusive message.
The first Super Bowl ad from Michelin was filmed on location in South Africa, France, and China, depicting people driving home, lickety-split, to loved ones while avoiding fiery crashes thanks to their cars’ grippy Michelin tires. The Michelin Man (Bibendum to friends) is no longer a cartoon who interacts with real-world folks, as he used to in previous ads. Now he’s a ghostly presence who appears fleetingly in a windshield reflection or in the standing water that’s amassed in potholes.
Avocados From Mexico continues its goofy, entertaining run of big-game ads. This time, the concept involves a purple-robed, Illuminati-like group that tries but fails to protect the secret of avocados’ healthful benefits. The big laugh here: a ridiculous cameo from Jon Lovitz—putatively demonstrating the power of subliminal advertising—in which he appears for a split second as a giant head shouting, “Eat them!”
Skittles plays on that old trope in which a suitor tosses pebbles at a girl’s bedroom window. This time they’re Skittles, not pebbles, and instead of tapping on a pane, they lob straight into the maiden’s mouth—and then into her mom’s mouth, her dad’s, grandma’s, and eventually into the maw of some sort of random rodent. All of them emit vaguely sexual moans while enjoying the candy. The bizarre gag fell flat for me.
Busch runs its first Super Bowl ad in the brand’s six-decade history. A rugged outdoorsman yanks a sixer of Busch from the froth of a rushing river. (Busch has an official term for this proprietary maneuver: They call it, I kid you not, the “stream pull.”) He then opens a can, which makes a whooshing noise that sounds a bit like “Buschhhhhhh.” The plaid-clad man swears the beer has “the same great taste it’s always had—even the same sound.” Seems feeble to sell your beer on the basis of the sound it makes when you pop a can, given that we all recognize this sound as common to every canned, carbonated beverage on earth.
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