There was a time when the commercials during the Super Bowl were as big of a deal as the game itself. That’s not really an exaggeration. Super Bowl Sunday was supposed to have a little something for everyone. Football for the football lovers. A half time show for those who enjoy spectacle. And entertaining commercials for those who are forced to watch the game because there’s a mandate to be social or because an important person in their life is a football fan. During this time the commercials soared. We had Larry Bird and Michael Jordan battling each other in a game of Horse for McDonald’s. Who can forget the Budweiser frogs? Or how about the weird talking baby from E-Trade. Terry Tate: Office Linebacker is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen to this day but that’s mostly because I just love watching random people get plastered out of nowhere. Pepsi gave us the sexiest soda commercial ever with Cindy Crawford and I’m like 89% sure that the “where’s the beef lady”, who just got into the Good Place, debuted during the Super Bowl.
There used to be a precedent for Super Bowl commercials. A bar to strive for. As a company, you wanted to head into Monday with everyone talking about your product. The television spot wasn’t just about spending money it was about impact and the quality of the product showed. Some of these commercials transcended an advertisement and engrained themselves forever into the pop culture lexicon. How many times have you said “nothing but net” or “whasssssuppppp”? You don’t even think about the source of your quote anymore because it’s been apart of our lives for so long now.
That was then though. Now… well, Super Bowl commercials kind of suck. They’re super lame (pun not intended but I’m willing to roll with it). They have become high money spots that have no lasting impact on pop culture and are usually forgotten by Tuesday. Not all commercials though. Tide has found a really nice groove with their David Harbour and Charlie Day spots but outside of that, I’m having trouble thinking of another impactful commercial in the last few years. I keep coming back to that Nationwide commercial that ends with the kid telling us that he’s dead. That one stuck around with me because it’s haunted my dreams… and made for some pretty extraordinary memes.
For the most part, Super Bowl commercials have become this void of ridiculous amounts of money being spent for a one minute spot that tries to “top” what it’s competitors are doing with no real emotion or thought given to the presentation. The average Super Bowl commercial costs something like 5.6 million dollars for thirty seconds of air time. You would think with that kind of money being thrown around that these companies would hire writers and give us something with a lasting impression instead of companies just flaunting their wealth. “Look how much money we have. We literally have enough to get (big named actor) in a room with (another big named actor) and they’re not even talking about our product!”
And on top of all this, companies have actually been leaking their commercials a couple of days ahead of the big game which just boggles my freakin’ mind. Do they think we’re not going to watch them when they air during the game?! Part of the fun of the Super Bowl is waiting for the commercials, telling everyone in the room to be quiet, and hopefully being treated to something special. I enjoyed the commercials with Jimmy Fallon and John Cena and Chris Evans/John Krasinski/Rachel Dratch in their full Boston glory but I probably would have enjoyed them more if I watched them live opposed to three days before the game. Now it was like, “oh yeah, I saw this on the internet, you’ll like it. Oh, you saw it too?”
I don’t know Geeklings, maybe I just come from a time where commercials during the Super Bowl used to mean something. These last few years have been mediocre at best and I get more excited for the trailer spots even though those tend to leak a little ahead of schedule too. I think for next year’s game we need to kind of get back to basics. Give us the commercials that we’ll be quoting for years to come. Or at least give us something inventive and different. That “I just died” kid has stayed with me not because the commercial was good but because the ending was so out of nowhere. Plus, you know, memes. Hell, this is a meme culture now. Aim toward your audience. Otherwise, Super Bowl commercials are just going to be like any other commercial. The perfect time to get up and get a snack or use the bathroom as millions of dollars symbolically flush down the toilet.