America holds its breath. The most exciting Super Bowl of all time
is about to begin. The Big Brands Broncos versus the Dotcom
Who will come out on top? The Dotcoms, the young upstarts flashing their
cash, or the Big Brands, appearing in their record 34th consecutive
The Dotcoms kick off. A useful punt from Charles Schwab online has the
crowd enthralled. A funny idea featuring retired sporting superstars in
a rest home extols the virtues of Schwab.com’s retirement plans. A good
The Big Brands Broncos hit back with National Car Rentals, but are
stopped within inches. A hopelessly oversentimental ad that has the
Big Brands fail to make much headway with another slushy effort from
Napa car parts.
The Dotcoms fight back with more good work from Charles Schwab. This one
features a knowledgeable Ringo Starr explaining the advantages of
investment to a bunch of ageing rockers. Entertaining stuff.
Then the Big Brands decide it’s time to bring on one of their big guns,
Budweiser. Unfortunately, it’s a move we’ve seen too many times
Slow-motion shots of a dog and its owner running through fields. You
think the owner’s talking about the dog, but it’s the other way round.
The old dog-as-crowd-pleaser is a move we’ll see time and time again
throughout this game.
But the Big Brands aren’t going to be pushed around. Mountain Dew
appears with a humdinger.
A young mountain biker chases a cheetah across the savannah, jumps on
its back and pulls a can of Mountain Dew out of the animal’s throat with
the immortal words, ’bad cheetah’. Touchdown, Big Brand.
The Dotcoms retaliate with E-Trade, and this is surely the day’s most
valuable player. A bizarre ad with two weirdos in a garage clapping
along with a monkey seems to be heading nowhere, but then there’s the
killer pass - ’well, we’ve wasted two million bucks, what are you doing
with your money?’ Fantastic play.
The contest continues with the Dotcoms pressing forward
There’s a low production, but highly watchable ad for britannica.com,
then yet another dog - this time a glove puppet - makes a creditable
debut for pets.com, and there’s a very funny commercial for EDS.com
featuring a gang of tough-looking cowboys herding cats on the plains.
The otherwise excellent visuals are let down only by the weak
justification for this strange behaviour: ’In a sense, this is what we
do, we bring together information, ideas and technology.’ Excuse me.
But Big Brands also have their moments. There’s a great effort from
Tabasco with God sprinkling Tabasco sauce over his pizza. Unfortunately,
he keeps missing and sends thunderbolts hurtling towards earth. There’s
a funny spoof on the Gap ads when a bunch of well-scrubbed models
singing Gary Numan’s hit, Cars, are sent scattering by the arrival of an
And Mountain Dew returns to the play with a witty spoof of the Queen
hit, Bohemian Rhapsody.
But if some of Dotcoms’ efforts seem a tad baffling or lacking in any
production values, Big Brands take all the prizes when it comes to the
Nuveen Investments went for the tried and tested look-into-the-future
scenario. But instead of showing what might happen to America’s money,
they decided to show what may happen in the world of spinal injury
research and they computer generate the former Superman actor,
Christopher Reeve, out of his wheelchair and on to a podium. Is it a
bird? Is it a plane?
No, it’s a turkey.
A Budweiser ad showing a man’s delight at the birth of a foal goes right
off the scale on the puke-ometer. Then Bud Light pops up with a story
whereby a girl invites a boy back to her place, and tells him to beware
of the cat. And surprise surprise. The cat turns out to be a tiger. A
certain breed of American creative is spending far too much time at the
Then there’s an irritating ad for Tropicana featuring a jogging granny
and some dull ads for Ford.
I could go on and on - after all, these ads most certainly do, but I’ll
spare you the agony. Suffice to say that after 50 minutes of action it’s
all over and the Dotcoms have won comfortably.
The Big Brands were a big disappointment. This is the Super Bowl and the
audience expects more. On the whole, Big Brands seemed so worried about
not upsetting anyone that they ended up exciting no-one. Maybe they’ve
been around so long they feel they don’t have to try so hard. A lot of
their efforts seemed so tired and predictable, and their strategy was
better safe than sorry.
Which is why you have to applaud the guts of the Dotcoms. They’ve gone
for broke (and for some of them it will mean just that), but at least
they’re having a go. They’ve thrown defence out of the window and gone
for the jugular.
Of course, the Big Brands will scoff, knowing that they will all be back
at next year’s Super Bowl no matter what. But they should take note.
Some of these young upstarts are here to stay and, come next year, do
they really want to see 135 million Americans cheering the other
Malcolm Duffy is the joint creative director of Miles Calcraft