I have a few major problems with reviewing the ads in Sunday night's Super Bowl. Problem one is that I've been living in New York City for nearly three years and feel an affinity with the place, not least with its football and baseball teams, the Giants and the Yankees.
The fact that the Giants were in the Super Bowl against the unbeaten and hated Patriots from nearby New England has made the last couple of weeks a non-stop ride of claim and counter-claim, most of it ending up with predictions of huge embarrassment for the Giants.
The fact that the Giants' monumental play managed to keep the score really close throughout made concentrating on the ads very hard. The fact that the Giants actually won, with as tense, unpredictable and brilliant a final two minutes of play as I've ever witnessed in any sporting occasion, still makes the ads tough to concentrate on.
Problem two is the fact that Fox did a promo before kick-off about artistry and perfection and playing off the Patriots' perfect season with high-art visuals and a voiceover from Russell Crowe, an Antipodean as you know and thus nothing to do with American football. This had disaster written all over it and yet ... and yet, turned out to be so utterly mesmerising a delivery that it completely poured cold water over everything that commercially followed. Anybody looking to convince a client that a big star is worth the extra, play them this Fox TV insert.
Then there's my final problem, the one I have as an advertising professional, which is the whole idea that the best work we have to offer in the US annually seeks to concentrate itself into this showcase. I believe that all our work should always be seeking to be brilliant no matter what the occasion or brief.
Having said all of which, the work always seems to fit into several categories.
(a) A client really pushing the boat out and pulling off something a bit special. Coca-Cola usually manages something in this category and Sunday was no exception with the huge balloons in the Macy's New York Thanksgiving Day Parade fighting over a huge inflated bottle of Coca-Cola in a beautifully produced epic.
Stewie from Family Guy and Underdog snap their moorings to bounce around the skyscrapers bordering Central Park in a chase for the Coke bottle, but Charlie Brown floats high and is the victor. Perversely, those least likely to take to this spot would be the cynics of New York, but I can imagine Middle America lapping it up.
A series of broadly excellent spots for Bud Light also fall into this category. My favourite was the wives' cheese-and-wine party, where the husbands' large cheeses and French breads are cunning devices in which to hide their Bud Light. I also liked the daft spot with Will Ferrell in basketball togs with off-colour and very funny dialogue in endorsement of his Bud Light, concluding with "Suck one".
There's also a Pepsi spot in this category, which involves a very game Justin Timberlake as he is seen being pulled across an American city - mostly on his ass - by an invisible force. This force turns out to be people sucking through their Pepsi straws (the more Pepsi you drink the closer you get to Timberlake MP3s, geddit?). There are some nice gags, which the lad pulls off well, such as being dragged into a parking meter and getting knocked unconscious by a TV at the end. Not my cup of tea, but a big spectacle with a big star, which will have appealed to the teenage target.
There's also a neatly choreographed spot about people nodding off because they're under-caffeinated for new Diet Pepsi Max, which, once drunk, turns the nodders into head-bobbing dancers.
(b) Is another Super Bowl ad category; the one for people who have pushed the boat out and missing correspondingly big. There's a Planters peanuts ad about an ugly girl who attracts men because she dabs Planters peanuts in those places you normally dab perfume. A truly unsettling spot, all the more so for being immaculately and, I suspect, expensively produced.
There's a Victoria's Secret ad that appeals to football-watching men's baser instincts with an attractive lingerie-clad lady toying with a football as the subtitles say something like, "After the final whistle let the real games begin", thereby exhorting the viewer to do goodness knows what.
(c) Is another annual category for advertisers who don't care about the ad purists and are just doing their job. This category was occupied by a bunch of rudimentary cartoons - one was about pandas trying to find the best way to sell their bamboo furniture before they ate it all, I seem to recall - designed to get salespeople to call up for leads. This stuff had true chutzpah - and I bet its working its ass off. Can't help admiring it.
OK, I'm bored with making up categories now. Other notable work included E*Trade, another Super Bowl perennial, which had the talking baby idea. Here the baby with an articulate middle-aged delivery conveys how simple E*Trade is before throwing up its milk all over the computer keyboard. Some loved this, others hated it. I was somewhere in the middle: the unoriginality was almost made up for by the execution.
- Mark Wnek is the chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe North America.