Once a year the nation gathers to celebrate an unabashed display of testosterone and masculinity. The manly virtues of competition, violence and even war are honored in this ceremonial display known as… The Super Bowl. So it’s incredibly funny that in this year’s Super Bowl, viewed by the largest audience in TV history, the most masculine figure to appear in the commercials is a 4 year old boy.
Advertising narratives are interesting. They can’t be too true to life, or they would be boring. But they can’t stray to far from truth or they won’t connect with the audience. At 3 million dollars for 30 seconds, you can bet that the brands involved spent copious amounts of time, money and research to calibrate and deliver the perfect narrative.
Did they succeed?
Doritos: Dog’s Revenge
Right now, the #1 commercial by voters at Fanhouse.com is Dogs revenge. Never have I felt so undermined by the tastes and preferences of my fellow man. I blame Walt Disney. At least two generations now have been raised by the mouse instead of parents, living in dual-income or single-parent households. The result? People who treat their animals like humans and who think the most entertaining thing in the world is an anthropomorphic dog doing… anything anthropomorphic.
The commercial isn’t very funny or original and seems more like a lazy bunch of writers going for something, anything, with an animal as a crutch. Consider the the Yo Queiro Taco Bell ads. These also featured a dog inspired to anthropomorphism by the brand, but were executed much better. Better timing, better anticipation and better humor. Sorry Doritos, the Disney generations may not agree with me, but you fail.
Doritos: Play Nice
On the other hand, the Play Nice commercial is brilliant. Four year old looking boy Jaylen lays down the law with a slap to the face. The rules are simple, “don’t touch my momma, and don’t touch my Doritos.” Aside from the glaring stereotype that a single mom is going to be black, this commercial delivers. IMHO, Play Nice is the best commercial of this year’s Super Bowl. Doritos, you pass!
Dockers: Wear No Pants
A bunch of schlubby, dirty, nerdy looking men with no pants march along in a field singing proudly a hymn about how they wear no pants. Cut to a ripped model and a resonating voice that tells men that “it’s time to wear the pants.” The message: Dockers pants will make you a man again. Dockers, I can’t get passionate enough about this commercial to either pass or fail you… so by default, you fail.
Dove: You’re a Man
“Your a man,” says the Dove announcer, but the 30 second montage of the milestone’s in a man’s life feels like a backhanded compliment. Apparently the Dove man follows all the rules in school, stays out late sometimes, but never gets too wild because he also has to be polite. After marrying a “nice girl” and having 3 kids, the Dove man resigns himself to domestication, tending the yard, doing the dishes, and opening jars for his wife. The extent of his manly duties is being woken up by an irrational wife to investigate a noise in the middle of the night, armed with the best weapon his domestication affords him… a potted plant. Swords to plowshares indeed. Dove, you fail.
Dodge Charger: Man’s Last Stand
Another narrative about man’s domestication. But where Dove puts it out as something to be celebrated… kind of… Dodge laments it. An announcer reads a litany of domicile concessions to a significant other while looking into the dejected eyes and hopeless faces of a series of men. The reward for being a spineless puppet on a woman’s strings? Driving a Charger, “Man’s last stand.” This commercial is a little ridiculous and melodramatic, but obviously playing to a demographic for whom this is a reality. The fact that it takes itself so seriously makes me wonder, does Dodge really want me to think that to save my manhood I have to drive a Charger? Well, I don’t. So Dodge, you fail.
Jason Glasby has had his spine removed by his girlfriend, meaning he can’t watch the game because he’s too busy holding her bags and being dragged around the shopping mall looking for scented candles. But there is hope… Jason can reclaim his manhood. Not by ditching a relationship that so obviously makes him miserable. No, Jason doesn’t have to do anything scary like face change and uncertainty. He can endure his present despondent but comfortable situation and watch the game anyway using FloTV. Sorry FloTV, even though this spot is somewhat funny, you fail.
Denny’s: Overworked Chickens
Chicken after chicken across the great United States of America is screaming while the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays in the background. Then WTF? A space chicken floats by with it’s mouth open, but we hear no scream. And we remember that in space, no one can hear you scream. Why are the chickens screaming? That’s right, Denny’s is doing a repeat of their very successful Free Grand Slam promotion, and “it’s going to take a lot of eggs!” Denny’s, good call on the Battle Hymn of the Republic, aligning your brand with being an American is never a bad way to go. Bonus points for choosing a song that is not only nationalist, but is also very religious. Makes me want to read the bible and vote Republican while I’m eating my free Grand Slam. Denny’s, this is a great commercial, you pass!
I need to make special mention of GoDaddy here since this is a brand and a product I have special experience with as a web designer. Fail, fail, fail. GoDaddy over-promises and under-delivers, both in their commercials and in their products. There is more skin and sexier dancing on an episode of Dancing With the Stars than there is in these supposedly “too hot for TV” commercials available on the website.
GoDaddy stumbled on to something when it got it’s first commercial banned by accident, gaining a ton of website traffic from curious people who wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Since then GoDaddy has brought nothing new to the table except a few minor celebrities.
Nonetheless, GoDaddy has everyone fooled. They’ve pulled a Microsoft and secured the lions share of the market because no one else knows any better. From personal experience I can tell you their site is unintuitive, confusing and laden with marketing. Just try to purchase a domain and count how many products GoDaddy tries to upsell you on. GoDaddy has inspired the irked so many customers, there is a community and website dedicated to these horrible user experienses… NoDaddy.com.
The rest of the Super Bowl commercials were the usual suspects, mostly beer and car commercials, promising to make our lives better and to make us happy.
Portraying men as impotent and spineless in the face of their significant other is nothing new. It’s a narrative going at least as far back as Al Bundy in Married with Children. While it’s being put forward by some bloggers that this year’s Super Bowl commercials are anti-woman, I disagree. This year’s commercials just make men seem like wussies.