I had really anticipated, based on descriptions of the ads I read before the game, that we were in for the worst year yet. But in fact, as I tweeted afterward, this was a surprisingly non-terrible group of ads from a mean standpoint. But were there still plenty of bad ones to fill out the Super Bored Awards? Oh, of course there were. In fact, we ended up creating a new category just to get them all in. Without further ado...
The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad
Windier: As I mentioned, this was a surprisingly bad year for unbearably shitty ads. That doesn't mean it was an incredible year for great ads, though. Still, there were a few contenders for this spot, more than I can say about some years previous. Eminem's Chrysler ad has seemed popular - and it's pretty good, but it's also two minutes long and only finally names its product in the last ten seconds, so I'll be a little unconventional and go with this Coke ad instead, which I enjoyed. We figured Coke (which also won this award in 2009) was good for a decent ad, and they were - although only one (see below). I sometimes find Coke's insistence on treating its product as some sort of magical elixir a little grating, but it's nicely underplayed here (I could go for a Coke if my job were pacing in the desert for hours, too) and the wordless acting from the two soldiers is handled well. The bit at the end where the one soldier drags his sword on the ground to re-establish the official border is outstanding, recalling famous temporary truces like the 1914 Christmas Truce during the first World War. Too heady for a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad? Probably. But it's a classy spot nonetheless.
Most Overproduced Ad
Quivering: I saw this one live, and I was shocked to find out later that it was only a 60 second spot. That's how bored I was while watching it -- time almost stopped. Not only was it long and boring, it was also really overdone. This is one of the few spots that probably cost more to make than it did to buy the ad time to air it. Dragons, beasts, Planet of the Apes-like creatures -- this definitely took a while to conceive and produce. Was Coke trying to make a commercial or pitching a movie idea to Pixar? It's dull, bad, and entirely deserving of Most Overproduced. Congratulations, Coke, on managing to crank out one good ad and one terrible one.
Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award
Quivering: Last year's overall winner of Worst Ad, E*TRADE is back and this time we're honoring it with Cheapest and Clumsiest. These commercials are probably supposed to look shoddily made -- it's not like they go to great lengths to nail the CGI on the baby's mouth or anything. But these are also clumsy -- they just go for lowest common denominator humor, and then shoehorn in a comment or two about investing. This campaign has dragged on and on, with no end in sight. Maybe E*TRADE likes it because it's cheap to execute. Maybe they think it works. Who knows. Let's just hope this baby does us all a favor and retires in Tuscany with Enzo.
Worst Use of "Humor" Award
*sniffffffff* Lawsuuuuuit! Workplace lawsuit.
Knitwear: Doritos: Like cocaine, but orange! Here's the line of logic that I see people having brainstormed for this commercial. Doritos are good. (They are.) They're so good, they're addictive. (Unfortunately, they really are.) Addictive, like drugs? And I mean, like, hardcore drugs? (That's pretty crazy.) So crazy it's... brilliant? (More like the real crazy.) Crazy like the kind of crazy that people expect from their Super Bowl ads?
I think that's the point we're getting to here. If you want your ad to be a classic Super Bowl ad, it must be so brilliant that it stands on its own as art (see: 1984, Google's Parisian Love). But brilliant is difficult to do. So instead, you can make it controversial with one or any combination of those old chestnuts - sex, drugs, rock n' roll - and even rock n' roll is starting to show its age- or make it crazy. You wouldn't be able to get away with introducing this ad at any other time of year, but now that it's made its entry into the mainstream, you can continue to reuse it.
Flimsiest Pretense Award
Quivering: Hey, how about we take the most awkward, least fun part of sex and then represent it over and over in a commercial? That'll move some product!
From an article I found about the new Sealy campaign: "'Our research found people do much more in bed than sleep; there’s a whole lot of living going on in bed,' said Jodi Allen, Chief Marketing Officer at Sealy." I love that they had to do research to find that out. "Hey, people just sleep in bed, right? Nothing else at all? Hmm, better get a focus group together..." And here's Susan Credle, the Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett (an agency adept at hemorrhaging business and staff): "This campaign will get people talking about Sealy and saying, finally a mattress company who gets what I do... in bed." Thank you, Susan, for being precisely as much of an adult as I thought the creator of this ad would be when I first watched it.
The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities
Windier: This was a pretty easy one to call - all you have to do is say "Richard Lewis and Roseanne." How much more out of date can you be? How many people even remember who Richard Lewis is at this point? This is also a pretty weak attempt at recapturing the magic of the Betty White ad that took last year's game by storm and eventually helped land White on Saturday Night Live - let's just say Lewis shouldn't expect a call from Lorne Michaels any time soon. Although Lewis' transformation into a beefy logger with a heroic beard is passably amusing, his "whiny" lines themselves are dull at best, and that should be the best part of the ad. Roseanne's appearance, featuring her nails-on-a-chalkboard voice and some of the worst CGI of the night, merely puts the capper on the half-assed job (although kudos to Snickers for recognizing that most people would love to see Roseanne get hit by a log). It seems like almost no effort went into this ad beyond the initial step of coming up with "What if it was about being whiny this time and we got Richard Lewis and Roseanne?" If your entire ad hangs on the presence of Richard Lewis, and you're not selling Boku in 1991, something is probably wrong.
The Bad Idea Jeans Award for Most Epic Miscalculation
Windier: We had to create a new category just for this one, because wow. Crispin Porter strikes again. How badly did this ad misfire? Well, Groupon spent most of Monday apologizing and attempting to explain it. Another example? As of this writing, its like/dislike count on YouTube was 144 likes and 669 dislikes. 669 dislikes! It's virtually impossible to post something on YouTube with that many votes and that kind of ratio (82% disapproval!). But can you blame people? This ad isn't funny enough to pull the crap it does. "Sure, Tibet is being crushed under the iron fist of an authoritarian regime that seeks to assimilate it... but hey, cheap food, everyone!" Sorry. You can't possibly expect that to work in 30-second form.
I understand Groupon's ostensible joke. But how do you not see something like this coming? Start the ad by pretending it's a serious PSA about the hardships of life in Tibet... then yank that away to reveal your pitch? Groupon later revealed that the ads (including Cuba Gooding Jr. for saving the whales and Elizabeth Hurley on deforestation) are also intended to raise money for the causes mentioned. Okay. I know 30 seconds isn't a lot of time, but wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to slip that in at the end or something? There's no way anyone would know that by just watching this ad, and what potential philanthropist would go to Groupon's site to find out after seeing it? Also, did you know Christopher Guest directed this ad? Money well spent, I'm sure. Too bad it comes off more like it was directed by Hu Jintao.
SkyMall Championship Trophy
Windier: The reason Chevy's pitch for the Cruze gets the SkyMall trophy - for weirdest attempt to sell a product - is made painfully apparent by watching the ad. Hey, should we air a commercial for our car? Or should we show three seconds of it and then have the next 27 taken up by old people repeating the few things we said, only incorrectly? I have no idea what Chevy was hoping to accomplish here - I mean, clearly they were hoping it would be funny (it is not), but it lacks any real relevance, has no connection to the Cruze's target audience (or any automotive target audience, save Hoverounds), and is incredibly difficult to watch. By the time the ad is over, it's easy to forget what it was ever trying to sell in the first place, and equally hard to care.
Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2011
Winner: Best Buy
Quivering: 42: Number of seconds of this ad you have to watch before you know what company the commercial is advertising.
3: Number of technological generations that are supposedly created within the span of one minute.
0: Number of amusing jokes in this commercial.
11: Seconds of Osbourne arguing/screaming you need to endure during this ad.
Infinite: Number of times you would have to watch this commercial to have it finally make sense.
One Trillion: Amount in dollars that Best Buy should be fined for airing this minute of torture.
Negative One Trillion: Amount in Canadian dollars that Justin Bieber should be worth after appearing in this ad.
1: Number of guesses we needed to predict the overall worst ad would be Best Buy's once we found out that Crispin Porter was directing their Super Bowl commercial.