Four years ago, the Giants and Patriots met in the Super Bowl, and we published our first Super Bored Awards. This year, the Giants and Patriots met in the Super Bowl again, and here we are with the fifth installment of our yearly look at the worst of the Super Bowl ads. It was sort of a dull year for Super Bowl ads, but I feel like I say that every year, so let's just dispense with the pleasantries. Even if this year's crop of ads wasn't thrillicious, it sure didn't leave us wanting.
The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad
Winner: Pepsi Max
Quivering: Well, we named this award "Least Shitty Ad" for a reason. And this year, perhaps more than ever, it was a real struggle to find an ad we didn't hate. Pepsi has had quite a few of these Pepsi/Coke delivery guy ads (and they've used "Your Cheating Heart" before, too). It's not a bad idea - at least it has a product-based message. This particular version speaks to product benefits as well as product differentiation (lots of Pepsi taste, no calories, better than Coke Zero). The ending is relatively funny - the cameo with Regis is a little over the top, but given the fact that this is the Super Bowl, you have to expect something like that. Overall, it's a fine effort. The Camry Effect commercial was well done, but not quite believable, and the brown M&M commercial was okay, but still goofy (and we're just not fans of that whole M&Ms as living creatures concept). Overall, Pepsi Max edged out the weak competition to win Least Shitty Ad - but don't feel too good for PepsiCo until you read all the way to the end.
Most Overproduced Ad
Windier: In the run-up to the Super Bowl, Ford got pissed and demanded that NBC and/or GM pull this ad, though it obviously didn't happen. You can see why they might have been upset. You can also see what makes this ad overproduced. Look at how much must have been spent on set design. And to what end? The commercial really says nothing about Chevy trucks. I know they describe themselves as "the most dependable and longest-lasting" but anyone can toss out adjectives like that, especially when it depends on what standard you're applying (in its beef, Ford claimed that it had more trucks with 250,000+ miles on them still on the road than any other automaker). It basically comes down to Chevy calling its trucks apocalypse-proof (a silly, unsupportable assertion) and taking a cheap shot at Ford. Was that really worth the effort?
Also, where are the wives/children? Or is there just something else going on here that I don't really want to know about? "Where's Dave? He knew we needed six guys for the ideal post-apocalyptic circle-jerk! Man, now I'm going to have to stand all funny."
Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award
Quivering: Around 30 years ago, a young Will Shortz (well before he was crossword editor at the New York Times) submitted a puzzle he had constructed to the NYT editor at the time, a stodgy, mustachioed relic named Eugene T. Maleska. Shortz's crossword was rejected because it had the word "belly button" in the grid. Maleska felt that people doing the crossword puzzle while sipping their morning coffee would find the mental image of a belly button to be objectionable. Well, times have changed and now the navel plays a much more agreeable role in our society. But do you know what doesn't play an agreeable role in our society? Urine. Urine isn't fun to think about at any time. Which is why TaxACT's concept for this commercial is such a head-scratcher.
This commercial certainly looked cheap, but it was its crude toilet humor that sealed its selection for clumsiest execution. I just can't believe that there wasn't a better idea for a commercial about a tax filing website. What people will remember about TaxACT, if they remember anything at all, will be "Oh yeah, the kid who peed in the pool." It won't be "free tax return" or "no restrictions, rebates or gimmicks", or "TaxACT is the best tax site." It'll just be "piss." Please tell me how that's going to help anyone.
Worst Use of "Humor" Award
Windier: Several years ago, my (now infrequent) co-author Quivering wrote one of my favorite posts on this site, about maybe the worst ad we've ever covered: the Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates laugh-a-minute extravaganza for Microsoft. A decade removed from his heyday, Seinfeld was excruciatingly unfunny in the ad, leading me to write the following in the comments:
"I can't decide whether Seinfeld himself has become impossibly unfunny over the last ten years... or whether it was the brilliant, brilliant minds at CPB who wrote the awful Seinfeld-style ersatz comedy in this ad that makes him sound like a terrible parody version of himself."
Well, having seen Seinfeld in this year's Acura ad, I think we have our answer, and for once, Crispin Porter & Bogusky aren't to blame. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Seinfeld wrote this commercial himself. But there's something extremely sad about watching him try to relive past glories with graying hair and a delivery that simply lacks the pop it had when he was doing a pretty good series of American Express commercials in the late 90s. Also, when an ad has "web extras," that's almost never a good sign.
Why, just look at all the hilarious quips that had to be cut - CUT! - from the final product! I'm pretty sure Seinfeld's laugh at the end of that video is one of the few this spot earned from anyone, anywhere. You have to do more than trot out ancient pop culture references to be funny - just ask Matthew Broderick and Honda. The cherry on top of this bowl of shit masquerading as a sundae, however, is the sudden appearance of Jay Leno, a man who has actually gone longer since last being funny than Seinfeld himself has. Why is he there, anyway? I know he's a car buff, but does anyone care about that? If Seinfeld was going to echo the "Newman!" line, wouldn't it have been at least as funny to have Wayne Knight show up? I'm pretty sure he would have come more cheaply than Leno.
All right, enough about this garbage. Ah, one more.
Frankly, Seinfeld probably did come up with most/all of this material himself. And it's terrible. The best part is that NO ONE IN THE COMMERCIAL THINKS HE'S FUNNY, and he's trying to impress them. Meanwhile, I'm sitting at home, getting more and more tired of him. Money well spent, Acura. I guess when you're selling a car that doesn't really exist yet, there's only so much you can do.
Flimsiest Pretense Award
Quivering: The reason this goes to Teleflora, and not Fiat (which basically ran the same ad), is that Fiat at least had a modicum of irony (at the very end). Teleflora's commercial is just a balls-to-the-wall fuckfest. "Give and you shall receive," "Happy Valentine's night," images of lipstick application and stilettos - this is the commercial equivalent of a porno that starts with a pizza delivery guy knocking at the door. Teleflora's subtlety reminded me of this recent South Park. Even within the context of Super Bowl ads, Teleflora makes GoDaddy commercials look like Bronte novels. And also? Everyone knows that diamonds are the only surefire way to get that blow job.
The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities
Windier: There were a lot of potential candidates here, really - Century 21's use of Donald Trump, Apolo Ohno and Deion Sanders made for another good one - but I couldn't turn down Skechers solely for how gratuitous, pointless and just plain lame theirs was. Mark Cuban, really? That was your best idea for a coda? And "What do you mean you want a new contract?" is a crushingly unfunny joke. Having the chubby dog turn out to be owned by an actual athlete would have been more clever, though I guess most athletes already have shoe deals with companies whose athletic shoe brands are slightly more valuable than Skechers'. Then, of course, there's the idea that Skechers is comparing its customers to tubby bulldogs... but then we're no longer talking about pointless semi-celebrity cameos.
The Bad Idea Jeans Award for Most Epic Miscalculation
Winner: Bud Light
Knitwear: While this is nowhere near the level of the ad we created this award for (last year's Groupon disaster), it is kind of a bummer that Bud Light is championing a great cause like adopting a rescue dog by implying that the best thing to do with a free, mangy orphan puppy is to turn it into your personal beer slave, Manchurian Candidate-style. I know this ad is supposed to seem fun, but I just feel sad for the dog. He's been so heavily conditioned that he can't even tell the difference between someone calling "Here, Wego!" and someone just yelling out "Here we go," forcing him to roll in a keg at least twice his size just to accommodate the latest round of partygoers. Talk about a dog that could stand to be rescued!
SkyMall Championship Trophy
Quivering: The Skymall Trophy is all about the weirdest attempt to sell a product. Toyota just blew everyone out of the water to take the crown this year. This commercial makes no sense, on any level. We learn not one thing about this "reinvented" Camry. Not one thing. After they show the car, the next 26 seconds are just nonsensical reinventions that A) are not funny (which was clearly the goal of this commercial) and B) have nothing to do with marketing an automobile. Here are just a few thoughts on the "reinvented" products Toyota made up:
* How is a baby that's also a time machine helpful (or funny)?
* The reinvented DMV is just a regular DMV, even staffed by surly, unhelpful federal employees - the only difference is that it's stocked with various time-wasting attractions. Shouldn't a truly reinvented DMV be one that is so efficient you could just walk in and walk right back out (without having to spend time on a mini golf course or at a petting zoo)? Or how about just putting the whole DMV online?
* Reinvented rain that makes you thin just has too many problems to enumerate.
Congratulations, Toyota, on making a commercial that is unfunny, painfully bizarre, and unrelated to your product. Hey, maybe you can start pitching some of those reinvented products to the SkyMall catalog - it might just be a perfect fit.
Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2012
Windier: If not for Ben Kingsley's appearance in The Love Guru, Elton John would have provided us with the most embarrassing acting role by someone knighted by the Queen of England. But it's not really his fault, aside from accepting the part, since this ad was clearly doomed from the start. What a mishmosh. Elton vamping, a bizarre use of the not-at-all-dated "Hot in Herre," a thoroughly pointless Halle Berry cameo (seriously, why is she even there), an excruciatingly unlistenable dance remix of "Respect" from some woman who won "The X Factor" last year, the nonsense premise of a monarchy based on Pepsi rationing, what seems like a weak homage to Apple's 1984 ad... this isn't an ad, it's like the physical manifestation of one of the clubs described by Stefon.
The icing on the cake is the Flavor Flav cameo that literally has nothing to do with anything. If Flavor Flav had been the first act in the ad, maybe his presence down there would make some sense. Instead it comes completely out of nowhere and clearly signifies Pepsi going for the cheapest laugh there is. (That's right - I hereby declare that "the pointless, otherwise joke-free presence of a goofy B-list celebrity" is a cheaper laugh than "the nut shot.") It's lame, it evidences no thought on the part of the people who wrote this ad, and most importantly, it isn't funny in spite of the fact that it's clearly supposed to be. I would rather hang out with the Coke polar bears and risk getting mauled than watch this shit again. Congratulations, Pepsi: your insane fever dream is the worst ad of the 2012 Super Bowl.