Time for the annual ritual in which companies submit racy ads to run during the Super Bowl, are shocked-shocked-SHOCKEDwhen the networks say no, and then revel as hordes of lemming-like bloggers like -- well, me -- post them so millions of people will see them on the Internet. This year's prize entry is from AshleyMadison.com, a dating service for extramarital cheaters. (Here's a link to the one with more bare skin.) Fox, after approximately half a nano-second of careful contemplation, refused to run it.
Last week's post on Vampira, the 1950s horror-movie host who inspired Elvira, brought a clamor from fans who want to see Elvira. So here you go. See if this reminds you of any political commercials you've seen lately.
Janet Jackson take note: Sex and the Super Bowl don't mix. At least, they didn't this year, according to a TiVo study of the most-replayed commercials in Sunday's game. None of the cheesecake-flavored ads (notably two GoDaddy commercials featuring busty exhibitionists, and a Motorola ad with Megan Fox shooting photos of herself in the bathtub) made the top 10 list.
Instead, the top sex symbol was eighty-something Betty White, whogot tackled in a touch football game in a Snickers ad (No. 2). The most nudity in any of the top 10 ads came in a CareerBuilder.com commercial that showed overstuffed employees wandering the office in their underwear on Casual Friday (No. 8). And the most-replayed ad of all was downright puritanical, with a little boy warning a suitor to keep hands off his mom and his Doritos.
"You don't see the supermodel 18-year-old in a bikini on this list," said Todd Juenger, TiVo's vice president for audience research. "I don't know if it's fair to reach the conclusion that that's over -- those kind of ads have done well in the past, and a GoDaddy ad was No. 1 last year -- but what worked this year was somewhat different."
The ad ranking was based on the DVR activity of an anonymous sample of about 45,000 of TiVo's three million subscribers. (Full disclosure: I write a Guru Guide for TiVo, a weekly collection of TV best bets.) It is not, strictly speaking, a list of the most-watched commercials -- the number of viewers is highly influenced by the time the ad aired. Rather, it reflects which ads engaged viewers the most, measured in terms of how many times they were rewound and replayed.
"It offers a great insight on which commercials resonated the best," said Juenger. "That's very different than which one was the most popular."
And what resonated the most was humor. From a mock sportscast of a 50-year-old Brett Favre trying to decide whether to retire after the 2020 Super Bowl (Hyundai Sonata, No. 10) to a jealous baby slagging her boyfriend's new romantic interest as a "milkoholic" (E*Trade, No. 6), viewers went for what made them laugh rather than pant.
"This list is the complete antithesis of Hollywood-glamor-young-pretty-stars-highly produced commercials," Juenger said. In fact, Doritos, which uses commercials made and submitted by viewers rather ad agencies,is consistently one of the top performers in the TiVo study. It's had one or two ads on the list every year since 2007, and this time had two of the top four. (No. 4 included a vengeful dog strapping an anti-barking collar on his owner, then swiping the guy's Doritos as well.)
Some other interesting points:
** Though Tim Tebow's pro-family ad was considerably less fiery than the pregame hype suggested -- its supposed anti-abortion message consisted of a single ambiguous sentence spoken by Tebow's mother, "He almost didn't make it into this world" -- the controversy no doubt had a lot to do with it making No. 3 on the list.
** Perennial Super Bowl advertising champ Anheuser Busch had just one ad on the list, a Bud Light commercial in which scientists who discover a comet is about to strike the Earth respond by breaking out the beer (No. 7). And it probably got a big boost from its placement following the No. 1 Doritos ad.
** Nine of the 10 top commercials aired during the first half. (The exception: E*Trade's talking babies.) "I don't know whether that means the ads were better in the first half, or that once the game got more intense in the second half, people were less likely to dwell on the commercials," said Juenger.
** The most startling commercial -- a CBS promo for David Letterman's late-night show that showed him at a sullen Super Bowl party with his twin nemeses Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno -- isn't included on the TiVo list, which is only for paid advertisements. But if it were eligible, Juenger said, the Letterman promo would have been No. 2.
** The Who's halftime show put up similar numbers to Bruce Springsteen's 2009 performance -- but the Who audience started big, then steadily declined.
** Oh yeah -- the football game. Most replayed moment, no surprise, was the Tracy Porter interception that clinched the game for the Saints. Second: Peyton Manning's potential touchdown throw into the end zone in the final moments that ended in an offensive pass interference call.The top 10:
1. Doritos -- House Rules
2. Snickers -- You're Not You When You're Hungry
3. Focus on the Family -- The Tebows Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life
4. Doritos -- Underdog
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors -- Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt
6. E*Trade Financial -- Baby Love Triangle
7. Bud Light -- Observatory
8. CareerBuilder -- Casual Fridays
9. TruTV's NFL Full Contact -- Punxsutawney Polamalu
10. Hyundai Sonata -- Brett Favre MVP and Still Playing at 50
(By the way, if that chart up on top is hard to read, click on it for a larger pop-up version.)
CareerBuilder.com, February 2005
In an ad for the job-placement service CareerBuilder.com, an office worker is driven to distraction by his chimpanzee co-workers. No work of American art has ever explored, with such nuance, grace and power, the social and economic implication of chimp butt-faxing.
SO LONG, BIG BROTHER
Apple, January 1984
In the Macintosh computer commercial that started America's obsession with Super Bowl ads, a pretty blonde woman races past security guards to throw a sledge hammer through a Big Brotheresque image on a giant video screen. Take that, IBM!
Budweiser, February 2002
In this ad that aired just four months after 9/11, the Budweiser Clydesdales walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, then dip to one knee in front of the gaping hole in the New York skyline. It was a departure from the usual, Currier & Ives-style depictions in the past ... not just visually pretty this time, but solemn. All you could hear were America's hearts breaking again.
FEDEX ON THE MOON
FedEx, February 2007
The manager of the first Federal Express office on the moon gets a congratulatory slap on the back for arranging a pickup -and promptly rockets, aimless and untethered, into outer space, where he's blown up by a passing meteor. I don't know about you, but nothing says "reliable shipping'' to me like bloody horrible death in the silent vacuum of space.
Toyota, February 2008
In a parody of those consumer test commercials that's aimed at showing what a quiet ride the Toyota Corolla provides, a young man is locked inside a car with a pack of sleeping badgers. Warns an unctuous announcer: "If awakened, they'll gnaw his face off." The cannon fire makes no sound inside the car -- but then the man's cellphone rings.
GoDaddy, February 2005
Super Bowl ads turned self-referential for the first time the year after Janet Jackson's nipple rampage. A bosomy spokeswoman for the Internet company GoDaddy demonstrates the company's proposed commercial to a panel of wheezing, geriatric congressmen, but a strap breaks! Happily, medics with oxygen tanks are there to save American democracy.
Master Lock, January 1974
All the computer-generated effects to come-Michael Jordan and Larry Bird making basketball shots from outer space, whatever-didn't top the impact of this simple image: a Master Lock holding fast as it's pierced by a .30 caliber bullet.
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
Wendy's, January 1984
Who could have guessed contentious old ladies querulously complaining about the tiny patties inside their (non-Wendy's) hamburgers would become not just a national catchphrase but an issue in presidential campaign? Walter Mondale's sneering "where's the beef?" reference to Gary Hart's campaign platform helped win him the Democratic nomination, but unfortunately for Mondale, the Wendy's copywriters didn't come up with anything new in time for the fall campaign against Ronald Reagan.
MEET SPUDS MACKENZIE
Budweiser, January 1987
This ad featuring a smarmy celebrity bull terrier draped in gold jewelry, a blonde clutched in one paw and a Bud Light in another, sent everybody from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to conservative wait-until-you're-married groups into total meltdown mode. If only they could have seen the flatulent horse ads to come.
Pepsi-Cola, Inc., February 2002
Now a poster girl for celebrity crackups, Spears was the hottest, yet wholesomest thing around when she made this 90-second medley of Pepsi jingles over the years, tightly clad in everything from 1950s capri pants to naughty-oughties ripped jeans.
As a kid, I found both the Jolly Green Giant and Mr. Clean at least mildly alarming, so I'm sympathetic to the tens of thousands of Swedes huddled in terror before the image of Adina Fohlin, the model singing a Scandanavian folk song in a stark commercial for Apoliva skin-care products. They've even formed a Facebook group, I Am Scared Of The Girl In The Apoliva Commercial, with nearly 100,000 members. It's not really surprising, since the girl is singing, "I like to eat the livers of Norwegian babies!" Okay, I am possibly making that up, though since she's singing in Swedish, who knows?
Ed McMahon, who turned the job of second-banana into a first-class career, died Tuesday after a long fight with cancer and other illnesses. McMahonspent 35 years as Johnny Carson's sidekick on two different shows. Though his role on both the 1950s game Who Do You Trust and the Tonight Show consisted of little more than laughing heartily at Johnny Carson's jokes -- and, of course, opening the Tonight Show with a resounding "H-e-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!" -- McMahon managed to spin it off into innumerable commercial pitches. As recently as February's Super Bowl, he was hilariously mocking himself 2009 in an ad forCash4Gold, repeating his final line on the Tonight Show -- "Goodbye, old friend" -- to a solid-gold toilet, then braying, "H-e-e-e-e-e-ere's money!" He was 86.
The cable channel Ovation TV's motto is "Make life creative." I suggest a change to "Make television unwatchable." I just tried to watch an Ovation telecast of Surviving Picasso, an unusually frank 1996 biopic starring Anthony Hopkins and Natascha McElhone. Ovation crammed a truly incredible 55 minutes of commercials into the movie, which is two hours long -- that is, one minute of advertising for every two minutes of content. Good God, why not just declare yourself a shopping channel and be done with it?