Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for: the Puppy Bowl! Also, the Super Bowl! The former is all about athleticism, sportsmanship, and adorableness; the latter is all about the commercials. The football game is just an excuse for us to gather ‘round our television sets for the most all-American tradition of all: companies trying to sell us stuff that we don’t actually need.
Once we used to have to wait until the football game actually aired to see these commercials. But we are an impatient people, and we have the magic of the elves that live inside the tubes that make the internet to deliver these commercials unto us long before the dawn of Super Bowl Sunday. How do all these ads stand out in a crowded field? How are you, a mere mortal, supposed to keep track of all this advertising while you’re simultaneously trying to brainstorm at least three solid Tom-Brady-deflated-balls jokes to bring to your Super Bowl party? Here’s a quick rundown of the six kinds of ads you can expect to see, who succeeds, and who leaves us feeling, um, deflated.
P&G; is running a variation on the ad they introduced last summer, “Like a Girl.” Adults are asked to act out what running, hitting or throwing “like a girl” looks like, with predictable results. Young girls are asked the same question, and they just try to be tough as all get out. “A girl’s confidence plummets during puberty. Can we change that?”
It’s a little on-the-nose for my taste, but I can get behind the idea of encouraging Super Bowl audiences to take 60 seconds and think about girls as humans with big dreams that get crushed by the time they’re old enough to wear the bras Victoria’s Secret is shilling in an ad that might air back-to-back with this one.
Meanwhile, in an ad that will make you want to roll your eyes so hard and so often you’ll see more of your ceiling than the screen, we have Dove. Dove, once home to some progressive and neat ideas about body confidence and ageism, has become the source of far too many semi-well-intentioned spots that end up being condescending, patronizing and obnoxious. The only thing these commercials truly inspire are parodies.
This year’s entry is no exception: Dove wants manly men to know that there are two true tests of manliness in this modern world. One, you are the father of telegenic young children whom you hug a lot. Two, you are too insecure in your masculinity to purchase the products Dove already makes, because they come in girly white packaging; you need Dove products marketed specifically to your manly sensibilities, encased in plastic the color of gunmetal.
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McDonald’s is sticking, tonally, with the commercial they ran during the Golden Globes (which did not go over well, really, with anyone). This time around, they’re letting you know that customers will be randomly selected to “pay with lovin’” at the fast food chain. So instead of coughing up the four dollars or whatever you owe for that Big Mac and fries, a complete stranger will make you take out your phone, call up your mom, and tell her you love her.
This feels designed to backfire in about ten billion ways. To start: what if the cashier tells you to call a family member that you don’t have? Maybe you’re estranged from your dad, maybe a loved one just died, maybe you don’t have siblings, who knows? Anyway, seems risky. Not to mention the fact that this whole song-and-dance really takes the “fast” out of “fast food,” and since science just confirmed our suspicions that McDonald’s fries have 19 ingredients in them, including dimethylpolysiloxane and seven different types of oil, there’s arguably not much “food” in “fast food” either.
The Faux Earnest Ad
Kim Kardashian West, identified by a chyron as “Famous Person,” gamely mocks her empire of total, unapologetic self-promotion in this ad for TMobile, “#KimsDataStash.” She asks, in the flat, close-to-sincere voice of a celebrity asking for money during a telethon, if people realize just how much data they lose every month.
Snoop Lion — née Dogg — wants to know: “Are you hangry? Know the signs.” He rattles off symptoms while Gilbert Gottfried acts them out in this spot for Eat24.
Newcastle has made making-fun-of-ads-while-making-ads its trademark, and this year’s “Call For Brands” fits the pattern. Starring the never not deadpan Aubrey Plaza, this spot wants you to know that “In America, there are no time outs, and it’s Americans like you that make America so American. American America.” Then Plaza shows up to hate on the ad that literally just aired and invites brands to join the Newcastle Band of Brands. Get ready: this one’s going to be… fun?
And here’s the commercial the brands fake-banded together to make:
The “Are We Having Fun Yet?” Ad
How much fun is Bud Light? CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW FUN IT IS? Has any beer-guzzler in the history of booze reached for a bottle of Bud Light out of anything but lack of funds, lack of options, or both? Never you mind, thoughtful readers: Bud Light wants you to know that when a bartender in a sparkly dress hands you a (free) Bud Light as part of an elaborate, “hidden camera” stunt, anything can happen.
The Hot Woman For No Reason Ad
I’m not embedding these, pervs, but go ahead and click over if you must: Carl’s Jr., always reliable for some gratuitous nudity and ad copy written by a 12 year old boy who just found out what double entendres are (“I love going allllll natural”).
The Clever, Self-Aware Ad
Remember how, in 1994, nobody knew what the internet was or if it would stick around? BMW does, and wants you to know that the new wind power technology behind its i3 only sounds strange for now. Plus points to Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel for allowing this footage of her, unflattering ’90s fashion (that pink jacket on her! That test-pattern tie on him!) and all, to air during the Super Bowl.
House favorite Mindy Kaling is starring in this Nationwide Insurance commercial — you’d have to watch the show, I think, to get that she’s supposed to be her character “Mindy” not real-life Mindy, as she plays someone so self-absorbed she thinks that, when a taxi fails to stop for her, the only plausible explanation is that she’s become invisible.
Mindy fans should watch the outtakes, too, because they are unsurprisingly delightful. “Okay, don’t look at me like that. I don’t just go to basketball courts and touch hot guys. Which you are, by the way. Nice work.”
The Budweiser Puppy Ad
Let’s be real, this is the only commercial on which everyone can agree. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend watching this video during kickoff and then replaying it approximately 240 times, so that you never need to view a single second of football and, instead, can focus on what really matters: this puppy.