Super Bowl Ads

February 7, 2007 - 1:31pm ||| 0 Comments | Add new
I'm not a sports fan … It took the fact that my hometown Bears were in the Super Bowl this past weekend for me to look up which network was broadcasting the game and remember to turn it on. Even then, I just had the game on in the background while I was puttering around the house doing other things.

The main thing I was interested in — other than if we won or not — were the commercials. When I heard the roar of the crowd die off I'd glance at the television to catch the score and see if a run of commercials was about to start.

It's an occupational hazard. Graphic designers share essential DNA with the creatives who come up with broadcast commercials, indeed, there are tons of DesignGeek subscribers with ad agency domain names. The tasks are a lot alike: How best to get the client's message across given the limitations of time, censors, and medium? Who is the audience and what story will reach them during their limited attention span?

Watching the commercials in the Super Bowl was like flipping through a Communications Arts special issue: The best of the best (for these well-heeled clients trying to reach this particular demographic) were on display.

Missed the Game? Where to See The Commercials
You can hunt through or similar sites to find them, but CBS Sports did a great job in pulling together one web page where you can see them all. They even mentioned the URL during the game! That was kind.

2007 Super Bowl Commercials

The page is neatly designed and the commercials are cleverly segregated by which quarter of the game they appeared in. On the right side is a grid of commercial stills and their sponsor name/title from the first quarter of the game. Click the buttons above them to view a different grid of stills from the second, third or fourth quarter commercials; or you can view them by advertiser name from a drop-down list. Click any still to load and play the commercial on the left side of the web page.

Tip: If you're on a Mac and having trouble loading the videos, try using Firefox with the free RealMedia Player 10 plug-in (you should see a link to it) — this worked for me — or sweet-talk a Windows user into letting you get some web surfing time on their computer.

My Must-See's
One of the commercials that I caught "live" during the game was so fascinating that I immediately rewound it (love that Tivo!) and played it again in slo-mo and in freeze frame so I could study everything that was happening on the screen.

According to the CBS Sports page, this Coca-Cola commercial was called "Happiness Factory." It's an animated (well, more like a motiontronic phantasmagoria meld of Drs. Seuss, Goldberg and Burton) look at what happens inside a vending machine from the time someone drops in the money until the Coke bottle appears in the bin.

A short period of Internet digging revealed that the animation was created by Wieden & Kennedy (the agency) and Psyop (, a multimedia and animation studio based in NYC. Kudos to all, it was phenomenal. Must have more!

The other Coca-Cola commercials were just as compelling: Side of Life (old man does all the wild things he's always wanted to do); Timeline (Black History Month tribute); and Video Game (Grand Theft Auto parody where the main character does good deeds).

These were great examples of commercials that mainly promote the "brand personality." My top choice for the commercials that hammered home a unique feature of the product were the two that Toyota did for their Tundra half-ton pickup: See Saw and Ramp.

In See Saw, the pickup pulls a 10,000 lb. load up a steepish-looking ramp (starting from a dead stop at the base) and on the downslope of the see saw, with the load breathing down its neck, skids to a stop before hitting dirt. And "Ramp" was even more nail-biting.

I had flashbacks to that nightmarish event involving me, an exit ramp, 40,000 pounds of cilantro and a cabover Peterbilt many moons ago … gory details here: If I'm ever looking for a half-ton pickup truck, you can bet that Toyota will be the first dealership I visit!

By the way, Toyota's site has a brief "making of" video for See Saw here:

Katie's Commercial for The Rest of Us
I didn't think much of the other car commercials, but the goofy car wash one for Chevy was kind of fun. It showed men dancing bare-chested and bare-pantsed, jockeying for the chance to wash a car stopped at an intersection. Text that read "Chevy HHR: Guys can't keep their hands off it" helped explain things a bit.

On Monday, I read in the Chicago Tribune that the spot was designed by 19-year-old Katie Crabb, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (since transferred to Stevens Point campus). She was the winner of Chevrolet's national competition for college students to design a 30-second spot promoting Chevy's cross-over cars.

Katie told the Trib that "her ad takes a different approach" to car commercials because it features semi-naked men dancing and stripping around a car instead of women. Katie, that's cool, but whose idea was it to include the really old dude? Yikes!

The Trib says that part of Katie's prize for winning the contest is a summer internship at Campbell-Ewald, an ad agency that's part of the group that handles Chevy's advertising. Congrats, Katie! And welcome to our world.


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