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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I'll have what the squirrel is having.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The regular NFL season is over and you settle down on a cool winter’s night to watch the biggest event of the season. That’s right, the Super Bowl commercials are here. Nothing all year can produce the excitement of finding out whether $2 million has been blown on another worthless 30-second campaign.

Over the last thirty years the formula has changed for what makes a good “Super Bowl commercial”. Originally, all you needed was a popular football player ridding himself of the scourge of dandruff, prancing around in uncomfortably tight slacks, or tossing his blood and perspiration soaked jersey to a young lad. These days most of the commercials take one of three tacks:

1. Computer generated frogs, lizards, trolls, lemurs, or any number of other beast who speak amazingly well for reptiles, monkeys, fowl, etc., come to life to extol the virtues of product X while either killing or maiming themselves or an unlucky human being. Somehow this is supposed to entice John Q. Citizen to buy a hearty brew, I assume so that he can become intoxicated enough to see the blood thirsty menagerie listed above in his head.

2. A popular artist (I use this term in its loosest connotation), exposing more flesh than your standard B-movie actress, belts out a shallow song about Cola Z. Although the vast majority of the song is probably incomprehensible, it is packed with enough double entendre to make the Canterbury Tales look like McGuffy’s Reader. The past few years the diva (I also use this term loosely, not knowing what it really means) du jour has been that dame of adolescent puppy love, Britney Spears. While I’m sure young Britney is a wonderful person, her music and hip gyrating leave that powdery, baseball card bubblegum taste in your mouth. Now that I think about it, maybe that WILL sell more syrupy, carbonated beverages to cleanse the palates of Bob Doles around the world.

3. The newest bright idea in Super Bowl advertising involves the company giving the perception they blew the money on an inferior commercial. Not only does this take the imagination of an earthworm; it is a slap in the face of the consumer. What’s next, we fade in to an unidentified hand giving us the finger followed by the logo of the corporation. Maybe a good commercial would have the CEO of whatever mega-corporation mooning us while burning a pile of money on his desk.

I must admit that, as a culture, we have probably caused most of the problems listed above. Americans expect our commercials to shock and mesmerize us into an uneasy feeling that if we don’t buy the product we are somehow missing out. “If Budweiser is good enough for a chorus line of dancing squirrels in G-strings then, by golly, it’s good enough for me.”

My greatest fear is that a thousand years from now when the vaults of Super Bowl commercials are uncovered our generation will be vilified as a dim-witted, tone deaf, and shallow lot who worshipped beer drinking chimpanzees and comely pop singers. Instead of being known for the works of Van Gogh or the inventiveness of a Thomas Edison, our era of history will be defined by Britney Spears and a few lager-swilling vermin. On the other hand it may be better than Ray Lewis pitching Hagar slacks.


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