Super Bowl Ad Roundup

turd Each year, the Super Bowl football game features the latest and greatest television advertising tactics.  Ordinary TV ads being far more expensively and lavishly made, in dollars-and-details per second terms, than even the biggest Hollywood movies, these ultra-hyped ads are always a serious reflection of the state of the marketing art.  As such, they get worse — dumber, sicker, more smarmy and culturally childish — every year.

This year’s crop was so godawful, TCT hereby splits its uncoveted Golden Stool Award between three spots, each of which is so mind-bendingly horrible, distinction fails.

First, the directly, proudly fascist:

Paul Harvey was an undisguised fascist, a pal of J. Edgar Hoover, a flatterer and indulger of all that is backwards in white-American culture.  His speech used here was racist tripe and one of the most ham-handed and undeserved pieces of audience buttering I’ve ever encountered.  Need we compare the percentage of the population that is now farmers to the percentage of the population who merely allow such ridiculous drivel to keep them wasting money driving pick-up trucks?  That gap is huge, thanks to this long-running overclass “cowboy” trick.

Next, another remarkable piece:

The two proposals of the ad are “buy this car for your kids,” and “use the in-car computer to control what they say.”  Meanwhile, car crashes remain what they have long been — the number one cause of death (including all natural causes) for children aged 1-21.  So, yes, get them a car — and be sure to ask for that redundant in-dash cell phone/entertainment computer, which further increases the threat to their lives.

Finally, this one from our old green-washing friend, Alex Bogusky:

Is it magic, this machine that claims to eliminate, rather than merely rearrange, the waste?  Um, not so much:



13 Replies to “Super Bowl Ad Roundup”

  1. I’m not American so I don’t really have a handle on the cultural context of this (I only have the dimmest understanding of what the Super Bowl is) but that farming/car ad is a shocker. I’m pretty averse to calling things fascist but there’s a hideous stench of it around that poisonous little production. Reading the youtube comments (I know), you can see that it works, though.

    By the way, you seem to have mixed up one of the links to youtube.

  2. Thanks for the tip there, Dan.

    I also think “fascist” is quite over-used. But I think Paul Harvey fits the technical definition: jingoist, racist, pandering, one-sided memory of a glorified past, all in service of the things his buddies Hoover and Bush II were up to. I guess I’d say he’s a fascist personality. Calling political-economic systems fascist is usually where people make the mistake. That system was defeated in WWII.

    As to the Super Bowl, it’s like the World Cup to the rest of the world, but reduced down to a few hours and celebrated as a kind of boozy Thanksgiving.

    I have no doubt that Harvey ad works on its target audience, white middle-class men. None of these ads makes it to the air on Super Bowl Sunday without having been thoroughly planned and tested on focus groups.

  3. I somehow managed to tune out the Harvey ad, but puked a little in my mouth when I saw the Kia baby ad. There is so much more that is horribly wrong with it, especially the depiction of adults in the car: timid, soft, apparently sexually immature, nice, polite and decent “exemplary” middle class douchebags that can always be counted on to give you a nice smile, and that for reasons unbeknowns to me would feel compelled to come up with a bullshit story, rather than give the kid a minimum respect and the straight up answer: “Babies come out of moms/ tummy after mommy & daddy f**k”. (Optionally to be replaced with a somewhat toned down depiction if your sweater is too pastel. Ugh.)

    I think it was Neil Postman who said that one of the goals of marketing broadly defined is to delay maturity as much as possible. Well, congratulations. At this point the gold standard for the middle age is precisely what was depicted in this ad. The saddest part that I see these exact types of people IRL on a daily basis.

  4. The white mon ad was pure colonialist racism, the halftime show Christian stripper Madonna rip-off tuneless bombast (Reifenstahl- Bigelow), the Harbaugh brothers abusive shitheads, the concussions plentiful for the minority gladiators – so what where we left with, the Puppy Bowl – it was also pure violence, and showed cat torture, but in a much better cause.
    Okay, what’s a good hipster to do on Suepr Bowl Rally day? Alexis Madrigal did some good homework, but he works for the once Michael Kelly-led Atlantic, a thoroughly corporate rag, and his book on the Green economy was wired with pabulum. So I guess we can jsut look forward to more corporate, more corporate, more hipster frauds, more corporate – in a DVR age, there’s no reason to watch an ad.

  5. Quite so, Marla! And yes, Postman had a lot to say about the topic. He contended that the tendency of our TV/marketing-dominated way of consciousness is to make children grown up too fast while juvenilizing adults, so that everybody winds up acting like late teens/early twenties.

    And, as documented by the Pepsi marketer in the TCT book, the direct evidence shows that that’s precisely the aim. And it’s for excellent marketing reasons: Late childhood (the human brain isn’t fully done growing until about age 25) is when people are physically most skinny and beautiful, interested in and somewhat able to handle rollicking drug and “consumer” experiences, and yet still dumb and immature enough to exist is the ideal “state of mind” to absorb titillation and marketing propositions.

    The overwhelming reaction I get to the Super Bowl is, beneath the official high-minded gibberish shown on the nightly news, what a deeply childish culture we have.

  6. Well, Martin, the problem with doing TCT is that I feel compelled to keep watching these things, so as to keep track of the prevailing trends and tropes.

    As to Beyonce, it shows you what money and fame can do to somebody. Have you seen that she’s now the “brand ambassador” for Pepsi? Meanwhile, type II diabetes gallops onward. Need we mention the utter unlistenability of her “music”?

  7. Yeah, I mentioned her Pepsi ambassadorhood to the inmates where I labor, and some of them circle the wagons for her, but others see the rampaging American hypocrisy in her lust for money and fame.
    I think it’s beyond funny to see the Christian militarists (i’m not sure what’s wrong with fascism here, maybe overuse?) like the Obamas gushing over her warmed over pathetic stripper routines and New Kids- level schlock, but feminism, oh boy, why try to “teach” that on American campuses when fifty years after “Feminie mystique” this is what is gobbled by the gazillions of viewers?
    “Childish” is a cheap epithet, however, to me, like “lazy,” – what would a “mature” culture look like, a monastery? Sipping apertifs after fox chasing? The asceticism of people like Postman, tone deaf to popular culture, makes for too much scourging und dranging, for me.
    TCT is always finding the gems – that picture of the twenty-something Coke quisling hipster-sellouts was immense.

  8. Martin, fwiw, my own view of cultural maturity would center on whether or not the group in question takes a true managerial/problem solving view of its collective affairs. I don’t think that necessarily conflicts with a great deal of whimsy and playfulness and sheer entertainment. And certainly, lefties have been way too rigid and humorless. But I stand by the observation that mundane American mental life if extraordinarily childish, mostly thanks to the priority of marketing as the organizing force.

  9. I haven’t actually read Postman yet, but the topic of childhood is fascinating. Paradoxically, one of the factors that contrinbute to the infantilizaiton of culture is the *strict separation* of adult and kid worlds during childhood.

    Inevitably, this leads to infantilized adults who lose their adult identities in the process of hauling their gilded darlings from one activity to another, and of course, it also creates self-centered, narcissistic, and helpless children (and eventually adults). Perfect.

    Not to mention that childhood is one of the best opportunities for “life event marketing”. Who could say no to spending extraordinary amount of time and money on bullshit activities and good? It’s “for the kids”, for crissake!

    And then of course there is the middle class status anxiety that puts the final nail in the coffin – playing “by the rules” and respecting authority rules supreme.

    It sickens me that I myself am a part of one of the more dimfitted, reactionarry, and delusional classes in recent history. Not that I harbor any romantic ilusions about the workers, but at least they are not under the sadly inaccurate impression that they “matter” – the daily grind takes care of that, besides nobody has been telling them for 40 years how wonderful they are, the way the middle classes have been indoctrinated (much like their kids grow with the idea that they are “special”).

  10. When childhood and adulthood were not so strictly separated, it seems like much healthier situation –> the kids gradually become involved in actual adult tasks and interactions thus developing actual social and work skills, while adults get to enjoy the opportunity to goof around and play and have fun alongside with the kids while teaching them how to do stuff.

    No such luck in today suburban america, where the kids are not supposed to be exposed to any semblance of the real world until they are 35…

  11. It is a fascinating topic. Postman is pretty convincing (to me, at least) about the importance of the distinction between it and adulthood. But it’s interesting to think that such a distinction (which we are losing in a bad direction) could be just a stop-over on the road to a better way of living, where “stages” aren’t so important. Of course, to ever get onto that path, we need the same social revolution we need on other issues.

  12. Pretty much the only actual farmers, not managers, left here in Ohio are Anabaptists. Amish, Mennonites, German Baptists and the like. And they typically limit their use of or don’t use trucks. Great googly-moogly I love advertising!

  13. So, on this rainy weekend day I finally actually looked up some of Postman’s essays (not the books yet), and I’d say so far he’s amazing – and certainly not “humorless”, esp. in his writings on education.

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