Super Bowl Ads: The power of sweetness

posted at 9:41 pm on February 4, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

There are four kinds of Super Bowl ads. Shock ads (encompassing both sexy and gross-out shock), Joke ads, Stunt casting ads, and Sweet ads. They sometimes overlap– gross-out Shock + Joke (the Doritos oeuvre) or Joke + Stunt casting, etc. It’s Shock, Joke, and Stunt that get the pre-game coverage, with the networks threatening to ban certain ads and companies happily riding the wave of publicity (the Go Daddy strategy).

But I’d argue it’s the Sweet ads that win the day. One of the few memorable ads of the last several years is the VW Darth Vader ad, in which a mid-class German sedan becomes a way to fulfill your six-year-old’s childhood fantasy. One of the best Super Bowl ads of all time is the Coca-Cola jersey toss. As the Shock, Joke, and Stunt ads up the ante every year, requiring more and more shocks, laughs, or stars to impress, Sweet ads gain a unique ability to cut through the noise.

Last night, you saw that power most notably in the Dodge Farmer ad. I was watching the Super Bowl with a group of 30-something couples, and the place went silent as Paul Harvey’s beautifully resonant, retro voiceover came on. Dodge understood its customers, respected rural America (and those who feel an affinity for it), and connected with them on a deep, emotional level. Chrysler’s Eminem comeback ad in Detroit had the same power, though I confess I’d like both ads better if I weren’t subsidizing the companies with my tax money.

Another Sweet ad was the Clydesdale Budweiser ad. That one had the same feel as the VW Darth Vader, but didn’t pack quite the surprise that would have taken it to that level. I knew exactly where it was going, but where it was going worked for me.

Budweiser has had a good season. For years, I’ve been annoyed with the tone of beer commercials. They assume the worst of both football-watching men and women (or, at their worst, forget women even watch football or drink beer.) They often treat women as one-dimensional harpies bent on making their mates hold their purses while they act as obstacles to light American pilsner. They often portray men as one-dimensional dummies whose only driving instincts are sex and the color-changing mountain range on a can of Coors. Bud was one of the worst offenders, but not this season.

The “Superstition” ads connected with football fans, male and female, on an emotional level. That’s not easy for a beer ad, but every good fan has a superstition, and Budweiser treated those traditions with a little bit of dignity and a little bit of a wink. In the ads, women and men are featured watching and enjoying games together. Women are featured enjoying the game and the beverage, not acting as jealous rivals.

In one of my favorite installments in the series, a portly, bearded 49ers fan shows up at the apartment he used to own to sit in his “lucky seat,” which is now in the home of a young couple. The woman in the commercial, who would formerly have been cast as the downer asking the 49ers fan to leave while holding the beer hostage, understands his plight, saying “And, you’re just coming over now?”

Unfortunately, the Sweet Superstition ads of the regular season gave way to the Stunt casting Superstition ads of the Super Bowl. I love a Stevie Wonder cameo as much as the next person, but the Super Bowl ads lost their simple, emotional connection with beer drinkers and football fans.

The Super Bowl series also didn’t feature any women, except for Zoe Saldana who made an appearance in a more traditional woman’s role, as Wonder’s dazzling assistant or fellow charmer. It’s a shame, since more women watch the Super Bowl than regular season games. These ads were cheeky and fun, but the Sweet Superstition ads made me feel good about being a football fan and enjoying a beer. They made me think of Bud Light as part of a rich tradition of loving sports with friends, and that is the power of being sweet.

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Tongue Action…

It’s what’s on TV.

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:42 PM

“The Force”

Luved it last year..

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:43 PM

You get more flies with honey than with vinegar…

Drunk Report on February 4, 2013 at 9:44 PM

KOOLAID2?

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:44 PM

Scrumpy?

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:45 PM

RWM..

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:46 PM

My Canadian Friend?

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Thats sweet…..

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Don’t forget the Jeep ad/tribute to our troops. While narrated by Oprah, which would ordinarily be a turn-off, it was so well done, and she did a great job, too, I must admit. Very moving ad.

TXUS on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

sweet ads suck

I like racist Jamaican ads

Slade73 on February 4, 2013 at 9:49 PM

While narrated by Oprah, which would ordinarily be a turn-off, it was so well done, and she did a great job, too, I must admit. Very moving ad.

TXUS on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

I understand..

But I have my limits..

Oprah overflows..

for some reason..

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:50 PM

I liked the Stevie Wonder ads. They were the only ones that gave me a chuckle, in a year of very lackluster ads.

My FAVORITE though, ran regionally :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YFeNGwhnVW4

We have a new coach, and a killer recruiting class. And the AIR RAID! is coming back to Lexington, KY. Yes, my friends, our days of being the SEC’s doormat are coming to an end..

wildcat72 on February 4, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Best collection of Barry Fudd Photoshops I’ve yet to find: http://co-ironwill.blogspot.com/2013/02/rules-for-radicals-rule-5.html

davidk on February 4, 2013 at 9:53 PM

wildcat72 on February 4, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Have you seen Little Stevie Wonder’s new house?

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.
Neither has he.

davidk on February 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM

You were never going to get to me…Tell the truth.

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 9:56 PM

You were never going to get to me…Tell the truth.

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Sorry. tThat was to you EG

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 9:57 PM

While perusing the ‘net I ran across this website full of excellent sarcasm (here is a sample): http://thefinereport.com/2013/01/gawker-writer-says-cold-weather-is-worse-than-the-holocaust/

davidk on February 4, 2013 at 9:58 PM

I believe that Mean Joe Greene drank 17 cokes before they got “the take”…

Khun Joe on February 4, 2013 at 9:58 PM

Please tell me these don’t represent the best SB ads. Please.

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 9:59 PM

I agree with you there. The Paul Harvey voice ad did get the busy room I was in to hush and listen to all of it. Darned if we knew what they were selling until the end.

And the Bud clydesdale ad was as schmaltzy as a Little House on the Prairie episode at it’s wettest.

Marcus on February 4, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Sorry. tThat was to you EG

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 9:57 PM

You mean mentioning you?

I was…
But as I scrolled up..

I was defeated by drunk report..

Next time friend..:)

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Yeah, Ken. Also, I’m always forgotten. Sigh…….

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Paul Harvey and The Clydesdales were my faves. Most sucked…Bad!!

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Stevie Wonder lucky chair was fair.

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Sorry. tThat was to you EG

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 9:57 PM

Did you see that I didn’t mention our Canadian friend by name?

To this day I have not been able to spell his name..

Wait a tick..

I have this sticky note on my monitor..

RWM is a giiiirrrrlll..

Canaphor is going is being posted on my monitor..
His name only…
For spell check…

:)

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:07 PM

I think the Bud Light “Swear Jar” is still my all-time favorite. GoDaddy’s poke-in-the-eye at the FCC is also great.

Jeddite on February 4, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Canaphor is going is being posted on my monitor..

Not sure what happened here..

Well..

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:07 PM

Yes, RWM is a girl. I’ve personally seen you do that at least three times! Dude I am starting to cringe when I see it! You just did it like 2 or 3 nights ago, right?

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Don’t forget the Jeep ad/tribute to our troops. While narrated by Oprah, which would ordinarily be a turn-off, it was so well done, and she did a great job, too, I must admit. Very moving ad.

TXUS on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Yep the room I was in fell silent on that ad and the Paul Harvey ad.

Both very powerful.

I have to admit the Clydesdale one wasn’t all that moving to me. Best Budweiser commercial ever was this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUrf6Qg4T4E

gophergirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Eg, you sure that RWM is a g…? ;-) And its canopfor. :-)

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 10:13 PM

davidk on February 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM

I have to admit … you made me laugh.

Does that mean that we’re both racist? /

ORrighty on February 4, 2013 at 10:14 PM

gophergirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Can’t argue with that GG! Thanks for posting that one.

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:14 PM

I’ve personally seen you do that at least three times! Dude I am starting to cringe when I see it! You just did it like 2 or 3 nights ago, right?

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:09 PM

I have sticky notes!!!

Here’s the thing….

I visit her website and I am enlightened.

I read her posts and..

The same emotion..

There is nothing in her posts or webpage that speaks of her gender..

So..

I default to “him”

I have to work on that…

RWM is good..

And deserves recognition..

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Oh the Go Daddy one was disgusting.

gophergirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM

KOOLAID2?

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 9:44 PM

…sorry!…snowing!…none of us know how to drive!1/2 an hour more time to road rage!

KOOLAID2 on February 4, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Eg, you sure that RWM is a g…? ;-) And its canopfor. :-)

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 10:13 PM

You are confusing me :)

I KNEW I spelled his name wrong..

I wrote in pencil..
It can be corrected….

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:18 PM

The Clydesdale commercial is the cutest. The Bud Light lucky chair ad was the funniest.

Jill1066 on February 4, 2013 at 10:19 PM

I have to admit … you made me laugh.

Does that mean that we’re both racist? /

ORrighty on February 4, 2013 at 10:14 PM

We will probably get sent to at least two sensitivity training classes.

davidk on February 4, 2013 at 10:23 PM

Hope Dodge improved the faulty truck transmissions they had gotten so used to using. Otherwise, they’ll be some pissed off farmers.

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:23 PM

gophergirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Agreed!

KCB on February 4, 2013 at 10:24 PM

the Go Daddy one was by far the worst one on last night but they are getting the same amount of coverage as the best one. A lot of people talked about it.

Just caught the Press Conference on Ethan in Alabama. They didn’t release any more information than they did late this afternoon. Glad to hear the 5 yr old is eating, laughing and just being a kid. I pray he doesn’t have any bad lasting effects of the ordeal he just went through.

CoffeeLover on February 4, 2013 at 10:24 PM

This Bud ad only ran on TV one time…ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddlaE5a-SI4

Solaratov on February 4, 2013 at 10:25 PM

…sorry!…snowing!…none of us know how to drive!1/2 an hour more time to road rage!

KOOLAID2 on February 4, 2013 at 10:18 PM

LOL

Been there…

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:28 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8

That is my all time favorite Superbowl commercial.

wildcat72 on February 4, 2013 at 10:29 PM

Hiya! My son has just named the humongo skeeter that’s currently avoiding us with great skill, ‘Obama Jr.’.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

wildcat72 on February 4, 2013 at 10:29 PM

One of my S-i-Ls works for EDS. LOVE that one.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 4, 2013 at 10:35 PM

loved the Paul Harvey ad….loved it.

GoDaddy is more like GoLower

ted c on February 4, 2013 at 10:38 PM

GoDaddy is more like GoLower

ted c on February 4, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Next year…

Electrongod on February 4, 2013 at 10:39 PM

They’re really making us wait, aren’t they? :-)

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 10:45 PM

What are you all waiting on?

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Did you all see this?

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:52 PM

what in the hell is so bad about a big dork kissing a hot woman? How is that “low”

cripes, freakin’ whiners

Slade73 on February 4, 2013 at 10:53 PM

You are correct, MKH. Our culture is so snarky and cynical and despairing that it’s simply amazing when a commercial like The Farmer is aired.

It has everything: God, family, tradition. On a day filled with glitz and noise, it is simple and reverent. The voice of Paul Harvey does not require amplification or symphonic accompaniment.

I know it was adapted from a YouTube. I love it anyway.

PattyJ on February 4, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Or this?

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:53 PM

@B lol. Just waiting, I guess. Hehe

tommy71 on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 PM

Weird huh?

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 PM

Last!!!!!

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 PM

test…

CoffeeLover on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 PM

CoffeeLover on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 PM

I think its like the Superdome.

Bmore on February 4, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Best Budweiser commercial ever was this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUrf6Qg4T4E

gophergirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:10 PM

I’d almost forgotten that one. The all-time best, for sure.

TXUS on February 4, 2013 at 11:06 PM

I always loved this one.

Football Clydesdale *

.

*Yay! This is the first time I’ve done the linky thing correctly! Thank you, schadenfreude!

kakypat on February 4, 2013 at 11:15 PM

…boy!…someone with cats got laid last night!…11:15 PM…and no QOTD yet!

KOOLAID2 on February 4, 2013 at 11:17 PM

Anyone remember this one?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZIxFd5I280

I remember seeing that. It aired only once.

wildcat72 on February 4, 2013 at 11:30 PM

To Gopher girl;; I agree with you 100%. That Budweiser commercial welcoming the troops was the best! As a Korean Vet, it brought tears to my eyes. I believe it was the ad that started the trend of welcoming our troops at airports all over the country! It is a standard practise today and I am happy about it. Our guys and gals deserve it. You are obviously a girl with a good heart and a great Patriot!! God Bless You!!!

Jersey Dan on February 4, 2013 at 11:39 PM

We had the same thing happen at our house when the Ram commercial came on-all the joking, laughing and talking stopped and we all went silent to listen.

PrincipleStand on February 4, 2013 at 11:39 PM

You get more flies with honey than with vinegar…

Drunk Report on February 4, 2013 at 9:44 PM

I forgot. Why do we want more flies?

Ronnie on February 5, 2013 at 12:17 AM

The whole time I was reading this article I was thinking about Niners cornerback Chris Culliver saying “can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

I found the entire SB experience depressing.

Except for the farmer ad and one or two others, it was all explosions and smarmy sex that appealed to the lowest common denominator.

Beyonce is a beautiful woman, but her performance was cold and sterile.

Most of the players looked like hoods — I’d say the same if they were mostly white instead of mostly black — and their jawboning and pushing and fighting was dispiriting.

It was a good game, but all the pregame talk about the physical and mental sacrifice of the players had got to me, and the NFL commercials about safety seemed like the typical corporate PR hypocrisy we’ve come accustomed to.

But I admit I watched it by myself, which is no way to watch a SB.

bobs1196 on February 5, 2013 at 12:42 AM

Don’t be no cloud on a sunny day…

1921 C DRUM on February 5, 2013 at 2:08 AM

Hearing that touching Paul Harvey tribute to the farmer and seeing that over glorified diva prancing around the stage at half time gives me a sick feeling over how detached American popular culture is from what truly matters.

Daemonocracy on February 5, 2013 at 4:06 AM

FYI: the contest to name the Clydsdale colt received over 50K suggestions, and the winner is :
HOPE.

pambi on February 5, 2013 at 7:15 AM

Certainly one of the worst years ever for SB commercials, with Go Daddy and Taco Bell sharing the dis-honors for worst of the worst.

The Alicia Keys national anthem version was in the same category, wholly inappropriate to a sporting event.

The blackout was the most memorable thing about it, and the ’15 more minutes’ phrase that was uttered every 2 or 3 minutes during it made it more entertaining than nearly all the commercials.

mdavt on February 5, 2013 at 7:55 AM

One of the few memorable ads of the last several years is the VW Darth Vader ad, in which a mid-class German sedan becomes a way to fulfill your six-year-old’s childhood fantasy.

Albeit a bit disturbing that your six-year-old’s fantasy is to be Darth Vader! ;0

The Paul Harvey ad sets up an interesting comparison in polarized America. On the one hand you have a beautiful tribute to farmers while selling trucks. On the other hand you have whatever the hell halftime was and whatever the hell Beyonce was selling. Which is a more accurate picture of America and Americans?

Happy Nomad on February 5, 2013 at 7:56 AM

The Doritos ad with the Goat for sale by the beat up guy cracked me up I must say.

44Magnum on February 5, 2013 at 8:06 AM

I think America is starving for masculinity. Most of the ads (and just about every TV show) portray men as idiots.

The Paul Harvey ad pays homage to hard working men of integrity. A man who is dangerous but in a good way, as John Eldredge says.

The Super Bowl itself is about masculinity. And it draws a viewing audience of 108 million.

Galtian on February 5, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Just for the record, it’s quite possible to love God, homages to rural America, and traditional American values in principle but still find that particular Paul Harvey ad annoyingly cheesy. Glad others enjoyed it, but I found it cloying.

Chuckles3 on February 5, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Don’t forget the Jeep ad/tribute to our troops. While narrated by Oprah, which would ordinarily be a turn-off, it was so well done, and she did a great job, too, I must admit. Very moving ad.

TXUS on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

I was torn on this one. The content was great, but my ad agency background wouldn’t let me enjoy it.

I saw it for what it was: Two diminishing American has-beens trying to gain popularity with average country-loving American citizens by exploiting the strong positive emotions we have of both pride in and honor for our troops who champion freedom around the world.

I respect and honor our valiant troops.

Oprah and Chrysler stand for much of what is going wrong with this country. And to attempt such neuro-associative shenanigans for their own benefit only underscores that point.

ROCnPhilly on February 5, 2013 at 8:28 AM

Just for the record, it’s quite possible to love God, homages to rural America, and traditional American values in principle but still find that particular Paul Harvey ad annoyingly cheesy. Glad others enjoyed it, but I found it cloying.

Chuckles3 on February 5, 2013 at 8:22 AM

It’s the Superbowl. Cheesy is the order of the day. Remember when the half-time shows were tacky patriotic homages instead of no-talent “artists” lip-synching to their latest album while bumping and grinding like an experienced stripper?

Happy Nomad on February 5, 2013 at 8:36 AM

I miss Paul Harvey.

There you go. That’s everything I got from all those ads.

Demonized on February 5, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Hiya! My son has just named the humongo skeeter that’s currently avoiding us with great skill, ‘Obama Jr.’.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

.
Son? … Son ? . . . . . . SON ? ! ! !
.
Should probably save that one for framing, lest we forget.

listens2glenn on February 5, 2013 at 10:03 PM