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    Who Won the Super Bowl Ads?

    Yawn: More dogs, naked women, and babies. (Also polar bears, vampires, exploited chimps, and a naked man, but they’re just fancy babies.) There was one different theme this year: a not-so-subtle dose of tribal politics. So, before we get to the rhetorical winner, let us review:

    Dogs: Skechers has a dog wearing running shoes. Who wants to run like a dog? Bud Light’s dog fetched Bud Light. And Volkswagen’s dog worked out and lost weight. What that has to do with the car, Figaro can’t say. Advertisers paid $3.5 million just to get 30 seconds of Bowl-time. The point should be to sell the product. The most effective means is by “virtue,” making consumers identify themselves with the product or its benefits. That means showing the product and either linking it to the values of the viewer, or showing the benefits. In that respect, this year’s dogs didn’t hunt.

    Naked women: Figaro loved Teleflora’s ad, which featured supermodel Adriana Lima. The message is simple and direct: buy flowers, get laid. The Toyota Camry gets a couch made of naked women, an analogy to the car’s redesign. The car itself isn’t shown, probably because of its poor resemblance to naked women. Babes do sell product, but they’re generally not very virtuous.

    Babies: A basketball made of Bridgestone tires lets a baby sleep. Nice idea, but Figaro isn’t into dribbling babies. Doritos has a baby slingshot into a bag of junk food. While it’s winning the online polls and associates Doritos with good American values like revenge and bungies, two wrongs make a very wrong. Then there’s Etrade, which once again does babies voiced-over with adults. A muddled message.

    Politics: Yeah, there were overt political ads, but we’re talking about the non-political political ads. Politics in America is about tribes, about who’s in and who’s out, about what we Americans stand for and what we don’t. It’s about values. Aristotle said that politics should be about decisions and choices. But he was a Greek, and look what happened to that country. The fact that Mad Ave is selling cars, beer and soda politically shows how tribally saturated we’ve become.

    The politics cover the political spectrum from left to right, with Clint Eastwood rasping away in the moderate center. On the far, far right, Chevy trucks survive the Rapture (it’s the Mayan Apocalypse in the ad; same thing). The survivors emerge and smugly eat Twinkies, then discover that their friend Dave had been driving a Ford. Dave is dead. Long live Twinkies.

    Budweiser proves without a doubt that Prohibition caused the Depression. The damned government finally gets out of the way, the beer flows, and people have jobs and happiness again. Thank God for beer. Strangely enough, a co-op ad with GE proves that turbines make beer. Again, Figaro is mystified.

    On the moderate scale, Clint Eastwood declares “halftime in America” for Chrysler. It’s a cliché, but done well, and it speaks honestly about political divisions. And Detroit actually looks kind of cool in that campaign. If Mitt Romney had done that ad, he’d be leading Obama in the polls. But Romney wouldn’t do that; Republicans are furious at Chrysler because they interpret the ad as a celebration of the government bailout. Which, by the way, goes unmentioned. Never mind that Eastwood is a Republican.

    Moving to the left, the Arab Spring appears metaphorically in the form of X-Factor winner Melanie Amaro. She sings “Respect” while deposing Elton John. Figaro loved this ad for the wrong reason: An overweight young woman plugging a sugary drink constituted the most honest advertising of the evening.

    Farther to the left, a woman head-butts John Stamos, who’s hogging her yogurt. Feminism dumbed down for men! Oh, wait: it’s women who buy that stuff. Feminism dumbed down for women!

    And to the bizarrely left we have Met Life telling us that insurance shouldn’t just be for the intelligent and wealthy. Yes, a mega-insurance company representing the 99 percent. God, but Figaro loves America.

    And the winner? Chrysler. Virtue at its best. It makes Figaro feel guilty driving a foreign car. Even one made in America.

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